By Anne Jewell- VP, Executive Director.
There’s a lot of superstition in baseball, and about the number 13, but we felt very lucky as the 13th Annual Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory Live Auction rolled into our galleries with our good friends and partners from Hunt Auctions.
Ten years ago, we added our Living Legend Award to this exciting weekend, and since then we’ve welcomed the likes of Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey Jr, Cal Ripken Jr, and other legends. This year, we celebrated Hall of Famer and 12-time All Star, Dave Winfield.
This award honors a person whose career in baseball – and life outside the game – have taken on legendary qualities by virtue of his achievements and personal conduct. Dave Winfield was a tremendous ballplayer, no doubt about that. He signed with Louisville Slugger in 1973, when he was 22 years old. Along with all the super statistics and accolades, Dave Winfield is also credited with being the first professional athlete to start his own charitable foundation.
What a delight it was to host Dave, his wife Tonya, and his brother, Steve – who served as our special guest presenter. Winfield strikes me as a real statesman in the way he approaches life and represents the sport we love. And, boy, he sure knows how to tell a great story!
This was Dave’s first time in Louisville. He signed his Living Legend Commemorative Bats and toured our hallowed Bat Vault in the morning:
Later, he toured our bat factory before the ceremony and signed our CNC lathe with the following inscription: “Thanks for helping me get into the Hall of Fame” – we loved that!
Once again this year, we commissioned an original poem celebrating our Living Legend by Louisville Slugger Museum’s Poet Laureate, Mike Shannon:
A Legendary Road Traveled
In retrospect it seems like it was one long extra-inning game,
The 22-year career that ended in the Hall of Fame but began
With you and older brother Steve as BFFs and sandlot big shots.
Looking backward it was no cakewalk: no dad to have a talk with,
Bringing those coltish limbs to heel, and scrounging meals while
On half scholarship at the U. Golden Gopher b-ball, Musselman style,
Was like a crash course in karate: fun but nothing like the high of
Maximizing the old college try at Omaha’s rip-roaring Rosenblatt.
Then getting drafted in three different sports … Who does that!
You went right to work for the demanding Big Mac magnate and served
The humble Padres well but after years of losing you could tell
That talent can’t be franchised like a burger. Yet you did your part
And showed the heart instilled by your St. Paul saint of a mother.
When you have a lot, give a lot, she’d said, so from the start you
You built a foundation to help the poor and disadvantaged of our nation.
When it no longer paid to struggle in San Diego you took a chance
And bought the Boss’ song and dance; discovering too late how
Fickle fans and callous fate can knock a man for not hitting
Five-run homers. At least no one tried to fix the hitch in your
Silver Slugger swing and your fearsome arm and Golden Glove
Were loved, so the All-Star team became an annual thing.
After your pinstripe days were past, your validating phase continued
With a clinching Blue Jays double that won glory in the Fall at last,
And September of ’93, when number 3,000 came off Dennis Eckersley.
A lengthy road traveled but not alone; we were with you all the way,
Winnie, and we’re still standing in your crowded corner here today.
The poem was set to music and images for a very memorable and moving video tribute. Dave Winfield spoke of his love for the sport, his competitive drive, and his appreciation for all of the coaches, players, and mentors he learned from during his career. He also took questions from the audience, which was a thrill for our guests and produced some hilarious stories.
Many thanks to Dave Winfield and his family for visiting The Big Bat and providing another remarkable Living Legend Award evening. We’re already talking about 2017, so stay tuned right here for updates!