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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

On this night, the star

Slim pickings at the 66th annual Boston Baseball Writers bash at the Sheraton last night. After the greatest Boston baseball season of them all, few baseball personalities and only one Sox player were able to make it to the Hub for the packed dinner on a foggy night. Tim Wakefield was the lone member of the world champions to grace the dais.

No problem. The trophy was there to save the day.

The trophy is the commissioner's trophy, the Stanley Cup of baseball. It comes with the World Series title and since the Sox brought it home from St. Louis Oct. 28, it has made more public appearances than Ray Flynn or Chuck Berry. Combined.

The trophy is the most popular, most photographed item in Greater Boston. Last night at the Sheraton, fans who were disappointed that they didn't get to see Johnny Damon were made happy with an opportunity to be photographed with the trophy. Really, what would you rather have -- an autograped baseball from Kevin Youkilis or a Polaroid of yourself standing alongside the trophy?

Chuck Steedman, Red Sox senior director of business affairs, is the official keeper of the trophy. He sees that it is polished, well fed, and, above all, secure. The trophy travels with bodyguards, a state cop was hovering last night. Can't be too careful. You never know when Doug Mientkiewicz might pop out of nowhere, wrap his arms around it, and stash it in a vault in Miami.

Last night's appearance at the dinner -- it went from table to table -- completed the first cycle of the trophy tour and according to our random survey, Whitey Bulger is the only Sox fan yet to be photographed with the gold-plated prize. The Sox have pledged that the trophy will visit all 351 Massachusetts cities and towns, which means you might have to wait if you want the trophy for your son's bar mitzvah or your daughter's wedding.

The trophy thus far has been in 18 Massachusetts cities and towns, all six New England states, plus California, New York, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, the District of Columbia, and the Dominican Republic. It has been to Boston-theme sports bars in Santa Monica, Calif., Atlanta and DC. It spent an emotional day at Bethesda Naval Hospital, cheering our wounded troops. It went to the Home for Little Wanderers. It will make an appearance at the dinner-dance to benefit the building fund for East Boston's St. Mary's Star of the Sea Catholic school next weekend.

The trophy has its own wheeled traveling case, but the Sox prefer the hand-held method. On airplanes, the trophy usually prefers a middle seat. No way this jewel is traveling with the luggage. When it's not on the road, it spends the night in a storage closet at Fenway. Steedman kept it as his house one night and recalled, "My wife slept on the couch and I had the trophy."

The trophy weighs 38 pounds. It has nicknames. Sox officials call it "the baby," or "my little friend." A couple of its 30 flags were loosened when Damon released it to a pack of Patriot fans at Gillette Stadium, but they were tightened by trophy doctors. Fingerprints are the bane of the trophy's existence. Fans want to touch the trophy, as they would with a moon rock or the Blarney stone. It's as if the trophy has magic healing powers that can be transferred upon contact. Some fans weep when finally face to face with the ultimate symbol of Sox success.

"It's become my favorite celebrity," said Sox public affairs soldier Colleen Reilly. "It goes the distance and never fatigues."

According to Steedman, there are more than 1,000 outstanding requests for "the baby." He would not specify all of them, but the Globe was able to come up with a partial list (we own the team, you know) of those who'd asked for some time with the World Series bling:

* Mo Vaughn wants to take it to the Foxy Lady.

* Jeremy Jacobs wants to put it on display at center ice at the New Garden. In place of a Bruins game, fans can have their pictures taken with the trophy and maybe buy a few hot dogs.

* Pedro Martinez wants to have it at Shea Stadium for a day, as a measure of respect for all he did in Boston.

* Alex Rodriguez wants to borrow it just to see what one of these things looks like.

* Donald Trump wants to marry it for a day, giving him the ultimate trophy wife.

* Lisa Marie Presley has requested the trophy for a one-day showing in the jungleroom at Graceland.

* Kevin Millar initially requested the trophy, but changed his mind when he realized that unlike the Stanley Cup, it's impossible to chug Jack Daniel's from the commissioner's trophy.

* Ben Affleck offered his Oscar and a DVD of "Gigli" in exchange for a day with the trophy.

* The 7-Eleven chain wants to use the trophy to sell Big Gulps. The Sox have not yet ruled on this potential revenue stream.

The trophy. It is bigger and better than any ballplayer. It never leaves via free agency. It is forever. And on a foggy night at the Sheraton, it was the star of stars, the movable national monument of Red Sox Nation.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com. 

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