COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Former major league general manager Roland Hemond was selected to receive the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hall of Fame.
Hemond became the second winner of the award, the Hall announced Tuesday. O'Neil, a Negro Leagues star and the first black coach in the majors, received it posthumously in 2008, two years after his death.
"When you read a description of the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award — character, integrity, dignity, extraordinary efforts and positive impact, you truly are reading a description of Roland Hemond," said White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf, a member of the Hall's board.
Reinsdorf was in Hemond's office when the call informing him of the award came in.
"No one in baseball is more deserving of this honor, so it is very appropriate that Roland follows Buck as the second recipient," Reinsdorf said.
The 81-year-old Hemond was assistant scouting director of the Milwaukee Braves in the 1950s, scouting director of the Angels from 1961-70, general manager of the Chicago White Sox from 1970-85, GM of the Baltimore Orioles from 1988-95 and senior executive vice president of the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1996-00. He was an executive adviser for the White Sox from 2001-07, and currently is special assistant to the president of the Diamondbacks.
Hemond, speaking at the Diamondbacks spring training facility in Scottsdale, Ariz., said he has held O'Neil in such high regard that he was particularly honored to receive an award in that name, calling it "the epitome of the highest of pinnacles that I feel I would ever enjoy." He said he was caught completely off guard when Reinsdorf told him of the honor Tuesday morning.
"I couldn't handle it. I couldn't talk," Hemond said. "I'm finally settling down to where I can talk about it a little bit now but I still have to be careful about not letting my emotions carry me away. It's a great honor, one that I couldn't conceive in my lifetime that I could get such an award."
He spoke of being "so fortunate to be in baseball in the first place, and then so many people who helped me to prosper in the various duties that I was involved in. You reflect on so many of the managers and coaches and scouts and mentors that helped you learn the game."
He broke down when he talked about the recent death of his "dear friend," longtime manager Chuck Tanner.
"I wish he could have lived to see this today," Hemond said.
He recalled that his first baseball job came because of "a blind man in Florida who arranged for me to meet the general manager of the Hartford, Conn., club in the Eastern League in 1951."
"Without meeting Sgt. Leo C. McMahon, who had been wounded in World War I, I wouldn't be standing here today," Hemond said.
He said he is still going strong and enjoying every day.
"People sometimes say, `Roland, why aren't you going to retire?' I said, `No, I'm having too much fun,'" he said. "I mean, how lucky to be alive and come here every day?"
The award will be presented July 23 as part of induction weekend in Cooperstown.