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October 26, 1999

Vera Clemente

Luis Clemente

Tony Gwynn

Rich Levin

Allan H. "Bud" Selig


BUD SELIG: Ladies and gentlemen, Major League Baseball is grateful that you're all here with us today to present one of baseball's most prestigious awards: The Roberto Clemente "Man of the Year Award." This award is presented each year to the player who combines outstanding skills on the baseball field with outstanding work in the community. This year's winner, Tony Gwynn, of the San Diego Padres, devotes considerable time and effort to improving the lives of children and young people. He has been a pillar in the community and is an excellent role model for kids. Before we bring Tony to the podium, I'd like to introduce Vera Clemente, Roberto's wife. Roberto was a genuine humanitarian who lost his life on a mercy mission to feed earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Roberto Clemente is a true American hero, and Mrs. Clemente, we're delighted that you're here.

VERA CLEMENTE: Thank you. Good evening. It's a pleasure to be here and honor Tony Gwynn. Congratulations.

TONY GWYNN: Thank you.


TONY GWYNN: Thank you.

BUD SELIG: Thank you. Now it gives me great honor and privilege to present this year's winner, Tony Gwynn. (Applause.)

TONY GWYNN: Thank you. You know, this is really an amazing day. Coming back to Yankee Stadium tonight, boy, just sent chills down my back again. And luckily for me, I'm not out there playing. So this award is obviously, you know, one of the most prestigious awards that you can win, and it's nice to be recognized not only for what you do on the field but what you do off the field because my wife and I, we just try to make a difference. We just try to do things that we feel like are the right things to do. Not really looking for any fanfare from it, we do it because we feel like it's the right thing to do. So to be recognized for doing that is really quite a thrill. So I am really honored to be here, honored to be here again. Roberto Clemente, obviously, was a great, great ball player. But he brings more to the table than just baseball. He is recognized as, as was discussed earlier, just one of the biggest humanitarians that there were. He set a great example for the rest of us players to hopefully follow in his footsteps. So being recognized for this award for me is a big, big thrill.

BUD SELIG: Tony, here is the award. And, again, a sincere congratulations on behalf of all of us. (Applause.)

Q. Can you turn it around?

TONY GWYNN: Sure. I hope. That is awesome.

LUIS CLEMENTE: On behalf of the Clemente family, it's a great honor to present Mr. Tony Gwynn with the Roberto Clemente "Man of the Year Award" because we know what type of work you do outside of the ball game, and my father really stressed that you should give back to the community, and you definitely do that very well. So we're very happy. We are a family of baseball all of our lives and we understand that this award means a lot, a lot to the players and it's great to have you as one of the recipients. Hopefully we will be working to improve, also, and upgrade the award. We want all of the recipients to be a part of our big celebration. So we'll let everyone know what's going to be taking place, but we're very, very proud to have you as part of the family.

TONY GWYNN: Thank you. Thank you.

BUD SELIG: Are there any questions?

Q. Yes. I have one. The Latino community has expressed a dissatisfaction with the -- with Roberto Clemente or any Latino player not being included in the All-Century Team. Your comments, please.

BUD SELIG: I said I had the privilege to watch Roberto Clemente play from 1954 on, through 1970, and there's no question in my mind that he deserved to be on the All-Century Team. However, we opened it up for voting and that's the way the votes came down. And one thing about elections, is sometimes they don't always come out the way you'd like them to.

Q. He got the most votes. He got 11,000 or more votes than Stan Musial.

BUD SELIG: I understand that was a decision made by the people in charge. After all, Stan Musial had a magnificent career. His career stats are also awesome, you're talking about out of 15,000 people who played this game, you're down to very few people and people made a judgment. It's a judgment that, whether I agree or you agree, that's the judgment they came to.

Q. Could the family comment, please?

LUIS CLEMENTE: Well, we were surprised that our father did not make it to the All-Century Team. My mother's comments were she was very sad to watch all of the other players from the same era walking around the stage before the game and she felt even worse when he was not even mentioned. My opinion is that the way the voting took place with the fans, the Internet, you know, there are probably many fans that did not have access to the Internet and so I was not surprised that in the voting he would end up probably in tenth place. But definitely I did expect that the committee would include him. But it did not happen. We have to find out what was the criteria that was selected, and, I mean he won 12 consecutive Gold Gloves, we're talking about an outfielder. I don't know how many others did, but that's baseball.

Q. Tony, obviously most of this community worked was done in San Diego, what your contribution to the community there is really what you're being recognized for. How much does this substantiate your decision over the course of the years to remain with the Padres and play your entire career in this community?

TONY GWYNN: Well, it means a lot. I mean San Diego's where I wanted to play, and obviously when you're in a place for a long time, to me the right thing to do is be involved in your community and that's what I've tried to do. I've tried to get out and hopefully try to make a difference. But to be recognized for this award, I've been nominated for it a couple of times, and to win it, I can't begin to describe to you what a big thrill it is. Because as a kid, you know, you hear people talking about Roberto Clemente, I saw him play in Dodger Stadium I don't know how many times. I sat right behind him in right field and as a kid, was able to realize this guy doesn't get as much credit as some of the other guys do. To win this award for me is a big thrill. He not only represented himself in the game of baseball, but, you know, what he tried to do in his community. And he kind of set the example for a guy like me, along with a lot of other guys. Because I'm not the only one. There are guys on every club that go out and try to do their thing in their communities, and you wish you could recognize everybody, but this particular time it was my turn, I guess. And here I am. So I'm very proud. I'm very proud to be recognized not only for what I do on the field but what I do off.

Q. What about your career as far as all the stuff you've won, everything you've accomplished? Have you started thinking about -- I don't want to use the word retirement, but have you started thinking about it?

TONY GWYNN: Every day. Every year, every day I think about it. My feeling hasn't changed that much. I'm going to play next year and then after that we'll wait and see. I made a conscious decision to stay in San Diego. I like to San Diego. But I'm like everybody else, I'd like to win, too. This is where all the action is. If this was like it was last year, this would be even more of a thrill for me if it happened last year, but that's what the game is all about. It boils down to one series at the end of the year for all the marbles. And that's -- I'd love to be in that situation again, but sooner or later there's going to come a time where it's time to hang them up, whether you can still play or not. There's going to be a time where you have to decide it's time to move on. Right now I'm still having too much fun. I still enjoy playing and I still enjoy working, and I was on vacation when I found out I won this award. So I had to, of course, cut it short, come here, be here for it, do what I'm supposed to do and then I'm going back on vacation. But when I get home, it's time to go back to work. So I'm going to play next year, then we'll see. But chances are, I'm probably not going to retire. I'm probably going to continue to play until I feel like I can't play anymore.

Q. You said you want to make sure you can win. Would you leave San Diego to go to another team?

TONY GWYNN: I doubt it. I doubt it. When you love a place as much as I love San Diego, it's going to be really hard to leave. It's really going to have to take something of some kind of magnitude to make me want to go somewhere else. So I doubt if I'll go anywhere else. I'll probably finish it out there.

Q. As somebody that saw Roberto Clemente play, were you surprised he didn't make the All-Century Team?

TONY GWYNN: I was. But for me, I had a chance to make that club, too. And it's hard because when you get it in a situation -- a format that it's in where the fans vote on it, a lot of times, you know, guys who are playing today are going to get a little bit more credit than guys who played before. And when you get down to a panel where a panel has to decide who's going to be -- who's going to fill the last five spots, it's a judgment call, you know. For me, I was surprised. I really was. I was surprised because he was a complete player, and a lot of these guys on this team are complete players. But to me, he was a guy -- like I said before -- even as a kid I realized that, "Hey, this guy can really play, but he doesn't get as much attention as a Willie Mays does, as a Hank Aaron does, as any of the other guys in that era, Mickey Mantle does." But there weren't many guys who could throw better than him, hit better than him, hit for averages, hit for power, played defense. He was complete a player as there ever has been that played this game. And when it doesn't -- when you don't make that team, yeah, there's going to be people upset about it. But from my standpoint, I -- like I said, as a kid, I saw him play so I know he could play. There's just no doubt about that. But when you've got to whittle down 100 to 25 or 30, there are going to be some people left out, including myself. I got left out. I think I finished 12th or 13th; I'm happy. (Laughter.) I was happy just to be mentioned.

Q. This is for Mrs. Clemente. Wouldn't Roberto have been happier to know that he's known for a great person more so than a great ball player with this award?

VERA CLEMENTE: Okay, let me see if I understood that question.

Q. In other words, if it was a choice between being known as a great player or a great humanitarian, wouldn't he prefer to know that he was a great humanitarian?

VERA CLEMENTE: Okay, I always said that he died the way he lived: Always helping others. And since I met him in 1964, I learn, with him, you know, I admire him a lot. I learn much with him because he did care. He just take time to help anyone in the crowd anywhere. And I know that right now, after 27 years after he's dead, there are so many schools in the United States, 40 of them, baseball parks, baseball leagues, hospitals with his name, that's because of his humanitarian qualities. Not because he only was a good baseball player. I know that himself, he was, since he was a little kid, helping others.

Q. Luis, for you, why, after 26 years, the Clemente family present the award? This year, first time, the Commissioner present the award.

LUIS CLEMENTE: Well, that's a question that we cannot answer. We certainly, in the past, have a great interest in presenting new ideas also for the award. I believe, I understand there's a new sponsor for the award and we're hoping that we can communicate and express what we feel, you know, should be included also. And, you know, it's basically just, I guess, we have to sit down and communicate a little better, but we are very, very proud of this award. We are very, very pleased that Major League Baseball actually considered our father to the name that would represent -- that was a maximum tribute to a player that has given so much inside and outside of the game. Like I said, we were born with baseball. We're part of baseball's family. We're hoping that we continue this way. I know there's nothing that's going to take us from that. What happened with the All-Century Team, there's many, many reporters, many fans that have been calling and I understand they're upset. It's more -- and even answering the earlier question, it's more than just not being upset or our father not being chosen. It's basically that in 100 years of baseball, a lot of people feel that there have been many Latins that have given so much to the game that some of them should have been at least presented, let's say, or nominated and they were not. We understand that our father is considered, many times, equal to Jackie Robinson in the Latin community. So a lot of people are very upset. But like I said, we've always worked with Major League Baseball. We love Major League Baseball. We feel that we are family. And any differences or any upcoming opportunities, you know, we definitely will be discussing those. Thank you.

RICHARD LEVIN: You should know John Hancock is the new sponsor of the Roberto Clemente "Man of the Year Award" and Commissioners have presented this award in the past.

Q. Considering you all did have a committee in place to fix what maybe you perceived as mistakes by the fans in the voting, does the fact that Clemente did not make that team, do you view that as a setback?

BUD SELIG: Nobody is more of a baseball historian than I am. I am very sensitive, as you all know, to this. Tony said something very interesting. When you get down to all the thousands of players that played, nobody can debate Roberto Clemente's skills and what he did. The choice of the committee -- obviously I had nothing to do with this, but you have to choose between Stan Musial and Roberto Clemente, it's an honor to be -- either one of those people should be, both of them. But the fact that we're debating this is what this is about. But in no way to me has this diminished the career and the life and times of Roberto Clemente.

Q. Commissioner, would you rule out any chance of adding Roberto Clemente to that list at a later date?

BUD SELIG: Well, you know, we set the ground rules back in July. And we've tried to adhere to them. Obviously the fans voted, then the committee added five people. I suppose I would never say never to anything, and I understand the feeling about Roberto Clemente. As I said, I really don't disagree with it, to be perfectly blunt about it. But once you start doing that, you've got some other people who feel they should be on it, too. So it's something that we certainly can talk about in the future.

RICHIE LEVIN: Thank you very much. Congratulations, Tony.

End of FastScripts…

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