Because how can you not love a baseball player named "Bubba"?
Saturday night, I went to the BBWAA dinner at the Hilton in NYC. It's the event where the Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, MVP, and other winners are presented with their awards. I'd always assumed you had to be a bigwig to go to these things, but it turns out anyone willing to shell out $225 for a ticket can go.
I wasn't able to find much information on what these dinners were like before I went, so I thought I'd put up a post about my experience, for anyone considering going next year.
It was a "black tie optional" event, which according to the Internets, means they want it to be black tie but don't want to exclude those whose finances don't allow them to buy or rent a tux. And they really want all the players being honored to wear tuxedos. But last year, A-Rod wore a plain old business suit. Even though he can surely afford a tux. That should have been my clue. I was fretting about whether my dress, shoes, hair, coat, etc. were formal enough, but when I got there, a lot of people were dressed really casually. Some were wearing chinos and oxfords, no tie. Some women were wearing evening gowns, but some were wearing business suits, even pantsuits, while were dressed like hookers. Josh Hamilton's wife was a real standout in a long, flared, tiered red ballgown. Not least because this being NY, nearly everyone else was wearing black.
If you wear a dark suit, white shirt, and dark tie (for men) or a nice dress, long or short (for women), you will not be out of place.
If you show up early, you might find a player or two mingling with the crowd in the lobby. There's a cocktail hour from 6-7pm; beer was $8, but once the ballroom doors open and you get to your table, beer and soda is free.
There are almost no photos from past BBWAA dinners on the web. I was afraid photos weren't allowed, but it turns out, they did not forbid photography. Even flash photography was permitted. However, it was so dark and most people are sitting so far away that you really couldn't get good photos. Didn't stop us all from trying, however. :-)
The first course was not soup or salad, but pasta. They put this huge pasta plate down in front of you...then put a few tablespoons of pasta on it. It was rigatoni with tomato sauce and eggplant. Later they came around serving grated parmesan, but most people were finished eating by then.
As soon as they came to take the plates away, everyone jumped up from the table. I thought that meant dinner was over. Pretty cheap dinner, but I was too excited to be very hungry, and it wasn't like I was there for the food, anyway.
But no, dinner wasn't over. It was just that everyone took the time between courses to try and get photos and autographs. It was the best time to approach the players. Once the program started, you pretty much had to stay in your seat, and most of them didn't stick around for long afterwards, so the experienced fans made their move between dinner courses.
By far the most popular player there was Willie Mays. He was with the Giants contingent. (They brought their trophy with them.) There was a constant mob around Mays all night. He handled it by only signing autographs for kids and active duty military personnel. Which plecked off the autograph hound sitting next to me, who pointed out that the kids don't even know who Willie Mays is. (I would guess that most of the kids were put up to it by pro dealers. Sports memorabilia dealers buy whole tables, invite their best customers, as well as staff and family members, and give them all items to get signed for later sale.)
The rest of the dinner was filet minon, gratin potatoes, carrots, and broccoli rabe. (Vegetarians got a rice dish.)
I never heard of broccoli rabe until I moved to NY. I like it, but it seems like an odd choice for a banquet. It tends to be bitter, especially if it's not carefully cooked. Many don't care for it. They gave us large portions, and most people didn't eat theirs.
Dessert was chocolate mousse with mocha sauce and pistachio filling. It wasn't very good, IMO, but the white chocolate BBWAA logo was cute.
Bernie Williams started off the programming by playing the national anthem on his electric guitar.
He also introduced Robinson Cano, who won the Joe DiMaggio Toast of the Town Award (given to the best player in NY). He told a funny story about how Robby came up to him when he was first called up, and said Bernie was his hero growing up. Bernie wasn't happy at having the age difference pointed out, but he knew Cano was going to stick in the big leagues.
Robby looked very nice. More facial hair than he'd be able to wear during baseball season, but very neat and well-dressed.
Phil Hughes won the "Good Guy" award (given to the player who is most helpful to the media), but he wasn't there. Cy Young winners Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez were there, but Tim Lincecum (postseason MVP) had a prior commitment. Rookies of the Year Neftali Feliz and Buster Posey were both there.
Brian Cashman introduced AL MVP Josh Hamilton. He said the Yankees handled him by walking him at every opportunity.
Barry Larkin introduced NL MVP Joey Votto.
Bernie Williams and his band (called "Squeeze Play") played Take Me Out to the Ball Game and Centerfield during the intermission...er, seventh inning stretch. They really are pretty good.
Joe Girardi introduced Joe Torre, who won the Willie, Mickey and the Duke Award (along with Lou Piniella and Bobby Cox).
Torre was very touched to be back in NY, saying he was "home" again. I have to say, it was good to see him again. I did think it was time for him to go when he left, but I still kind of miss him. Even though he drove me nuts sometimes.
Bernie and the band played us out the door, to "Glory Days."
There was a program/yearbook of sorts, called The Scorebook. It had many ads honoring players for their achievements. I'll post some of those tomorrow.
Add a comment