Kidnapped catcher wins 2011 Radbourn Award

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos, who vowed to keep playing winter ball after getting kidnapped in Venezuela, and Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton, who gutted it out after his unintentional role in a fan’s tragic death, top the list of winners for the 2011 “Radbourn Award” for combined grit and greatness.

The award, named after Hall of Fame pitcher Old Hoss Radbourn, who set the all-time Major League record by doggedly winning 59 games in a single season, goes to the best and grittiest men in baseball at all nine positions.

“Ramos leapt into Radbourn Award contention when he was kidnapped at gunpoint in his native Venezuela in November, and after being freed, vowed to go on playing winter ball there. It doesn’t get much grittier than that,” said Edward Achorn, author of “Fifty-nine in ’84,” the acclaimed book (published by HarperCollins) that explores Radbourn’s incredible season and the rugged individualism of America in his day.

To read the full exciting story of Radbourn’s amazing season, click here

“Hamilton seemed cursed when a man fell to his death in front of his son, reaching for a ball Josh has tossed into the crowd. Though clearly devastated, Hamilton hit a game-winning, ninth-inning home run just two nights later, and went on to bat .298 with 25 home runs,” said Achorn.

“And in, the most touching moment of the season, to open the playoffs Josh caught the first ball thrown by the fatherless boy, and traded warm hugs. He epitomizes the grit and greatness of a Radbourn Award winner.”

Here’s the complete list of the winners of the 2nd Annual Radbourn Award, which exemplifies the rare combination of Grit and Greatness in the game of baseball:

P – Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies. Like Old Hoss Radbourn, Halladay hates to hand over the ball. A throwback, he won 19, and pitched 8 complete games. Like Radbourn, he goes into “isolation mode” before games, brooding about how he will beat each of the hitters he will face.

C – Wilson Ramos, Washington Nationals.

1B – Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals. Despite suffering a fracture in the left wrist-forearm midway through the season, Pujols hit .299, with 37 HR and 99 RBI, then joined Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only players ever to hit three home runs in a World Series game.

2B – Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox. The bantam second baseman – the same height and weight as Radbourn – captured his second straight Radbourn with a .299 average, 21 HR and 91 RBI. A bright spot on a Red Sox team that suffered an historic collapse, he came to the park every day to play hard, despite a screw in his left foot from a 2010 injury.

SS – J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles. A great clubhouse influence, Hardy won a three-year contract extension even before clubbing a career-high 30 HRs this year, despite missing 34 games with a strained oblique.

3B — Adrian BELTRE, Texas Rangers. Beltre hit .296 with 32 HR and 105 RBI, in spite of a severely injured hamstring that plagued him during the second half of the season. Who can forget his gritty play in the playoffs and World Series after being pounded repeatedly with pitches and foul balls?

LF — Josh HAMILTON, Texas Rangers.

CF – Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees. One of the friendliest big-leaguers, Granderson showed he is also one of the toughest in 2011, performing brilliantly in the harsh glare of the New York spotlight: 41 HRs with 119 RBIs, while diving all over the place for spectacular catches.

RF – Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals. Berkman overcame age, injuries and widespread doubts to hit .301 with 31 HRs and 94 RBIs. He was an essential part of the never-say-die spirit that lifted the all-but-dead Cardinals all the way to top