RICHARD LEVIN: I'd like to introduce Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa and Hank Aaron. Sammy and Manny are the Hank Aaron Award winners. This is the first Hank Aaron Award, goes to the best hitter in each League. I'd like to introduce Mark Pettie of Country Time Lemonade.
MARK PETTIE: Thanks, Rich. Needless to say Country Time Lemonade is extremely proud to be sponsoring the new Hank Aaron Award which, as Rich said, is the new award given annually to the best hitter in each League. It's named after one of the greatest players in baseball history and a member of baseball's All-Century Team. We look forward in joining Major League Baseball in establishing this award alongside the Cy Young and MVP as one of the most coveted and enduring awards in all of baseball. As we near the end of another great season of baseball, we're also proud to be able to give this inaugural award to two of the best players in the game today. Sammy Sosa has brought a lot of passion and excitement to baseball, particularly over the last two seasons. In 1999 his 180 total hits, 141 RBIs and incredible 63 home runs have earned him the National League Hank Aaron Award. Along with the American League, Manny Ramirez had an equally impressive offensive year. His 174 total hits, 44 home runs and 165 RBIs have earned him this year's American League Hank Aaron Award. On behalf of Country Time Lemonade, baseball fans everywhere, please join me in congratulating Sammy and Manny as the recipients of the first ever Hank Aaron Award. Congratulations.
RICHARD LEVIN: Thank you. I think basically what we're going to do now is just open it up to questions. Sammy, do you have anything you want to say; Sammy or Manny?
SAMMY SOSA: I just wanted to say thank you one more time to being the first winner of the Hank Aaron Award. Foe me it's an honor to be here. I'm very happy myself. It will motivate me and help me keep going year by year. Thank you.
HANK AARON: Let me, let me thank Country Time for this award. I certainly want to thank these two gentlemen mere. It's been - last year, two years ago of course, Sammy would have won it. This would have been the second time he would have won it. I think Manny probably would have won it two years ago, too. But this is an award that is the first award that I think all of the hitters can be very proud of. It's an award that is really - it's established for the hitter. It is not the Cy Young. It means that if a hitter like Sammy and Ramirez had the kind of years they had the past year, that they would win this award. It is meant for the hitter, and I'm extremely proud to present this award to these fine young ball players this year.
RICHARD LEVIN: Thanks, Hank. Manny, do you want to say something?
MANNY RAMIREZ: I'm just happy to be here, one of my best friends, Sammy Sosa. I just want to thank the fans for letting me be here. Thank you, everybody.
RICHARD LEVIN: Thanks, Manny. Any questions for any of these three gentlemen?
Q. Manny, how did you feel getting knocked out of the post-season? How long has it taken you to get over that? Was it disappointing? How long did it take you to get over it?
MANNY RAMIREZ: It was disappointing because I thought we were going to get at least to the second round. But, you know, somebody's got to lose. So I'm just happy for that, you know.
RICHARD LEVIN: Anything else?
Q. A little off the beaten path. Manny, as a Hispanic player, Latin player, how did you feel when Roberto Clemente did not make the All-Century Team and what does Roberto Clemente mean to you?
MANNY RAMIREZ: I pass on that one.
RICHARD LEVIN: Anything else?
Q. Does Sammy have an answer to that question?
SAMMY SOSA: Well, pretty much I don't have too much to say about it. But I think that everybody knows who Roberto Clemente was. And he would be the person to pick or make that team, Roberto Clemente would have been my choice.
Q. You and Mark McGwire have been the forefront of the home run establishment in baseball for a couple years now, a few years. How does it feel to meet Hank and how do you look at Hank as an idol or however you look at him?
SAMMY SOSA: Well, Hank Aaron, everybody knows, that he's been one of the greatest. He will still be for many, many years to come. Myself, I remember when I was a little kid, you know, I always would look at Hank Aaron because of the home runs that he hit and everything. Pretty much this day people only partly going to remember him because he hit more home runs than anybody. But for me, to look at Hank Aaron and obviously, it is like a motivation to me because, you know, I remember when he was a player, and he go out there every day and year by year, he was there. So pretty much I just take that as a compliment. And to have somebody like Hank Aaron to be close to him made me a better player and a real good person.
HANK AARON: Let me say this. I think that Sammy comes from a long line of great ball players from his country. I played with some great ball players. We can talk about Juan Marichal who was a great pitcher. They talk about pitching. I don't think anybody was a better pitcher than Juan Marichal. I admired him. He carried himself well. Sammy come from a long line of great ball players from the Islands. It gives me a great deal of pleasure that he continues that trend in what he's doing now, is to - the kind of ball player that he is. So I think all of us in this room can feel gratified and satisfied that he has demonstrated over the past years that he can carry the load himself.
Q. Manny, have you thought much about the MVP race? You're one of the favorites. It's going to be announced late in November. What do you think your chances are and who do you think the other contenders are?
MANNY RAMIREZ: Well, you know, I don't have no control of that. I'm not the one who votes for that. So if I get it, I get it. If not, it doesn't matter. Next year I got to go out there, play hard and see what happens.
Q. Hank, just by your comment you seem to be almost on the border of almost saying something about the pitchers that you've hit against and maybe Marichal should have been on the All-Century Team or a comment about there not being a Latino on the All-Century Team, would you like to comment?
HANK AARON: I would rather hold my comments for later on, really. Tonight, this is about giving this award away. I want to thank Country Time for that. This is about the first award, the Henry Aaron Award, I really want to hold my comments until later on. Thank you.
Q. Hank, it seems with the rate of home runs being hit today that a lot of hitters have your record in their sights. It seems almost inevitable that in the next 20 years someone might break your record.
HANK AARON: 20 years? Okay. I'll take it.
Q. What are your feelings about the number of home runs being hit today and the fact that your record might be broken as soon as you suggest?
HANK AARON: Oh, that's all right with me. I've held it long enough. I'm not worried about the record, you know. Really, I've had it since 1974, so it doesn't bother me. And records are made to be broken. I've said this all along, that if someone comes along and breaks it, that's fine. I think the candidate that I would suggest that had a good chance would be Ken Griffey Jr., because of his age, and he's going to be around for a while. But, you know, it really doesn't matter who breaks it, really. As I said before, that just means progress in baseball, and Sammy Sosa, McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr., who ever breaks it, fine. I can promise you one thing; that they'll have an easier time than I did. Okay.
Q. Can you explain why?
HANK AARON: They will not have to sneak out of the back of baseball parks. Their family would enjoy it a little bit.
Q. Manny, will the identity of the next Indians' manager affect whether you will sign a long-term contract including or opt for free agency?
MANNY RAMIREZ: I think, you know, I don't have no control of that. I am just a player. Doesn't matter who's going to be the manager, I'm going to go out there and whatever they decide, I just deal with it.
Q. But you have control over whether you either decide to test the free-agent market or sign a long-term contract.
MANNY RAMIREZ: I really don't want to talk about that right now. I guess I just want to stay in Cleveland.
Q. Was there anyone when you were coming up with the Braves that you respected and admired as a player and as a hitter in the early fifties, Mr. Aaron?
HANK AARON: One player I've always admired and had nothing to do with home runs was Stan Musial. Stan and I got along with very well. We toured Vietnam together. We stayed there about six weeks entertaining the troops. I picked his brain. He was somebody I admired, not only because he was a great hitter but simply because he was a great person. Of course, Jackie Robinson, no question in my mind, was a pioneer.
RICHARD LEVIN: Any other questions? We'll just take a couple more then.
Q. Hank, with regard to what you said before about your family not enjoying you're having broken the record, do you still receive hate mail?
HANK AARON: If I do, I don't open them.
Q. Are they ticking?
HANK AARON: If I get a piece of mail, I let somebody else open it. Before I used to. It doesn't bother me, really. It's over with, done with. I am enjoying my life very well now.
Q. Do you think the hitters have been overlooked? Do you think they need an award like this?
HANK AARON: Yes. Very much so. I think the hitters have been overlooked. The Cy Young can be won by pitchers or by hitters. We got in the debate, I don't care to tell you the name of the player, about what the Cy Young means.
Q. You mean the MVP?
HANK AARON: MVP Award, yes, I'm sorry. This award is strictly, strictly for hitters. This is strictly a hitter's award. It should be one the hitters can enjoy. As I said before, this has been created simply because of, I think everybody feels like everybody has an award but the hitter. So I'm grateful to Country Time for this.
Q. What is the specific criteria for giving out this award?
HANK AARON: For winning the award you mean?
Q. Is there a specific criteria? Or is it a subjective opinion?
RICHARD LEVIN: Do you want me to explain that?
HANK AARON: You can.
RICHARD LEVIN: This year, it was sponsored by Country Time Lemonade. We totaled up the hits, home runs and RBIs for each player, and Sammy won in the National League and Manny in the American League. In the future, we're looking at this becoming a more subjective award in which a panel would pick a winner in each League.
Q. That was sort of the thing, but what would be the criteria in selecting future hitters? What would you like to see, Hank, as a way of determining who's the best hitter?
HANK AARON: I would like to see the same determination that these two hitters have demonstrated. You know, take into consideration the home runs, runs-batted-in and slugging, and also batting average, you know, I think that's the criteria I think we all would like to see. That's why these two players are up here today, because of what they did in the past year. Last year, of course, if this award was given away, Sammy would have won it because of his overall ability, what he had accomplished. Everybody would have thought McGwire would have won it, but overall Sammy would have won it because of his batting average, runs-batted-in, slugging percentage.
RICHARD LEVIN: Thank you very much.