Full plate at writers' dinner

Epstein joins McKeon, Selig as award winners

By Bob Hohler
Globe Staff / January 12, 2004

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No, that wasn't Bud Selig banging the drums last night in the fourth Hot Stove, Cool Music concert at The Paradise. Nor was Marlins manager Jack McKeon the tambourine man. But the guitar guy had a familiar face.

Theo Epstein, full-time general manager of the Red Sox and moonlighting strummer for the band Trauser, rocked out to benefit the Jimmy Fund before he joins Selig and McKeon at the Sheraton Boston tonight as honorees in the 65th awards dinner hosted by the Boston chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Selig, who is certain to be peppered with questions on issues ranging from Pete Rose's bid for reinstatement to Selig's special support of Alex Rodriguez's effort to flee Texas for Boston, is scheduled to receive the Boston chapter's top honor, the Judge Emil Fuchs Memorial Award for long and meritorious service to baseball. McKeon, the septuagenarian who emerged from retirement to guide the Marlins to a world championship, will be recognized as Manager of the Year.

Epstein, the Boston chapter's 2003 Executive of the Year, had the luxury last night of performing a four-song set without fretting about business. Unlike last year, when he hurried from The Paradise to work into the wee hours negotiating with Japan's Chunichi Dragons over Kevin Millar, Epstein could let loose amid the relative lull between the high-stakes talks over swapping Manny Ramirez for Rodriguez and his discussions on contract extensions with the potential Free Agent Five: Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra, Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe, and Trot Nixon.

Millar, Varitek, and American League batting champion Bill Mueller were expected to attend both the concert and awards dinner. And all three will be honored at the dinner.

Millar will receive the Jackie Jensen Award for his spirit and determination in fostering the team's special chemistry last season. Varitek was chosen by the writers who cover the Sox daily as most worthy of the Thomas A. Yawkey Most Valuable Player Award. And Mueller, the Comeback Player of the Year, also will receive a special achievement award for his batting title.

The only Sox award winner who will not attend the event is Martinez, who was voted the team's Pitcher of the Year.

Other than Martinez, the only honoree who is not expected to attend is Cardinals phenom Albert Pujols, who will be cited for winning the second Ted Williams Award as the Hitter of the Year. Rodriguez won the inaugural award last year and did not attend the event, although he almost certainly would have turned out this year if the Sox had traded him for Ramirez. A-Rod is scheduled to attend the dinner held by the New York chapter Jan. 25. The New York dinner traditionally is where the Rolaids Relief Man Award is presented, but the Sox arranged for Keith Foulke to receive the honor at tonight's event. Foulke won for his sensational season with the A's last year before the Sox signed him.

One of the most heartfelt moments at the dinner is the presentation of the Tony Conigliaro Award to a player who exemplifies the late Sox great's spirit, determination, and courage in overcoming adversity. This year's recipient will be Oakland's Jim Mecir, who has served as one of baseball's most reliable middle relievers over the last nine seasons with the Mariners, Yankees, Devil Rays, and A's despite being born with club feet.

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