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Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Dinner honors the past, present, and the courageous

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It was a night of reminiscing as well as looking ahead. The Philadelphia Sports Writers Association’s  106th annual Awards Dinner was held last night at Crown Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. Two of the teams that were honored were the 1960 Philadelphia Eagles, the last NFL team to win a championship in Philadelphia fifty years ago. Chuck Bednarik and Tommy McDonald were among several ex-Eagles from the team who were present at the dinner.

Also being honored at the event were the 1985 NCAA Champion Villanova Wildcats (minus Rollie Massimino- who is Former Eagles Chuck Bednarik and Tommy McDonald of the 1960 Eagles Championship team. Photo: Joe Vallee Sr.coaching in Florida), who beat Georgetown 25 years ago this April in one of the most famous upsets in NCAA Basketball history. Tournament MVP Ed Pinckney has fond memories of that night in April of 1985, and says that his alma matter's continued success keeps those celebratory moments fresh in his mind.

"The memory actually comes back every year during March Madness, and it's a lot of fun to reminiss about that game we played," mentions Pinckney. "But it's even more exciting to have Villanova be so successful, because the memories from our squad are brought back because of their success."

Receiving the "Favorite Son Award" was Andrew Bailey, the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year with the Oakland Athletics and a resident of Haddonfield, New Jersey. Considered a long shot to even make the Oakland squad in spring training 2009, Bailey not only made the team, he was the only rookie to represent the American League and National League on the All-Star Team. The culmination of his ROTY Award and last night's honor bring the year full circle for Bailey.

"The whole year has been tough to describe," mentions Bailey. "Going into last season, I just wanted to try and open up some eyes. Then, I made the club and was pitching well. So the whole year has really been a roller coaster. You don't wanna pinch yourself and realize that your here and you made it, so you go you have to keep on working hard to stay in the majors. I'm still on cloud nine, and right now I'm getting ready for this year."

As expected, the dinner featured tributes to late Phillies broadcaster Harry Kalas, and former Eagle Tom Brookshire, who passed away this weekend. Also honored were the 2009 Philadelphia Phillies as the "Team of the Year," and Phillies GM Ruben Amaro  received the "Executive of the Year Award." Manager Charlie Manuel  was on hand, and the Cliff Lee trade was touched upon comically between Manuel and Amaro, who both deflected responsibility of the trade onto each other.

The final award of the night for "Most Courageous Athlete" was given to Villanova All-American track runner Frances Koons, who successfully Most Courageous Athlete Award winner Frances Koons. Photo: Joe Vallee Sr.battled kidney cancer and is setting out to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. Koons considers herself extremely lucky to have survived the disease, and her outlook was and always is positive.

 "I was really fortunate to have doctors catch it in its early stages," explains Koons at a press conference prior to the dinner. "Once it metastasizes, kidney cancer has a tough prognosis. It doesn't respond to traditional cancer therapies, so I was lucky to have the tumor removed, keep my kidney, and not have any further treatment for it other than yearly scans."

 Despite her recent illness, Koons insists that she is moving forward without looking back, and deflects some of her praise to a special family member. "I've been able to move forward with my life and my running because I don't really look back and think about it all that much. Courageous is my brother (Fred), who while I was diagnosed with cancer was fighting in Iraq for our freedom. That's kind of what comes to mind when I think of the word courageous."

Click HERE for a full list of all the award winners of the evening.

For a full look at all of Joe Vallee Sr's photos of the evening, click HERE