NLBM closed the curtain on the Legacy Awards with a bang! What an amazing night! I'm still wired! #nlbm— negroleaguesmuseum (@nlbmprez) January 13, 2013
The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City held its final Legacy Awards Show on Saturday night. More than 12 years after the first Legacy Awards in November of 2000, the show has lost traction and won't be continuing after this year. Since 2000, the Legacy Awards, each of which are named after Negro Leagues legends, have honored the achievements of MLB players, managers, and executives. Since then, the awards show has been the event of the year at the NLBM, helping raise funds for the museum and spreading awareness of the Negro Leagues.
Through the years, many baseball stars have made the January trip to Kansas City to accept their awards. But in recent years, fewer and fewer players have been making time for the awards show, causing its demise. Whether it's just the inconvenience for the recipients to travel to Kansas in January each year or possibly a decreasing appreciation for the significance of the Negro Leagues among baseball youth, holding the awards show each year is just not plausible for the NLBM any longer. NLBM president Bob Kendrick finds that the expense and hard work that goes into the show each year is no longer worth the effort when most of the honorees fail to show up. While Legacy Awards will still be given out annually, it will be done so in smaller ceremonies at different ballparks throughout the country instead of at one big ceremony. Kendrick hopes that this will make it more accessible for honorees, namely players, to attend.
This year our very own Everth Cabrera was presented with the James "Cool Papa" Bell award, which is given to the NL and AL stolen-base leaders each year. The award is named after Hall of Famer and Negro Leagues center fielder James Bell, who many consider to be one of the fastest to ever play the game.
Sadly, he was the only current MLB player out of the 14 players invited who was in attendance at this year's Legacy Awards Show. Many players declined for various reasons, but some failed to even respond to their invitations. Cabrera, along with his wife and son, came all the way from Nicaragua to accept his award in person.
We made the trip from Nicaragua to Miami to Dallas to Kansas City... This is a special moment for me. When someone is giving you an award like this, it's really a special thing.
Among the non-current-players in attendance were John Mozeliak and Billy Beane (Andrew "Rube" Foster Awards for executives of the year), as well as Joe Posnanski (Buck O'Neil Award for outstanding support of the NLBM).
Honored to accept the Buck O'Neil award at the Legacy Awards at the @nlbmprez. Very special night.— Joe Posnanski (@JPosnanski) January 13, 2013
Despite Kendrick's dismay over ending the annual awards show, he hopes that future endeavors will spark interest in the NLBM once more. Next April he plans on holding an event to honor players in the post-segregation era who epitomize the spirit of the Negro Leagues (Ozzie Smith, Roberto Clemente, etc.). He hopes this "replacement" event will help younger players better appreciate the significance of the Negro Leagues and connect with the history of the game.
It's a shame that so many players were no-shows for this event, but I'm glad one of ours went and represented the Padres with class. Congratulations to Everth Cabrera on his award and congratulations to the NLBM on what sounded like a very special night!