Doug Wolter: Remembering the best baseball Hall of Fame speeches
In less than a month, former Minnesota Twins Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva will be inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame. Now is a good time to catch some of the best Hall of Fame speeches from the past.
There is less than one month to go before major league baseball, and Minnesota Twins fans especially, get to enjoy the sport’s premiere mid-summer event. That is, the annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Cooperstown.
On July 24, the 2022 bash will add the names of former Twins Jim Kaat and Tony Oliva into the Hall, along with Gil Hodges, Minnie Minoso and David Ortiz, and also Early Baseball Era Committee electees Bud Fowler and Buck O’Neill.
It’s never too soon to look back, as we look forward to the next Hall of Famer speech-making, to some of the more interesting speeches we’ve heard in the past. Here are some snippets of my favorites:
Harmon Killebrew, 1984:
“I grew up in this small town in Idaho, and my father used to like to go to the movies, and I’ll never forget that a lot of times on warm summer evenings like this my father would take my brother, Bob, and I to the movies. And then after the movie was over, he would race us home. He’d always win. He was a man that took a great deal of pride in his children. I’ll never forget, we used to play a lot of ball out in the front yard, and my mother would say, “You’re tearing up the grass and digging holes in the front yard?” And my father would say, “We’re not raising grass here, we’re raising boys.”
Mickey Mantle, 1974:
“I was named after a Hall of Famer. I think this is the first time it’s ever happened that a guy’s ever come into the Hall of Fame that was named after one. Before I was born, my father lived and died for baseball and he named me after a Hall of Famer: Mickey Cochrane. I’m not sure if my dad knew it or not, but his real name was Gordon. I hope there’s no Gordons here today, but I’m glad that he didn’t name me Gordon.”
Yogi Berra, 1972:
“I guess the first thing I should do is thank everybody who made this day necessary.”
Ted Williams, 1966:
“I hope that someday, the names of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson can … be added to the symbol of the great Negro League players that are not here only because they were not given a chance.”
Bert Blyleven, 2011:
Remembering the moments before pitching first major league game: “Manager Bill Rigney said, ‘Bert, are you nervous?’ Huh? Nineteen years old, gonna make my first major league start. ‘No, I’m not nervous.’ And he pulled me back into the runway a little bit more and he said, ‘Are you sure you’re not nervous?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, well, why do you ask?’ He said, ‘Listen, Bert,’ he said, ‘I don’t know how you did it in high school and I don’t know how you did it in the minor leagues, but up here in the majors we try to wear our athletic supporters on the inside.’”
Bob Uecker, 2003:
“I did not have a lot of ability as a kid, and my dad wanted me to have everything that everybody else had. I think the first thing that he ever bought me was a football. And I was very young. He didn't know a lot about it, he came from the old country. I mean, we tried to pass it and throw it and kick it, and we couldn't do it. And it was very discouraging for him and for me. Almost -- we almost quit. And finally we had a nice enough neighbor, and he came over and put some air in it, and what a difference.”
Tony Gwynn, 2007:
“For me, this story kind of begins in Long Beach, California. As a kid growing up, my brothers and I watched baseball all the time, played it all the time in our backyard, and for us, I don't think any of us thought that hitting a fig or hitting a sock ball or hitting a wad of tape was going to turn into this. Just unbelievable.”
Ken Griffey Jr., 2016:
"Trey (Griffey's son), you're my little man, my partner in crime. And one day, sitting there on the couch, you took a bat and hit the TV. And your mom got mad at you and then got mad at me and asked me why I was not mad, and I said, 'Girl, you can't teach that swing.' So I got up and bought a new TV."
Tommy Lasorda, 1997:
(The L.A. Dodgers manager remembered a day when the 1955 Dodgers were honored in Shea Stadium. There, he lined up aside teammate Pee Wee Reese). “And I said, Pee Wee, if someone had walked into the Dodgers clubhouse in Ebbets Field in 1955 and said to you, ‘Pee Wee, one of these 25 guys will be managing the Dodgers to a World Series championship in the year 1981. Put ‘em in the order of who do you think it would be.’ I said, ‘You know where you would put me, Pee Wee? Twenty-fifth.’ He said, ‘No, you’re wrong.’ I said, ‘Where would you have put me?’ He said, ‘Twenty-fourth.’ I said, ‘Who would you have 25th?’ He said, (Sandy) Amoros, he couldn’t speak English.’”