Archive for July, 2011

Ted Williams’ Hall of Fame Speech

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

I meant to post this the other day, as Monday was the 45th anniversary of Ted Williams’ induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. In his speech Williams mentioned, almost off-handedly, that players from the segregated Negro Leagues be allowed into the hall.

So picture the scene. It’s the summer of 1966, not even three years since Martin Luther King Jr’s speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It wasn’t even a year and a half since the first march from Selma to Montgomery, and not even a year after the Watts Riots.

Gutsy stuff from the best hitter in baseball.

And lastly, I have to mention the sad, embarrassing fact that the Boston Red Sox were the last major league baseball team to integrate their roster, waiting until 1959 to bring up a black player from the minor leagues.

Here’s the text of Williams’ speech:

“I guess every player thinks about going into the Hall of Fame. Now that the moment has come for me I find it difficult to say what is really in my heart. But I know it is the greatest thrill of my life. I received two hundred and eighty-odd votes from the writers. I know I didn’t have two hundred and eighty-odd friends among the writers. I know they voted for me because they felt in their minds and in their hearts that I rated it, and I want to say to them: Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Today I am thinking about a lot of things. I am thinking about my playground director in San Diego, Rodney Luscomb, my high school coach, Wos Caldwell, and my managers, who had so much patience with me–fellows like Frank Shellenback, Donie Bush, Joe Cronin, and Joe McCarthy. I am thinking of Eddie Collins, who had so much faith in me–and to be in the Hall with him particularly, as well as those other great players, is a great honor. I’m sorry Eddie isn’t here today.

I’m thinking of Tom Yawkey. I have always said it: Tom Yawkey is the greatest owner in baseball. I was lucky to have played on the club he owned, and I’m grateful to him for being here today.

But I’d not be leveling if I left it at that. Ballplayers are not born great. They’re not born great hitters or pitchers or managers, and luck isn’t a big factor. No one has come up with a substitute for hard work. I’ve never met a great player who didn’t have to work harder at learning to play ball than anything else he ever did. To me it was the greatest fun I ever had, which probably explains why today I feel both humility and pride, because God let me play the game and learn to be good at it.

The other day Willie Mays hit his five hundred and twenty-second homerun. He has gone past me, and he’s pushing, and I say to him, ‘go get ‘em Willie.’

Baseball gives every American boy a chance to excel. Not just to be as good as anybody else, but to be better. This is the nature of man and the name of the game. I hope some day Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson will be voted into the Hall of Fame as symbols of the great Negro players who are not here only because they weren’t given the chance.

As time goes on I’ll be thinking baseball, teaching baseball, and arguing for baseball to keep it right on top of American sports, just as it is in Japan, Mexico, Venezuela, and other Latin American and South American countries. I know Casey feels the same way. . . . I also know I’ll lose a dear friend if I don’t stop talking. I’m eating into his time, and that is unforgivable. So in closing, I am greatful and know how lucky I was to have been born an American and had the chance to play the game I love, the greatest game.”

Ted Williams
July 25, 1966
Cooperstown, New York

A post-script – both Paige and Gibson were two of nine players elected to the hall by the “Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues” in 1971 and 1972. And just five years ago another Special Committee on Negro Leagues elected 17 more Negro leaguers.

Happy Canada Day!

Friday, July 1st, 2011