The Branch Rickey Award, which was created in 1991 (and first awarded in 1992) by the Rotary Club of Denver, Colorado, annually honored an individual currently active in Major League Baseball who demonstrated high standards and social concern through contributions to the community.
Branch Rickey Award History
The Branch Rickey Award was given to the Major League Baseball (MLB) individual in recognition of his exceptional community service. The award was named for former player and executive Branch Rickey. The Rotary Club hosted an annual banquet where proceeds benefit Denver Kids, Inc., a charity that benefits at-risk students who attend Denver Public Schools.
Each winner of the Branch Rickey Award received a 24 inche (610 mm) bronze sculpture of a baseball player, named "The Player", designed by sculptor George Lundeen. A larger version of "The Player", standing 13 feet (4.0 m) tall, was erected at Coors Field in Denver.
Branch Rickey, while president and general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers, broke the Major League color barrier by signing Jackie Robinson. Also, Rickey created the Knothole Gang, a charity that allowed children to attend MLB games.
Each MLB team nominated one individual who exemplified the Rotary Club motto: "service above self". A vote was then conducted by the national selection committee, which consisted of members of the sports media, previous winners of the award, and Rotary district governors in major-league cities. Beginning in 2013, fans were able to vote via Facebook.
Branch Rickey Award Winners & Their Causes
Winners of the Branch Rickey Award had undertaken different causes. Many winners, including Todd Stottlemyre, Jamie Moyer, John Smoltz, Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Shane Victorino worked with children in need. Stottlemyre raised money and visited with a nine-year old girl who suffered from aplastic anemia and required a bone marrow transplant, while Moyer's foundation had raised $6 million to support underprivileged children.
Other winners worked with a specific illness, such as Curt Schilling, who worked with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Trevor Hoffman, who lost a kidney as an infant and devoted himself to working with individuals with nephropathy. Also, some winners devoted themselves to work with major disasters and tragedies. Bobby Valentine donated money to charities benefiting victims of the September 11 attacks, while Luis Gonzalez worked with survivors of Hurricane Katrina.
"Man may penetrate the outer reaches of the universe, he may solve the very secret of eternity itself, but for me, the ultimate human experience is to witness the flawless execution of a hit-and-run." - Branch Rickey in The Hidden Language of Baseball (Paul Dickson, Bloomsbury Publishing USA, 2005, Page 40)
In Chronological Order
The Branch Rickey Award's slogan is, "Celebrating the countless selfless acts of community service by Major League Baseball professionals." Did you know that Branch "Mr. Baseball" Rickey was nicknamed " The Mahatma " during his playing days with the New York Highlanders and St. Louis Browns ?
The 2003 recipient, Roland Hemond, is the first non-major league player to win the Branch Rickey Award and the press release announcing this honor is below:
Archived Press Release
Roland Hemond, executive adviser to the general manager of the Chicago White Sox, will receive the 2003 Branch Rickey Award on Nov. 14 during a dinner at the Marriott Denver Tech Center.
The award was created in 1991 by the Rotary Club of Denver to honor individuals in baseball who contribute to their community and serve as role models.
Hemond, 73, has had a long career in Major League Baseball. He served 16 seasons as general manager of the White Sox (1970-85) and eight seasons as general manager of the Baltimore Orioles (1988-95).
Hemond's community service record includes serving:
• As president of the Association of Professional Ballplayers of America, helping former and current players in need.
• On the Chicago Baseball Charities committee for more than 20 years.
• As director of the Professional Baseball Foundation.
What was the criteria? First, an outstanding individual presently involved in Major League Baseball. Not limited to only players, the individual could be an owner, manager, staff member, etc. Second, a role model for others as evidenced by baseball accomplishments, coupled with high ethical standards. Third, an unselfish contributor to the community whose volunteer activities exemplify Rotary International's motto, "Service Above Self."