Hall of Fame Day Memories
Yesterday for the first time ever I was able to see the Hall of Fame ceremonies from start to finish. The MLB Network did a great service to baseball fans to present the entire ceremony. These were the highlights of each speech:
One of the highlights of the Hall of Fame ceremonies was when Judy Gordon made the Hall of Fame acceptance speech in behalf of her father Joe Gordon who passed away in 1978.
She told of how Gordon had struggled in childhood and had lived in a tent at one time.
This paragraph written by former MLB commissioner Fay Vincent in the June 22, 2003 New York Times tells of how Gordon befriended Larry Doby who was being shunned by his own teammates because he was black:
And Joe Gordon was one of Larry’s heroes. ”The day I showed up in Chicago to join the Indians in 1947 — it was July 5,” Larry told me. ”I felt all alone. When we went out on the field to warm up, to play catch, you know the way we always did, no one asked me to play. I just stood there for minutes. It seemed like a long time. Then Joe Gordon yelled: ‘Hey kid, come on. Throw with me.’ That was it. Joe Gordon was a class guy. He’d been a Yankee and the others looked up to him. So when he reached out to me, it really helped.”
The most poignant moment of the speech by Ms. Gordon was when she said her dad had requested no funeral after his death and the family considered the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown as his final resting place.
When MLB commissioner Bud Selig read the inscription for Jim Rice on his plaque I detected that Rice was not happy when Selig read the part about his .298 lifetime batting average. Rice mentioned that he wished he had retired before his batting average went under .300.
Rice showed no bitterness for waiting 15 years to be recognized by the Baseball Hall of Fame. Like he said the main thing is that he got there.
When he mentioned Rac Slider as someone who helped him in the instructional league it brought back memories of my childhood. Slider had played for our local minor league team in Alexandria, Louisiana in 1954 for the Alexandria Aces when I was nine years old.
Rice said he got the call that told him he had been elected while he was watching his favorite soap opera the Young and Restless.
He credited Don Zimmer with being a major influence in his progress as a baseball player.
Rice also addressed the fact that he was not a media favorite and said one reason was that the media would try to get information from him about his teammates.
Among those in attendance in support of Rice was Carl Yastrzemski who hadn’t attended a Hall of Fame ceremony since he attended in 2000 in support of Carlton Fisk and Tony Perez.
Henderson alternated between being serious and relating funny incidents during his baseball career during his speech.
He mentioned a teacher who gave him a quarter for each time he accomplished specific feats on the baseball diamond and ESPN added up how much he made in the ten games he mentioned and it was $22.
Paying tribute to Billy Martin he said he missed him and wished he was there yesterday.
Henderson gave his account of waiting in the parking lot after A’s games hoping to get an autograph from Reggie Jackson but only getting a pen with Jackson’s name on it. Jackson was hiding while Henderson was relating the story.
Another humorous incident was when he told about a baseball coach that bribed him into playing baseball with a glazed doughnut and hot chocolate since he wasn’t that into baseball at the time.
This is my favorite part of his speech:
“Follow your dream,” he said. “Believe your dream. Because dreams come true. Thank you to everyone here for making my dream come true today.”
The speech ended with this line which is very unlike Henderson but showed he was truly thankful for being voted into the Hall of Fame.
“I am very, very humbled,” he said, bringing the fans to their feet for one final, long, thunderous ovation.
I will always remember the NBC Game of the Week on Saturdays with Tony Kubek in the broadcast booth.
The highlight of Kubek’s speech accepting the Ford C. Frick Broadcasting Award was when he praised Hank Aaron for showing character despite the bigotry he faced during his baseball career.
Kubek mentioned how much fun it was over the weekend just to be in Cooperstown and see the happiness of the baseball fans gathered there.
The ceremony ended with Peters accepting the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for contributions of a sportswriter. Spink was the publisher of The Sporting News a baseball tabloid when I was growing up and could be purchased for a quarter.
Peters said he was uncomfortable being part of the story and sharing the stage with so many Hall of Famers from the past.
He only went to one professional baseball game growing up but that one game influenced him to write about baseball for 47 years.
Overview of the Day
My favorite parts of the day were when the Hall of Famers mentioned those in the past who had guided them to the success they had achieved by being elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Another highlight was when the cameras showed the families of the one speaking and showing the pride on their faces as they spoke.
This was my first time ever to see the entire Hall of Fame ceremony but hopefully it won’t be my last. I want to thank the MLB Network for making it possible to watch the new Hall of Famers on their special day.