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Yankees great Richardson honored by MLBPAA

Wizard, Wakefield, Pedroia also receive awards at Legends for Youth Dinner

NEW YORK -- Bobby Richardson played in seven World Series for the Yankees, winning three rings, earning a World Series MVP trophy in 1960 and ending the Fall Classic two years later when he snared Willie McCovey's liner in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 against the San Francisco Giants.

On Tuesday in the city where he once held court as a perennial All-Star second baseman, Richardson accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association 14th annual Legends for Youth Dinner at the Marriott Marquis. He used the occasion to offer some unsolicited advice to Robinson Cano, another perennial Yankees All-Star second baseman who is now a free agent and seeking a record contract that the club says is not in their neighborhood.

"I would like to see their second baseman, who is a wonderful ballplayer, realize the Yankees have tradition, there is life after baseball, and he might consider the fact that 25 years from now, if he's played for the Yankees, he'll be in the Hall of Fame, and there will be wonderful things ahead," Richardson said. "Don't leave for a little bit more money right now. Come and stay with the Yankee ballclub and help us go ahead and continue that tradition."

Richardson was not the only No. 1 given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the dinner, which drew 40 past or present big leaguers. Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith also accepted that honor. Tim Wakefield received the Brooks Robinson Community Service Award, presented by the award's namesake and MLBPAA president. Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, unable to attend due to his thumb surgery a week earlier, won the national Heart & Hustle Award.

Richardson, 78, recited the same poem he had read when officiating at his teammate Mickey Mantle's funeral in 1995, and proceeded to tell tales of the Mantle legend. Richardson also read something to the crowd that had caught his eye recently, especially relevant at this event, which raised funds for an annual effort that has led to 104 Legends for Youth clinics worldwide in 2013.

"I was walking down Main Street in my hometown just the other day, and the mayor of my little community invited me in," Richardson said of his home in Sumter, S.C. "He had a picture of a boy, underneath the title 'A Boy.' It said, 'He is a person who is going to carry on where you started. He is to sit right where you are sitting and attend when you are gone to those things you think are so important. You may adopt all the policies you please, they will be carried out by him. He will either be an asset or a liability to your community, so it might do well to pay him some attention.'

"That's what the Baseball Alumni are doing with their clinics across the nation, with young boys. And I'm excited to be a part of it, and I'm excited that I had a wonderful time playing baseball."

Mets general manager Sandy Alderson registered the winning bid for a Richardson jersey during the live auction, and then took the podium to explain his winning bid.

"The reason I bought Bobby's jersey is that he was one of my Sunday school teachers in the fifth grade," Alderson said. "I lived outside of Sumter, South Carolina, and he's been the same man since 1960. So thanks, Bobby."

Smith, 58, joked that his Lifetime Achievement Award "means I'm old." Then he added: "It's great to be honored this way. I know that when I grew up in South Central Los Angeles, that one day winning a Lifetime Achievement Award doing something I love to do would have been an unlikely thought. Baseball is my life. I guess that when you play it long enough, you enjoy it and work hard, these are the type of things that happen."

During a closing segment in which several legends took turns interviewing each other on the stage, Smith was asked by legendary pitcher Jim "Mudcat" Grant to explain how his famous backflip came to be. The Wizard of Oz again referenced his roots in South Central L.A.

"I lived across the street from a wood factory, where they used to build pallets," Smith said. "I would take a plank and put it between the stacks of wood before they started making the pallets, and that would be my springboard. I'd tumble into sawdust.

"When I turned pro in 1978, my rookie year, we had to run two miles after practice. Gene Tenace was a teammate of mine. They gave me a hard time, because I didn't like running, either. He gave me a hard time about being in the back of the pack, being one of the young guys. So at the end of practice, I ran and did a round-off back handspring. Gene Tenace had girls who were in gymnastics, and he asked me to do it during the season, which I wasn't able to do.

"So finally at the end of the season, which was Fan Appreciation Day, he suggested that I do it going out to my position. I was a little reluctant doing it. I ended up doing it, and the people liked it so much, they asked me to do it again Opening Day the following year, and that became my trademark."

Pedroia underwent surgery on Nov. 13 in Arizona to repair the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb, and he gave an acceptance speech in a video that was shown in his absence after Brian McRae announced Pedroia was the winner. The Red Sox second baseman tore the ligament Opening Day when he slid headfirst into first base against the Yankees. He played the entire season, starting 159 games, batting .301 and helping Boston to the title.

Before the dinner, emcee Gary Thorne was joking with Robinson, the affable 76-year-old "Human Vacuum Cleaner" who won 16 Gold Gloves as an Orioles third baseman.

"Man, you just look so good," Thorne told him. "How about playing just a little second base? You don't have to throw as far, and you could still help the Orioles a little bit doing that."

"I have no trouble going down to get 'em," Robinson replied in good humor. "I can't get up to throw 'em."

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of Read and join other baseball fans on his community blog.