B’nai B’rith International bestowed Major League Baseball Commissioner Allan H. “Bud” Selig with the Distinguished Humanitarian Award on June 27 at the St. Regis New York.
The B’nai B’rith Distinguished Humanitarian Award recognizes personal and professional commitments to improving the lives of others at the community and global levels.
“I am truly honored to be here, as all of us at Major League Baseball join you in the celebration of B’nai B’rith International’s 170th anniversary. I didn’t think anything was older than baseball, but you guys are,” Selig said. “On behalf of Major League Baseball and our 30 clubs I am deeply humbled to accept the Distinguished Humanitarian Award from B’nai B’rith International, whose mission I have always admired and whose ideals are shared by so many of the men and women who are fortunate enough to work in the game of baseball.”
Selig was presented with a tzedakah box and a baseball jersey with “B’nai B’rith” emblazoned on the front, and “Selig” and 18 on the back. The number 18 or the Hebrew symbol “chai” was selected because in Jewish culture it represents “life.”
At the award dinner, special presenters Sharon Robinson and Joe Torre addressed Major League Baseball’s commitment to diversity.
“I want to congratulate B’nai B’rith International for honoring the commissioner with the Distinguished Humanitarian Award,” Torre said. “You picked quite a guy.”
Robinson attended the dinner accompanied by her mother, Rachel Robinson. Sharon Robinson spoke about the values that she and B’nai B’rith share, the impact her father made by breaking the color barrier in baseball, and Selig’s work to promote tolerance and education.
“The principles of B’nai B’rith mirror those that were instilled in me by my parents,” Sharon Robinson said. “We weren’t just a baseball family, we were a civil rights family.”
MLB’s humanitarian efforts under Selig include valuable contributions to such programs as Stand Up To Cancer and Welcome Back Veterans, and the national pastime has recently supported Hurricane Sandy relief efforts and participated in the National Day of Remembrance, which was launched after the Sept. 11 attacks. MLB also supports the Baseball Assistance Team, which helps those in the “baseball family.” MLB’s Civil Rights Game and the Diversity Business Summit also serve to highlight baseball’s commitment to some of the very core values that define B’nai B’rith International as a humanitarian organization.
Sharon Robinson, an author and educator, is vice chairperson of The Jackie Robinson Foundation. Robinson also serves on the boards of the Roberto Clemente Sports City Complex in Carolina, Puerto Rico; Metropolitan Opera; Urban America; and Omnicom Diversity Committee. As an educational consultant for Major League Baseball, Robinson oversees community-based programs aimed at providing students with the tools to help them face obstacles. She is the author of “Jackie’s Nine: Jackie Robinson’s Values to Live By,” “Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America,” and “Testing the Ice: A True Story About Jackie Robinson,” among other books.
Joe Torre, who is currently MLB’s Executive vice president for baseball operations, has seen all sides of baseball as a player, manager, broadcaster and baseball executive. As a player he was a nine-time All-Star and the 1971 National League Most Valuable Player. A 29-year manager in the Majors, Torre took the New York Yankees to the playoffs in each of his 12 full seasons as manager. He led the team to six American League titles and four World Series championships. He earned the inaugural Chuck Tanner Major League Baseball Manager of the Year Award in 2007 and took home Sporting News’ Manager of the Decade in 2009. Sports Illustrated named him Best Manager of the Decade in 2009, and the magazine also placed Torre as third on its Top 10 Coaches/Mangers of the Decade for U.S. professional and college sports.
Robinson and Torre are powerful representatives and ambassadors of baseball and its positive impact on society.
“Both our organization and Bud Selig’s share a commitment to empowering and emboldening vibrant communities,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. Mariaschin, who also hosted the event, noted: “As we mark 170 years of service to these communities, we share with pride Major League Baseball’s positive role in our American conscious.”