Baseball Hall of Fame
"Respect the game above all
delivered 31 July 2005,
[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from
What a beautiful day this is!
I stand here today before you humbled and
a grateful baseball player. I am truly honored and in awe, honored to be
in the class with my fellow inductee Wade Boggs. And as I look behind me
here, wow, at the greatest players in the history of the game, I am in
awe. I know that if I had ever allowed myself to think this was
possible, if I had ever taken one day in pro ball for granted, Iím sure
I would not be here today. This will come as a shock I know, but I am
The reason I am here, they tell me, is that I played the game a certain
way, that I played the game the way it was supposed to be played. I
donít know about that, but I do know this: I had too much respect for
the game to play it any other way, and if there was there is a single
reason I am here today, it is because of one word, "respect."1
I love to play baseball. Iím a baseball player. Iíve always been a
baseball player. Iím still a baseball player. Thatís who I am.
(I love you too.) [response to audience]
I was a baseball player when I was 10 or 12 years old pretending to be
Willie Stargell or Johnny Bench or Luis Tiant, when my bat was an old
fungo, my ball was a plastic golf ball, when the field was the street
and my older brother Del and I would play all day. I was a baseball
player at North Central High School in Spokane, Washington even though I
was all-city in basketball, even when I signed a letter of intent to
play quarterback at Washington State. Thatís why Del advised me to turn
down the chance to play football and sign with the Phillies out of high
school. I had too much respect for the game to leave it behind or to
make it my second or third sport in college.
Everything I am today, everything I have today, everything I will ever
be is because of the game of baseball, not the game you see on TV or in
movies; baseball, the one we all know, the one we played with whiffle
ball bats pretending to be Yaz or Fisk or Rose, in dirt fields, and in
allies. We all know that game. The game fit me because it was right. It
was all about doing things right. If you played the game the right way,
played the game for the team, good things would happen. Thatís what I
loved most about the game, how a ground out to second with a man on
second and nobody out was a great thing.
I was taught coming up in the Phillies organization to be seen and not
heard by people like Pete Rose, my hero growing up, and players like
Mike Schmidt and Steve Carlton and Manny Trillo. I understood that.
My parents, Derwent and Elizabeth, who are no longer with us, understood
that. My mom was at every single game I played as a kid, rain or shine.
My dad always said, "Keep your nose clean, your mouth shut and your eyes
and ears open because you might learn something." My sister Maryl and my
late brother Lane knew this too; so did my first professional manager,
Larry Rojas, a guy who was always in my corner as I climbed through the
Phillies organization; guys like Bill Harper, the scout that signed me;
Ken Eilmes, my high school coach; PJ Carey, a Phillies coach. They
taught me to respect the game above all else.
The fourth major league game I ever saw in person, I was in uniform.
Yes, I was in awe. I was in awe every time I walked on to the field.
I was taught you never, ever disrespect your opponent or your teammates
or your organization or your manager and never, ever your uniform. Make
a great play -- act like youíve done it before. Get a big hit -- look
for the third base coach and -- and -- and get ready to run the bases.
Hit a home run -- put your head down, drop the bat, run around the
bases, because the name on the front is more -- a lot more important
than the name on the back.
My managers like Don Zimmer and Jim Frey, they always said I made things
easy on them by showing up on time, never getting into trouble, being
ready to play every day, leading by example, being unselfish. I made
things easy on them? These things they talk about -- playing every day?
That was my job. I had too much respect for them and for the game to let
them down. I was afraid to let them down. I didnít want to let them down
or let the fans down or my teammates or my family or myself. I had too
much respect for them to let them down.
Dallas Green brought me to Chicago and without him, who knows? I
couldnít let him down. I owed him too much. I had too much respect for
him to let him down. People like Harry Caray and Don Zimmer used to
compare me -- they used to compare me to Jackie Robinson. Can you think
of a better tribute than that? But Harry, who was a huge supporter of
mine, used to say how nice it is that a guy who can hit 40 homers or
steal 50 bases or drive in a hundred runs is the best bunter on the
team. Nice? That was my job. When did it -- When did it become okay for
someone to hit home runs and forget how to play the rest of the game?
When we went home every winter, they warned us not to lift heavy weights
because they didnít want us to lose flexibility. They wanted us to be
baseball players, not only home run hitters. I played high school
football at a hundred and eighty-five pounds and played big league
baseball at a hundred and eighty-two. Iíd get up to maybe 188 in the
off-season because every summer Iíd lose eight to ten pounds. In my day,
if a guy came to spring training 20 pounds heavier than what he left, he
was considered out of shape and was probably in trouble. Heíd be under a
microscope and the first time he couldnít beat out a base hit or missed
a fly ball, he was probably shipped out. These guys sitting up here did
not pave the way for the rest of us so that players could swing for the
fences every time up and forget how to move a runner over to third. Itís
disrespectful to them, to you, and to the game of baseball that we all
played growing up.
A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didnít work
hard for validation. I didnít play the game right because I saw a reward
at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because thatís what youíre
supposed to do -- play it right and with respect. If this validates
anything, itís that learning how to bunt and hit and run and turning two
is more important than knowing where to find the little red light at the
dug out camera.
If this validates anything, itís that guys who taught me the game --
coaches like Billy Williams, Chuck Cottier, John Vukovich, Jose
Martinez, Billy Connors, and Ruben Amaro; teammates like Larry Bowa who
took me under his wing, Rick Sutcliff who was like an older brother, Bob
Dernier, the half of the daily double -- they did what they were
supposed to do and I did what I was supposed to do.
There was Gary Matthews, the "Sarge." He wouldnít let me down. He was
always in the on-deck circle when I was batting, and if there was a
pitch that almost hit me or knocked me down, Sarge would be halfway to
the mound and screaming at the pitcher to, ďGet the ball over the plate
or face the consequences.Ē I saw a lot of fastballs down the middle
because of Sarge and I had too much respect for how hard he played to
give it any less than he did.
Sure I worked hard to get [the] most out of my God-given ability, but
thatís what we all did back then. Thatís what every one of these guys
sitting here did. There were a lot of players who worked just as hard as
I did and if you didnít, you didnít stay in the big leagues.
There were guys like Bill Buckner, an incredible big league hitter, the
-- the first pure hitter I spent time with in the big leagues. I saw him
come through town with the Spokane Indians in Triple A with Tommy
Lasorda and a whole team full of guys who went to the World Series. They
all worked hard.
There was Shawon Dunston and Mark Grace, and together we were a double
play combination for ten years. Shawon Dunston, who knew three weeks in
advance if we were facing Nolan Ryan and always had a hamstring pull
planned for the day before. Mark Grace, who made sure Shawon knew he was
supposed to get every popup from foul line to foul line on the infield.
We could read each otherís minds on the field and off. They worked hard.
How could I let them down? By not being prepared for everything that
might happen in the field, at the plate, or on the bases?
Andre Dawson -- the "Hawk." No player in baseball history worked harder,
suffered more, or did it better than Andre Dawson. Heís the best Iíve
ever seen. Stand up Hawk. The Hawk. I watched him win an MVP for a last
place team in 1987, and it was the most unbelievable thing Iíve ever
seen in baseball. He did it the right way, the natural way, and he did
it in the field and on the bases and in every way, and I hope he will
stand up here someday. We didnít get to a World Series together but we
almost got there, Hawk. Thatís my regret, that -- that we didnít get to
a World Series for Cub fans. I was in the postseason twice and Iím
thankful for that. Twice we came close.
It reminds me of the guy walking down the beach. He finds a bottle, pops
the cork and a genie comes out to grant him one wish. The guy says "My
wish is for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Hereís a map of
the Middle East." Genie takes the map, studies it for hours and hours.
Finally gives it back to the guy and says, "Is there anything else you
want to wish for? This is impossible." The guy says, "Well, I always
wanted to see the Cubs in a World Series." The genie looks at him,
reaches out and says, "Let me have another look at that map."
In baseball, thereís always the next day. I always thought there would
be another chance. It didnít happen, but I feel fortunate for the two
chances we had and itís just a shame we didnít go to a World Series for
Cub fans. You -- You canít do it on your own.
And I want to say "thank you" to every teammate, coach, manager, and
just as important my opponents, who made the game fun for me. I want to
say thank you to friends like Doug Dascenzo, Yosh Kawano, Arlene Gill,
Jimmy Farrell, John Fierro, my Cubs trainer for ten years, and Marty
Hare, an old high school teammate. To Jimmy Turner, Kathy Lintz and
Peter Bensinger, advisors, confidants and close friends, thank you.
Also, Barry Rosner, great writer and good friend. Itís fun talking
baseball with you, Barry. Thank you.
To the Baseball Writers Association, I thank you for granting me this
incredible honor. I think a large part of this is the fact that I was a
great interview and gave you so many quotes you could wrap a story
around. Seriously, I know I wasnít the best interview for many of those
years, but I wasnít trying to be difficult. I had other things on my
mind. Baseball wasnít easy for me. I struggled many times when maybe it
didnít look like I was struggling, and I had to work hard every day. I
had to prepare mentally every day. I had to prepare physically every
day, and I didnít leave many scraps for the writers.
I hope you also understand why I would not campaign for this or help you
sell this. Itís the best award in all of sports and I think if I had
expected anything, if I was thinking about it too much or crunching the
numbers, it would have taken away from the prestige of this incredible
To the great folks here at the Hall of Fame, Jane Forbes Clark, Dale
Petrosky, Jeff Idelson, Kim Bennett, Brad Horn, Ted Spencer, Evan Chase:
Thanks for making this entire year a joy for me and my family, one we
will certainly never forget.
Iíve been lucky enough to be welcomed into three new families since I
arrived in Chicago. As great a public speaker as I am, I donít know have
-- I don't -- I don't have the words to describe Cub fans who welcomed
me as a rookie, were patient through my 1-for-32 start, and took me into
their homes and into their hearts and treated me like a member of their
family. You picked me up when I was down. You lifted me to heights that
I didnít know I could reach. You expected a certain level of play from
me and you made me play at that level for a long time.
I know there are a lot of Cub fans here today. I feel like every Cub fan
in the world is here with me today. And by the way, for what itís worth,
Ron Santo just gained one more vote from the veteranís committee.
Thank you to these men here, these Hall of Famers, the greatest players
in the history of baseball who have welcomed me in and treated me as an
equal. Itís going to take some getting used to, but I thank you for your
kindness and respect. This is the second best thing thatís ever happened
Lastly, I joined a new family when my wife Margaret, BR, Adriane and
Steven took me, Lindsey and Justin into their family, and together we
have made quite a happy family. I love all of you.
You are probably wondering, "What was the first?" -- when I said this
honor is the second best thing thatís ever happened to me. My wife
Margaret is the best thing thatís ever happened to me. She is my best
friend. She is the love of my life. She is my salvation. Sheís my past,
my present, my future. She is my sun, my moon, my stars. She is
everything thatís good about life and I thank her for entering my life
at a time when I needed her most. I love you.
The feeling Iíve had since I got the call is a feeling I suspect will
never go away. Iím told it never does. Itís the highest high you can
imagine. I wish you all could feel what I feel standing here. This is my
last big game. This is my last big at-bat. This is my last time catching
the final out. I dreamed of this as a child but I had too much respect
for baseball to think this was ever possible. I believe it is because I
had so much respect for the game and respect for getting the most out of
my ability that I stand here today. I hope others in the future will
know this feeling for the same reason: Respect for the game of baseball.
When we all played it, it was mandatory. Itís something I hope we will
one day see again.
Thank you, and go Cubs.
Lexical Note: "Respect"
used 19 times in this address
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