LOS ANGELES -- Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig presented Hall of Famer Henry Aaron with the Executive Leadership Award at Saturday night's 11th annual "In the Spirit of the Game" fundraiser for the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza.
Selig called Aaron, his friend for 57 years, "the most dignified and greatest human being I've ever met." Aaron thanked Selig for his friendship and acknowledged the scout that signed him, Dewey Griggs, for finding Aaron on the dirt fields of Mobile, Ala., "when I was pretending I was Jackie Robinson."
Aaron was among a star-studded group of honorees that included another Hall of Famer, Joe Morgan, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by his former Hall of Fame and Reds teammate Johnny Bench.
"A winner in every fashion, who could beat you in every way," Bench said of Morgan. "The best player I've ever been with."
Morgan teased Bench, but turned serious when thanking the scout who signed him out of Oakland, Bill Wight.
"Frank Robinson and Willie Stargell came out of Oakland -- guys 6-feet tall who could run like the wind and hit the ball a country mile," said Morgan. "Not one was looking for a guy 5-5, 140. They talk about five tools, but the sixth tool is up here [tapping his head]. Bill Wight must have thought I was smart enough to overcome my ability."
Motion picture executive and philanthropist Sherry Lansing received the "Dave Winfield Humanitarian" Award, using the occasion to thank Selig and his wife Sue -- who were celebrating their 37th wedding anniversary on Saturday -- for helping launch the successful "Stand Up 2 Cancer" campaign that Lansing co-founded six years ago.
"Lives have been saved because of baseball," said Lansing, whose campaign has raised $265 million to fight all types of the disease. "Without Major League Baseball, none of this would have happened."
Along with the big names, the evening was dedicated to the "unsung heroes" of the sports, the scouts. The PBSF, headed by co-founder Dennis Gilbert, raises money to assist baseball scouts in need due to job loss, illness or financial hardships. The annual banquet, with a stunning array of memorabilia available in a silent auction, has become the highlight of the baseball offseason on the West Coast.
Longtime baseball men Jack McKeon and Ray Crone Sr. were honored with the "George Genovese Lifetime Achievement Award in Scouting," named for the legendary scout who still consults with the Dodgers. McKeon, with 60 years in the game was introduced by Miami Marlins vice president and general manager Dan Jennings. Crone received his award from San Diego Padres vice president and assistant general manager Fred Uhlman Jr.
Six scouts shared the Legends in Scouting Award: former Browns, Orioles, Reds and Pirates scout Elmer Gray; former Pirates and Reds scout Julian Mock; former Phillies, Expos and Marlins scout Bob Oldis; former Orioles, Brewers, Angels and Red Sox Scout Ray Poitevint; former A's, Dodgers and Mariners scout Phil Pote; and former Cubs, Tigers, Padres, Rangers and Marlins scout John Young.
Their introduction was accompanied by an impassioned plea from Chicago White Sox vice chairman Eddie Einhorn that the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown "recognize and acknowledge" the work of scouts with a permanent honor similar to those accorded broadcasters and journalists.
That sentiment was echoed by Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz as he accepted the "Outstanding Achievement in Baseball" Award, presented by former Braves owner and now chairman emeritus of the team, Bill Bartholomay.
Bobby Grich was honored with the "Scout's Dream" Award, presented by former teammate and current Los Angeles Angels hitting coach Don Baylor.
Special presentations were made by motion picture and television stars Jason Alexander and Michael Keaton, while one of the funnier moments was provided by Dodgers Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, who painstakingly presented the Managerial Award named for him to Bruce Bochy of the rival Giants.
"For me, to give him this award, something is wrong with this dinner tonight," Lasorda joked.
"Thank you, Tommy," said Bochy. "You were my great, great, great grandmother's favorite manager."
Chris Rose, Kevin Millar and Joe Magrane of MLB Network hosted the awards dinner.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com.