For a few years in the 1960s and '70s players with no shot at the
MVP or Cy Young awards could still dream of taking home--we're not
making this up--the Most Valuable Little Player Award, which was
sponsored by Volkswagen and given to an outstanding player "of
small stature." The MVLP award has long since gone the way of
flannel uniforms and scheduled doubleheaders, but its
everyone's-a-winner spirit lives on. Here are SI's unofficial
awards for some of the less-heralded accomplishments of 2002.
Arthur Andersen Accounting Award To Red Sox outfielder Rickey
Henderson, who pooh-poohed the allegation that 50% of major
league players are using steroids by saying, "Well, I'm not, so
that's 49 percent right there."
Can't Sell Soda in the Sahara Award To the Marlins, who are stuck
with thousands of souvenir bobblehead dolls--hot items in
virtually every ballpark. First, Florida traded righthander Ryan
Dempster to the Reds, rendering useless the 15,000 dolls the team
had ordered in his likeness. Then, on Bobblehead Weekend at Pro
Player Stadium earlier this month, crowds were so sparse that the
team couldn't unload 22,000 bobblegangers of pitchers Josh
Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny and Julian Tavarez.
Rawhide Award To Orioles outfielder Marty Cordova, who sat out a
day game in May to protect his face, which had been burned when
he dozed off in a tanning booth the day before.
Statistics Don't Lie Award To volatile Rangers reliever John
Rocker, who finished the season with what some would call a
fittingly hellish ERA: 6.66.
DeBeers Trophy To Red Sox outfielder Manny Ramirez, who, while
playing in the minors on a June rehab assignment, held up a game
for several minutes while he crawled around in the dirt searching
for the $15,000 diamond earring he lost on a headfirst dive into
Good Housekeeping Seal of Disapproval To umpire John Shulock, who
refused to clean off home plate after Mariners manager Lou
Piniella buried the dish with a dirt-kicking tantrum while
arguing balls and strikes. Seattle catcher Dan Wilson had to
borrow the ump's broom to give his pitcher a proper target.
Silver Swinger Award To Brewers shortstop Jose Hernandez, who
ended the week with 188 strikeouts, making him a virtual lock to
break the major league record of 189 set by Bobby Bonds in 1970.
With Milwaukee fans holding up K signs and derisively cheering
Hernandez's run at ignominy, manager Jerry Royster benched him
for the club's final four home games last week. "He won't be
humiliated here," Royster said.
Cheaper by the Dozen Award To the Indians and the Padres, who
each used a major-league-record 59 players this season. The
previous high was 56, by the 2000 Padres and the 1915
Mean Streets Medal To Royals catcher Brent Mayne, who wrenched
his back when he turned his head to check for traffic while
crossing a street in April. He spent four weeks on the disabled
list with back spasms. Honorable mention: Blue Jays catcher
Darrin Fletcher, who landed on the DL with a sprained ankle
after stepping in a pothole on his way to the ballpark in
Seattle in May. --Stephen Cannella
COLOR PHOTO: ALLEN FREDRICKSON/REUTERS (HERNANDEZ) HERNANDEZ
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN WILLIAMSON/MLB PHOTOS ROCKER