A wonderful night

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From left, that’s my friends and two of my research inspirations James Brunson and Phil Ross, and that balding ginger on the right is me, face still somewhat frozen in shock. It’s after the wonderful Malloy banquet on Saturday.

OK, back in action and writing again after a couple days off. This post will be about the banquet Saturday night that concluded the 18th annual Jerry Malloy Negro Leagues Conference, and I’ll try to talk a little bit about the presentations at the conference over the next day or two.

It was a night of wonderful words, good food, fellowship and, at least in my case, some surprises. My two roomies, Ted Knorr and Lou Hunsinger, staked out spots at a table in the very front of the room, not knowing that a part of it had been reserved for special guests, like Pittsburgh Pirates Director of Player Personnel Tyrone Brooks and SABR Executive Director Marc Appleman, both of whom, actually, were very gracious to say a few words before dinner.

“Every year this conference continues to get better,” Appleman told the crown of about 70. “It just goes to another level each year. Like Larry [Lester] said, it does feel like a family reunion. I feel like I know everyone here. This is something that Larry, Leslie [Heaphy] and this year George [Skornickel, chair of the local Forbes Field Chapter] just did so great this year, and the home office [of SABR] really plays just a supporting role.”

Brooks related to the group how eager the Pirates were to donate a great deal of time, effort and funding to help pull the conference together.

“I’m so pleased to be here,” he said. “I see the passion for baseball in everybody here. I’m completely blown away by the knowledge base here in this room. Keep up the great work you’re doing. This is just tremendous.”

Before dinner, a few awards and honors were presented, and it began with Robert Paige, the eldest son of the legendary Satchel, being giving a plaque in the shape of a home plate as thanks for his enlightening and delightful presentation and Q&A Friday. Also honored was Skornickel for his tireless efforts to make sure this year’s Malloy conference came together at the last minute.

Then we had some tasty grub for dinner — bistro steak with wild mushroom sauce and pesto rubbed chicken with tomato sauce — as a PowerPoint photo show honoring the late, great Dick Clark, who for so many years co-chaired the SABR Negro Leagues committee with Larry Lester and was the heart and soul of the conference in many ways.

Also taking place was a silent auction on some fantastic memorabilia and collectibles, as well as music by local keyboardist and singer Larry Beile.

After we finished chowing down, so to speak, more awards and recognitions were given out, including nods to this years college scholarship winners, high school seniors Jeff Boelter and Kari Whiteside. The Dick Clark Significa contest winner grabbed a second ring — Karl Lindholm of Cornwall, Vt.

The big awards began with the Robert Peterson Recognition Award, named after the author of the groundbreaking book, “Only the Ball Was White.” The honor recognizes outstanding research in the form of published books over the last year. This year’s talented twosome were William Plott, for his comprehensive and trailblazing tome, “The Negro Southern League: A Baseball History, 1920-1951”; and Jim Overmyer for the outstanding “Black Ball on the Boardwalk: The Bacharach Giants of Atlantic City, 1916-1929.”

Both books were published by McFarland Publishing, which specializes partially in baseball history, including dozens of releases about African-American hardball. Every year the conference is supported by McFarland, including the attendance of the fantastic Gary Mitchem.

The John Coates Next Generation Awards, which honor young, up-and-coming researchers, historians and writers, were bestowed upon Shawn Morris and Robert MacGregor.

The biggest, highest honor of the evening was the Fay Vincent Most Valuable Partner (MVP), named after the man many baseball fans, journalists and historians call “The Last Commissioner.” Vincent was always a tireless supporter of the Negro Leagues and did so much to increase public knowledge and understanding of black ball, including playing key roles, too many to mention, in getting numerous segregation-era African-American players in the Hall of Fame.

The award went to, and quite rightfully so, to Roy Langhans, who for decades has embodied the spirit and devotion to the Negro that Fay Vincent himself possessed so deeply.

A hearty congratulations to all the award winners for an incredible job well done. For more information on the doings of this year’s conference, go to the Malloy Web site, and for some great posts and pics of the weekend, check out everything on the Facebook page.

Well, there is one more thing I should add, and it’s something I just wasn’t sure how to approach because, umm, it involved me. At the banquet, I was so extremely humbled, honored and completely stunned to receive the Tweed Webb Lifetime Achievement Award. I didn’t want to brag about getting it, but I also wanted to note that I received it, especially because I was given it by Tweed Webb’s son, Roger Webb.

What I’ll do in my next post is to discuss Tweed Webb himself and why he and his legacy have been so crucial in the preservation of the memory and knowledge of the Negro Leagues. You’ll see why I’m so humbled to receive an award named after him.

 

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