Gagne, Davis, Robinson Honored by RBI

Dodger ace closer Eric Gagne and two former Dodgers, Willie Davis and Frank Robinson, were among those honored at the annual "Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities" (RBI) fundraising dinner on Thursday in Los Angeles.

The event raises funds for the 17-year-old charity that provides scholarships, uniforms, equipment and baseball instruction to thousands of youngsters around the country. Every year RBI honors past and present-day players with awards for their achievements both on and off the field.

Along with the Dodger players mentioned, RBI alum Coco Crisp of the Boston Red Sox, former closer Rich Gossage and Hall of Famer Joe Morgan were also honored by the foundation.

"I think that's why you play the game," said Gagne, the Dodgers' closer, who received the Children's Choice Award and also added his arm felt great after throwing a bullpen session at Dodger Stadium earlier in the afternoon.

"When I was growing up, I remember going to camps [in his native Montreal] where [Expo] Tim Wallach was there, Tim Raines and Andre Dawson. And I used to look at them and say, 'One day I want to be one of them.' I think it's great for the kids just to be able to play baseball. RBI is a great cause, and it helps the kids -- and I have three kids. It's great, it's fun and I'm proud to receive an award like that."

"I think Eric just embodies what we want here with the Dodgers," said Dodger chairman Frank McCourt, who, along with former closer Robb Nen, presented Gagne with his award. "He's passionate about winning -- he knows it's all about the fans so he wears his heart on his sleeve and he gives back to the community. He's a big part of the community -- he's the face of the Dodgers and that's very, very important. The community respects that because he gives back."

Washington Nationals manager Frank Robinson, who played for the Dodgers for one season in 1972, was the recipient of the foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award. The Hall of Famer, who broke in with the Cincinnati Reds in 1956, is a huge supporter of the foundation.

The most emotional presentation came from former Dodger Lou Johnson, who presented an RBI Hall of Fame induction to his former teammate and friend Willie Davis. Johnson, who had oral surgery two days earlier, told the audience that he wouldn't have missed this presentation for anything in the world.

"Welcome home, Willie Davis," said Johnson, fighting back tears. The two old friends embraced on stage. Davis, the former Dodger center fielder of the 1960s and early 70s, had been estranged from the Dodgers since 1996 while he was dealing with a substance-abuse problem.

Now clean and sober for some time, Davis was welcomed back into the organization last year and is now a much-in-demand member of the Dodgers' Speakers Bureau. With his grandchildren in the audience, Davis accepted his induction.

"It's awfully nice to look out there and see everybody here tonight," said Davis. "I'm very humbled."

At the end of his speech, Davis had a few kind words for his boss: "Mr. McCourt, I'd like to thank you for having me back -- I'm having a good time, and thanks for giving me things to do. I love you all."

All proceeds from the event will go back into RBI's operational funds that will hopefully help inspire young players to love the game of baseball as much as the evening's award recipients do. --From a story by Ben Platt /