Kansas City Royals star Alex Gordon is 50th Hutch Award honoree

Hutch News

Kansas City Royals star Alex Gordon is 50th Hutch Award honoree

Baseball great Dave Winfield delivered annual ceremony’s keynote address at Safeco Field

Jan. 29, 2015
Alex Gordon

“I’m truly honored to have my name associated with Mr. Hutch," said Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, winner of the 50th annual Hutch Award.

Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Brilliant sunshine, life-changing science and baseball all came together on Thursday as friends and fans of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center took to the field for the 2015 Hutch Award Luncheon held at Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners.

Nearly 1,000 community members, cancer researchers and sports and music celebrities sat in nearly 60-degree weather at this year’s luncheon, which honored Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, winner of the 50th  annual Hutch Award. Hall-of-Famer Dave Winfield, delivered the keynote address.

“I’m truly honored to have my name associated with Mr. Hutch," said Gordon, after accepting the award from Rick Hutchinson, son of the late Fred Hutchinson. “And it’s also an honor to join past winners such as Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle, George Brett and Johnny Bench and many others … It’s a very humbling list to be a part of.”

The Hutch Award is presented annually to a Major League Baseball player who exemplifies the honor, courage and dedication of the late Fred Hutchinson, the beloved pitcher and manager who died of lung cancer at the age of 45. After his death, Seattle surgeon Dr. Bill Hutchinson helped to create the world-class research center as a living memorial to his younger brother’s memory.

Over the past 50 years, some of the biggest names in baseball have been honored with the Hutch Award. Check out all 50 recipients in our slideshow.

A winner on and off the field

A star outfielder for the Kansas City Royals, the Cinderella team that came within spitting distance of winning the 2014 World Series, Gordon has won a slew of major awards for his fielding work, including four Gold Glove Awards, three Fielding Bible Awards, a Platinum Glove Award and the 2014 Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award. He recorded his 1,000th career hit in 2014 and was named to the All-Star Team for the past two years.

But the 30-year-old from Lincoln, Nebraska, has made huge contributions off the field as well, raising awareness and more than $1 million for pediatric cancer research through the nonprofit Alex’s Lemonade Stand, a foundation that emerged from the front yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott.

Gordon also supports the Lincoln Diamond Dawgs, a 12-and-under baseball team from his hometown that raises awareness and funds for the American Cancer Society, and regularly visits hospitals and schools to visit with children.

“They always put a smile on my face,” he said, going on to talk about his morning visit at the Hutch School, the only fully accredited K-12 school in the country to exclusively serve cancer patients and their families.  

“This morning, we got to visit with about 20 kids and it was a pretty amazing experience,” he told the audience at Safeco Field. “I think playing the game of baseball sometimes you’re stressed out if you’re 0-for-4 — or 0-for-10. And then you get life put in perspective when you go meet some of these kids and find out what they’re dealing with and how strong they are.”

Gordon also thanked his wife, Jamie, as well as his mother, Leslie, a two-time cancer survivor.

“This award is given to a player every year that best exemplifies the fine spirit of Fred Hutchinson by persevering through adversity,” he said. “I believe I get this quality from my mother, who’s here today with me. She’s not only beat cancer once, but twice in her life. Mom, I’m just so glad you’re here.”

“This morning, we got to visit with about 20 kids and it was a pretty amazing experience,” he told the audience at Safeco Field. “I think playing the game of baseball sometimes you’re stressed out if you’re 0-for-4  — or 0-for-10. And then you get life put in perspective when you go meet some of these kids and find out what they’re dealing with and how strong they are.”

Gordon also thanked his wife, Jamie, as well as his mother, Leslie, a two-time cancer survivor.

“This award is given to a player every year that best exemplifies the fine spirit of Fred Hutchinson by persevering through adversity,” he said. “I believe I get this quality from my mother, who’s here today with me. She’s not only beat cancer once, but twice in her life. Mom, I’m just so glad you’re here.”

Dave Winfield

Hall-of-Famer Dave Winfield gave the keynote speech at Thursday's Hutch Award Luncheon.

Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Touched by cancer

Sadly, Winfield’s life has also been touched by cancer, losing his beloved mother, mother, Arline, to breast cancer in 1988.

The legendary athlete talked about his upbringing and the values and character his mom instilled in him, and went on to discuss his 22-year career (he played for six teams including the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays) as well as the importance of lifelong learning and keeping a positive outlook.

He then returned to the topic of cancer and of his mother’s final days.

“I was playing for the Yankees and having a good year, but even though I was hitting .320, she was getting weaker and I just said, ‘I’ve got to go. I’ve got to go,’” he told the hushed audience. Winfield returned to St. Paul, Minnesota, and was with his mother when she passed away on his birthday, October 3, just 18 months after being diagnosed. She was in her mid-60s.

“Had I known, had I had the technology and science and all the things that people have put together today at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, I would have brought her right here to find out what was going on and try to give her a chance,” he said. “I learned a lot while I was at the center yesterday and I can tell you your money, your contributions, they’re not going for naught. In your lifetime — easily — you’re going to see breakthroughs that change the world."

Drafted by professional football, basketball and baseball leagues following college, Winfield chose baseball, the game he’d played since he was a kid growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota. The 6-foot,-6-inch right fielder had a ferocious swing and a lethal arm and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001, his first year of eligibility.

Winfield's stats are impressive — he racked up 3,110 career hits, 465 home runs, 12 consecutive All-Star Games and seven Gold Gloves — but he's equally well-known for his philanthropy. He was the first active athlete to create a charitable foundation, the David M. Winfield Foundation, and has won a number of humanitarian awards including the Branch Rickey Community Service Award, MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award and the YMCA Brian Piccolo Award.  

Hutch Award history

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Hutch Award, an honor initiated by a handful of sportswriters and broadcasters shortly after Fred Hutchinson’s death, and given to players who embody the fighting spirit and competitive desire of “Hutch,” a player known for his integrity, dedication, strength and stoicism. His stony, unsmiling demeanor and coolness on the mound earned him a few telling nicknames: “The Bear,” the “Iceman” and “Old Stoneface.”

“He’s really kind of a happy guy inside,” Joe Garagiola, former St. Louis Cardinal catcher and TV commentator once famously told newspaper columnist Emmett Watson. “Only his face doesn’t know it.”

Fred Hutchinson wowed baseball fans from the start, drawing thousands to Sicks’ Stadium in 1938 to see him pitch and pound out hits for the newly-minted Seattle Rainiers. A hometown hero even at 19, he quickly transitioned from the minors to the majors, pitching for the Detroit Tigers for several years before serving in the Navy during World War II.

After the war, Hutch returned to baseball, pitching and then managing the Tigers, before returning home to Seattle in 1955 to help the Rainiers snatch the pennant from their arch-rivals, the Los Angeles Angels. He continued to manage for the next few years, first the St. Louis Cardinals and then the Cincinnati Reds, taking both to great heights and winning the hearts of both players and fans as reliably as he’d won games as a pitcher. 

In December 1963, Hutchinson was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent radiation treatment in Seattle. He returned to the Reds for spring training and then the season, rarely missing a day. During the course of the summer, however, his health deteriorated and he intermittently checked into the hospital for rest or additional treatment. In August of 1964, Hutch shared his story with America in a candid and courageous 6,000-word True magazine “as-told-to” piece in which he described his treatment and discussed his disease, a rare occurrence in a time when people seldom spoke of cancer. He also donated the $1,000 fee for the article to a cancer research fund.

“If I was going to die, of course, worrying wouldn’t save me. And if I was going to live, worrying was a waste of time.” he told writer Al Hirshberg in “How I Live with Cancer.” “One thing was sure. I wasn’t going to worry myself to death.”

Two months later, he resigned as manager of the Reds. Hutchinson died on November 12, 1964, less than a year after he was diagnosed. Today, his legacy lives on in the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and in the Hutch Award. 

In April 1965, the first Hutch Award was presented to New York Yankee Mickey Mantle by baseball commissioner William D. Eckert in brief ceremony before a spring training game with the Philadelphia Phillies in Fort Lauderdale. 

An annual celebration

Since then, the Hutch Award has gone to some of baseball’s biggest legends, including Hall-of-Famers Sandy Koufax, Carl Yastrzemski, Willie McCovey, Lou Brock, George Brett and Johnny Bench. Recent notables include cancer survivor Jon Lester (now playing for the Chicago Cubs) and longtime pitcher and well-known philanthropist Jamie Moyer.

The award presentation has become a much-anticipated annual celebration at Safeco Field. In the last 15 years, the annual luncheon and auction has brought in more than $4.3 million for the cancer research center named in Fred Hutchinson’s honor. Thursday's event raised more than $580,000 in gross proceeds.

Seattle Mariners broadcaster Rick Rizzs served as emcee for this year’s event which drew a number of celebrity guests including glass artist Dale Chihuly (who created the Silvered Piccolo Venetian with Gold Coils especially for the Hutch Award 50th anniversary), 1993 Hutch Award winner John Olerud, 1999 Hutch Award winner Sean “The Mayor” Casey and four generations of the Hutchinson family.

“I have the Hutch Award displayed at my house — it’s the one award I cherish,” Casey told the crowd. 

Also in attendance was Dr. Gary Gilliland, Fred Hutch’s new director and president, who talked about promising new developments like immunotherapy as well as the legacy of the Hutchinson brothers.

“I think it’s a tribute to family to understand that one man’s life and his struggle with cancer and the support of his brother and his family can make such a big difference to so many,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be the president and director of the only cancer center in the country – and the world – that was named after a baseball player.”

Gilliland also talked about his vision for the research center.

“We have an opportunity to cure cancers in ways that we had never dreamed imaginable,” he said. “I love our new motto – cures start here. We’re not interested in simply treating cancer -- but curing cancer.”

Diane Mapes is a staff writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She has written extensively about health issues for NBC News, TODAY, CNN, MSN, Seattle Magazine and other publications. A breast cancer survivor, she also writes the breast cancer blog doublewhammied.com. Reach her at dmapes@fredhutch.org.

 

 

 

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