On this Hall of Fame induction Sunday — Greg Maddux, Frank Thomas, Tom Glavine, Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox, and Joe Torre are all going in — we give you Ted Williams’ speech from 1966 …
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 close friends among the writers. I know they voted for me because they felt in their minds, and some 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 of my playground director in San Diego, Rodney Luscomb, and my high school coach, Wos Caldwell, and my managers, who had such patience with me and helped me so much – 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 of Fame with him particularly, as well as those other great players, is a great honour. I’m sorry Eddie isn’t here today.
I’m thinking, too, of Tom Yawkey. I have always said it: Tom Yawkey is the greatest owner in baseball I was luck 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 the 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 home run. (Note: Williams retired with 521.) 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 someone else, but to be beter. This is the nature of man and the name of the game. I hope that one 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 and South American countries. I know Casey Stengel feels the same way (Note: Stengel was inducted into the Hall of Fame the same day; he was scheduled to speak following Williams). 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’m grateful and know how lucky I was to have been born an American and had a chance to play the game I loved, the greatest game.