Award winners honored in Cooperstown

Written by: Bill Francis

From a stage more accustomed to uplifting opera or raucous musicals, the annual Hall of Fame Awards Presentation honored a quintet of winners – a group that is accustomed to singing the praises of others – from both 2020 and 2021.

In a ceremony at the Glimmerglass Festival’s Alice Busch Opera Theater – about a 15-minute drive from the National Baseball Hall of Fame – on the afternoon of Saturday, July 24, those honored included Al Michaels, the 2021 winner of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasters, and Dick Kaegel, the 2021 winner of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s Career Excellence Award, as well as the 2020 award winners, including Frick Award winner Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, BBWAA Career Excellence Award winner Nick Cafardo and Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award winner David Montgomery.

The Hall of Fame Awards Presentation began as an annual stand-alone Induction Weekend event beginning in 2011. Taking place on Saturday afternoons at Doubleday Field – with the Induction Ceremony held the following day – the Awards Presentation was held this year for the first time at a location other than the historic ballpark.

Opened in 1987, the Alice Busch Opera Theater hosts events for The Glimmerglass Festival’s summer-long celebration of the arts.

On an open stage with a blue backdrop, the Hall of Fame logo featured prominently overhead, and the honorees seated in a row facing a limited audience of family and friends, Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. led off the proceedings.

“Today, we pay tribute to those who connect generations of fans to our great game, with three prestigious awards,” Manfred said. “Broadcasters and writers give fans a window into our national pastime. They are in our homes, they teach the game to our fans, they bring life to the engaging personalities of the members of the baseball community. We appreciate the great tradition of the men and women who have told baseball stories, and helped build the foundation for our global game.”

The Ford C. Frick Award is presented annually to a broadcaster for "major contributions to baseball." The award, named after the late broadcaster, National League President, Commissioner, and Hall of Famer, has been presented annually since 1978.

Michaels, the 45th winner of the Frick Award, became the lead announcer for the Cincinnati Reds in 1971 and then the San Francisco Giants in 1974. After joining ABC Sports in 1976 as a backup announcer for Monday Night Baseball, he became lead announcer in 1983 while calling an array of other sports, including nearly two decades of Monday Night Football and calling the Miracle on Ice at the 1980 Winter Olympics. Besides calling the thrilling Game 5 of the 1986 ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and California Angels, he also was prepared to cover Game 3 of the 1989 World Series between San Francisco and Oakland when the Loma Prieta earthquake occurred.

“People know me from a hockey game or for primetime football on the NFL for years. And from a slow speed Bronco chase in 1994 when I actually did narrate Al Cowlings driving O.J. Simpson up the freeway,” Michaels said. “So if that's my calling card so be it. But none of this would have happened without my first love, baseball. So for somebody that hasn’t done a game in a quarter of a century, getting into Cooperstown, it's really cool.”

Harrelson, who called White Sox games for 34 of his 43 years behind the mic, had a nine-year career as a big league first baseman and outfielder with the Athletics, Indians, Red Sox and Indians. After a broken leg ended his career on the diamond, he worked in the broadcast booth with the Red Sox before arriving in Chicago, where his trademark calls of “You can put it on the board…Yes!” and “Mercy!” became legendary in the Windy City.

“I had a great career and I've been blessed. And I had some great help in the booth,” Harrelson said. “This is my favorite toast. I gave this at Arnold Palmer's 80th birthday and after it was over he hugged me and said, ‘Thank you, Hawk.’ And the toast is, ‘When you take a man's money, you take a man's money. But when you've take a man's time, you take a part of his life.’ And I want to thank you all for taking eight decades of your time.”

The BBWAA Career Excellence Award, which has been voted upon annually since 1962, honors a baseball writer “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.”

Kaegel, the 72nd winner of the BBWAA award, was a Missouri baseball legend for six decades. After starting his career with the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat while in high school, he joined the staff of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1968, where he covered the Cardinals for a dozen years before eventually earning the job as the paper’s executive sports editor. After a stint with the Sporting News, where he served as an editor, he signed on with the Kansas City Star and the Royals beat in 1988. Kaegel ended his writing career covering the Royals with, retiring following the 2014 season.

“You baseball writers are among the hardest working men and women in journalism. Your contributions to the game are enormous,” Kaegel said. “And to the fans who read your stories, year after year, a huge thank you.

“Along with my fellow BBWAA members I covered a lot of baseball history, ranging from the famous World Series home runs of Carlton Fisk and Kirk Gibson, to the devastating San Francisco earthquake. But when you leave the everyday life of baseball, it's really the people in the game that you miss and remember. Not only the men on the field, but the team's hard-working behind-the-scenes staff. And the guys and gals who welcome you to the stadium with a friendly greeting every day. All of you folks always contributed to every story I wrote. It was you who made this honor possible. So please, let me share it with each and every one of you. Baseball truly is a family. And it is a great one.”

Cafardo, whose Red Sox coverage enthralled New England baseball fans for years, was a native of Weymouth, Mass. He joined the Boston Globe as baseball columnist in 1989 and took over the popular Sunday notes column. The author of four baseball books and the winner of the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year Award in 2014, he covered Boston’s World Series wins in 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018.

Speaking on behalf of Nick Cafardo, who passed away in 2019, was his son Ben.

“To the readers of the Boston Globe, viewers of NESN and MLB Network, and all baseball fans around the country, particularly in New England, he was one of you. And he felt a deep sense of obligation to be there for you every day. Breaking news, documenting events and telling the story of the Boston Red Sox in the sport at large,” Nick Cafardo said. “Across nearly four full decades in journalism, he became a go-to voice in the Boston area for generations of baseball fans. People completely trusted what he wrote and said. This was a responsibility of utmost importance to him.

“I can feel his presence here with us. Perhaps that's because of the countless hours of the countless trips he took each year covering the game, his favorite was his annual Cooperstown trip to cover Hall of Fame Weekend. His close friends and terrific writers Bob Nightengale, Scott Miller, Kevin Kernan and late longtime scout Gary Hughes stayed in the house up the street together for years. They were called the Cooperstown Crew. It was dad's favorite weekend each year. And now how fitting that he's here forever.

“He lived by the credo that it's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice. For him, it all came back to family and baseball. When one of his mentors, the late great Will McDonough passed away, he wrote in his Globe obituary the following passage: ‘When you wander through the vestiges of your life there are people you will always remember. Those who were kind to you. Those who said something or passed along some wisdom that will stay with you forever. Those who always have your best interest at heart.’ He believed this deeply about Will, just like we all believed it about Dad. Congratulations, Dad. You did it, and you did it the right way.”

The Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award is presented by the Hall of Fame's Board of Directors not more than once every three years to honor an individual whose extraordinary efforts enhanced baseball's positive impact on society, broadened the game's appeal, and whose character, integrity and dignity are comparable to the qualities exhibited by O'Neil. The Award, named after the late Buck O'Neil, was first given in 2008, with O'Neil being the first recipient. Montgomery is the fifth recipient of the O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.

Speaking for Montgomery, who passed away in 2019, was his widow Lyn.

Montgomery spent his entire career in baseball, spanning parts of five decades with the Phillies, working his way up from the sales office to become executive vice president and chief operating officer before acquiring an ownership stake in the team. He advanced many community service efforts for the Phillies, including helping raise more than $19 million for the ALS Association of Greater Philadelphia, the official charity of the team. He also worked closely with Phillies Charities, Inc., the official charitable arm of the organization, to provide support for other nonprofit organizations in the Philadelphia area and in the communities of the Phillies’ minor league affiliates.

Said Manfred about Montgomery: “The life of David Montgomery was full of accomplishments, both for the Phillies and for Major League Baseball. But perhaps his most important legacy is the countless people who were touched by his understanding of and his appreciation for the fact that it is a privilege to be associated with baseball. Dave is truly deserving of the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award that's bestowed on him today. I know everyone who was fortunate enough to be part of his life are forever grateful for the special example that they set for all of us.”

Lyn Montgomery ended the afternoon’s ceremony with her thoughts on her late husband.

“People would often refer to a special twinkle that David had when he would talk about his beloved game of baseball and the Phillies. And I have no doubt that twinkle would be particularly great if he were here today,” she said. “Those of us who knew him, we're aware he never wanted to be the center of attention, even on the most deserving of occasions, like today.

“David grew up in a home filled with humility and love. His mother was a schoolteacher and his father was an accountant, and also a minister. They were both kind, hardworking people. And they were devoted to their lone child. With the help of a small amount of money for his grandfather, they sent David to the William Penn Charter School, the oldest Quaker school in the world. He attended the University of Pennsylvania, another Quaker institution where he earned a degree in history, and then graduated from Penn's Wharton School.

“Philadelphia was founded on Quaker values, and is known as the City of Brotherly Love. And those same values deeply influenced David throughout his life. The guiding principles for Quakers are simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship. It is quite remarkable that those same qualities are what make individuals worthy of consideration for the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.”

The 2021 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 8, on the grounds of Cooperstown’s Clark Sports Center, will celebrate the inductions of Class of 2020 members Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons and Larry Walker. The Induction Ceremony will be broadcast live exclusively on MLB Network.

Bill Francis is the senior research and writing specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

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