Willie Mays Steals Show At Rawlings Gold Glove Awards

NEW YORK–Current and up-and-coming major league stars like Manny Machado and Andrelton Simmons took home most of the hardware at the Rawlings Gold Glove Awards ceremony on Friday night, but it was Hall of Famer Willie Mays who stole the show.

Mays received a lifetime achievement award from Rawlings and presented this year’s center field winners their Gold Glove Awards, and he drew at least four separate standing ovations throughout the evening.

Once a reluctant public figure in his post-playing days, Mays, 82, has opened up in recent years. He cooperated with a biographer for the first time ever for the 2010 release, “Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend,” and on the stage at The Plaza in Manhattan he spoke at length about his career, remembering fondly both New York and San Francisco.

“I wish I could get two of these awards; one for the people of New York and one for the people of San Francisco,” Mays said. “When I came here I was a 20-year-old from Birmingham, and the people here never made me feel anything but welcome. And then the same thing happened when we moved to California.”

Mays joked that he could go on all night before ending his remarks for his own award. Perhaps sensing that the crowd wanted more, when he came out to present the Gold Gloves to Adam Jones and Carlos Gomez, he spoke more about his career and playfully chatted with the current major leaguers. While other award winners had simply come up on stage and accepted their hardware, Mays put Jones and Gomez on the spot and asked them to say a few words. Both acquitted themselves well.

After Mays left the stage to yet another standing ovation, master of ceremonies Joe Piscopo noted that a stage manager had asked him if he could help Mays wrap his remarks up to move the ceremony along. Piscopo said, “Yeah, like I’m going to try to cut Willie Mays short.”

Among this year’s winners, Machado and Simmons were particularly notable because not only did they both win Gold Gloves in the first full major league seasons, but both also won the Rawlings Platinum Glove Award, a “best of the best” award with one winner in each league selected in fan balloting from among each year’s Gold Glove winners. The Platinum Glove is in its third year, and Adrian Beltre and Yadier Molina had each won the first two awards.

The Platinum Glove and the Gold Glove awards this year incorporated a statistical element for the first time. Rawlings worked with the Society for American Baseball Research to add defensive metrics, including the SABR Defensive Index, to the managers and coaches votes for Gold Glove Award winners and the fan votes for the Platinum Glove Award winners. Interestingly, Machado and Simmons led their respective leagues in SABR’s Defensive Index as well as in the fan voting. (For more information about the SABR Defensive Index and this year’s leaders, click here.)

“It’s exciting to see the convergence of defensive metrics and fan voting,” SABR president Vince Gennaro said.  “It shows that technology is allowing us to improve our measurement and that these measures are influencing fans’ choices.”

“When we launched the Rawlings Platinum Glove Award fan inclusion platform in 2011, we knew that baseball fans worldwide followed all aspects of the game,” said Kurt Hunzeker, senior director of brand marketing for St. Louis-based Rawlings. “They see the great plays on the field and follow the advanced statistics that highlight all factors that go into making a great play in the field.  Their selection of Manny and Andrelton--the sabermetrically best defenders in baseball this year--only amplifies our new collaboration with SABR as an immediate and resounding success.”

Here’s the complete list of this year’s Rawlings Gold Glove Award winners:

C: Salvador Perez (Royals)
1B: Eric Hosmer (Royals)
2B: Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox)
3B: Manny Machado (Orioles)
SS: J.J. Hardy (Orioles)
LF: Alex Gordon (Royals)
CF: Adam Jones (Orioles)
RF: Shane Victorino (Red Sox)
P: R.A. Dickey (Blue Jays)
C: Yadier Molina (Cardinals)
1B: Paul Goldschmidt (Diamondbacks)
2B: Brandon Phillips (Reds)
3B: Nolan Arenado (Rockies)
SS: Andrelton Simmons (Braves)
LF: Carlos Gonzalez (Rockies)
CF: Carlos Gomez (Brewers)
RF: Gerardo Parra (Diamondbacks)
P: Adam Wainwright (Cardinals)