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Manny, Barry win '04 Aaron Awards10/27/2004 8:55 PM ET
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
ST. LOUIS -- The first of Major League Baseball's major postseason awards was handed out before Game 4 of the World Series on Wednesday night at Busch Stadium, where Hank Aaron presented his namesake award to Barry Bonds of the Giants and Manny Ramirez of the Red Sox as the best offensive performers of 2004.
The Hank Aaron Award, presented by CENTURY 21, was determined by fans who voted from among six finalists per league, exclusively at MLB.com. Bonds won his third "Hammer" (also 2001 and 2002) to represent the National League, and Ramirez -- still supplying the offense in this World Series -- finally regained the American League award he won as an Indian when the trophy was first presented in 1999.
"This evening when I left home, my little grand baby, she's about five years old and she asked me where I was going, and I told her I was going to give an award to great ball players that were playing the ballgame today, Manny Ramirez and also Barry," Aaron said, sitting at the podium beside the two players. "And she said, 'Please, tell Mr. Bonds and Mr. Ramirez to give me their autograph, granddaddy, please, I want their autograph.'" Then turning toward the men beside him, Aaron added: "So I have to leave with your autographs, please.
"I am grateful because this award means an awful lot to me. And to have two of the greatest athletes in baseball to receive this award means even more. I don't need to tell you what Barry means to the game of baseball, and what he has done over the past few years, and I don't need to sit here and read Ramirez's record, we all know what these two guys have done. And I just want to say that I'm extremely proud to present this award to them, and to be in their company."
Bonds, who is now just 52 homers away from matching Aaron's record total, garnered 41 percent of the NL vote. He had another remarkable year at the age of 40, winning the NL batting title with a .362 average, leading the Giants with 45 homers and driving in 101 runs despite a Major League-record 232 walks (120 intentional). He became the third member of the 700 home run club, finishing the season with 703. Bonds also became the first player to record an on-base percentage of at least .600 (.603). He led the Majors with an astronomical .812 slugging percentage and batted .394 with runners in scoring position.
"As a child you think about these opportunities and you dream about meeting these people, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays," Bonds said. "To be up here and to have this opportunity to have the man, himself, present a player like myself ... I know Manny is going to say the same thing, when we were little boys, playing in our backyards, and Little League and stuff saying, 'I hope one day in my lifetime to have the opportunity to meet Hank Aaron,' -- but to have Hank Aaron actually give us this award is pretty wonderful to have."
Ramirez, who took 36 percent of the overall AL vote, had to be pulled away from Red Sox batting practice to join the presentation ceremony and sat in his uniform beside Bonds. The offense has just kept coming from Ramirez, who led the AL in homers for the first time with 43, drove in 130 runs, batted .308 and established a career-high 348 total bases. He ended Alex Rodriguez's run of three consecutive Hank Aaron Awards.
"What I want to say is, I'm very proud to receive this award because Hank Aaron did such a great thing for this game," Ramirez said. Referring to the award's namesake, he added, "And I'm proud to be here. I never thought I'd win this award. I'm proud to sit next to you."
"I think the guy has been the most consistent hitter in the American League," said Kevin Millar, Ramirez's teammate. "He does everything. His on-base percentage and doubles. He's just solid every day. This game, you go through peaks and valleys. He seems to never go through those valleys."
The Hank Aaron Award was created in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hammerin' Hank breaking Babe Ruth's career home run record. The award was determined strictly by Major League club broadcasters from 2000-2002, and in 2003 fan balloting was added and weighed along with the broadcaster votes.
A new procedure was implemented to determine the Hank Aaron Award this year, giving fans even more empowerment. From Aug. 2-30, they voted on each of the 30 club sites to select from among three nominees per team. That narrowed the field to 30 nominees, one per club, and a special panel assembled by Major League Baseball and CENTURY 21 selected six finalists from each league. Fans then voted from among those finalists between Sept. 6-30 exclusively at MLB.com, and Bonds and Ramirez were their picks.
"This award has special meaning for me," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Hank and I have known each other since 1958, and we often kid each other, we really grew up together. And I have not only special feeling about Hank's on-the-field accomplishments -- I'm partial, I saw him play his first game in Milwaukee, I saw him play his last game in Milwaukee and many, many in between. So he is truly one of the great players in the history of the sport. But just as importantly I would say to you as a friend he's one of the nicest, most decent human beings I've ever known. And so I would say to Barry and to Manny, they're being honored for their accomplishments on the field, but in the name of a very, very special human being, Hank Aaron."
John Greenleaf, senior vice president for marketing at CENTURY 21, said it was important "to get as many fans involved in this process as we could. In 2004 this is truly the fans' award, with fans selecting the winners, and we couldn't be more honored to have Manny and Barry as the winners of the Hank Aaron Award sponsored by Century 21 in 2004. We look forward to building on our relationship with baseball and Mr. Aaron, to continue the sponsorship of this wonderful award to the two best hitters in baseball."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.