ST. LOUIS -- The 51st annual St. Louis Baseball Writers Dinner clocked in at an unusually short running time, but nonetheless featured plenty of highlights.
Featuring an All-Star theme in honor of the upcoming 2009 All-Star Game at Busch Stadium, the dinner paid tribute to past Cardinals All-Stars as well as previous Midsummer Classics played in St. Louis.
The annual dinner is hosted by the St. Louis chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. It simultaneously serves as a wrap-up for the annual Cardinals Winter Warm-Up weekend as well as the beginning of the countdown to Spring Training.
National League Most Valuable Player Albert Pujols again was named the chapter's Man of the Year, the seventh straight year he has either won or shared that award. Other top honorees included pitching coach Dave Duncan, who received the Hyland/Hummel Meritorious Service Award, and Adam Wainwright, recipient of the Darryl Kile Award.
But the brightest highlights of the evening came earlier. Catcher Yadier Molina received a Stockton/Broeg Award for outstanding achievement in baseball, and he also was presented with the Gold Glove he won for the 2008 season. Molina, clearly overcome by the honor, dedicated the award to his catching mentor, the late Dave Ricketts.
And Lou Brock, always a star of the dinner, drew huge laughs when he related a story from his first All-Star appearance in 1967.
Brock told the assemblage that after arriving at Angel Stadium some five hours early for the game, he asked a clubhouse attendant to get him a Coca-Cola. The young man went to get him the soda, then introduced himself -- it was rookie and fellow first-time All-Star Tom Seaver.
Cardinals director of Minor League operations John Vuch received the Harry Mitauer Good Guy Award.
"I would have been flattered if they just told me my name came up in the conversation," Vuch said, "let alone being the recipient."
And as always, the dinner featured state-of-the-team addresses from both the Cardinals manager and general manager. Both Tony La Russa and John Mozeliak took some good-natured pokes at the writers while also talking up the 2009 Redbirds.
"We have a really good club going to Spring Training," La Russa said. "We have the best kinds of competitors."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.