July 5, 2002
TED WILLIAMS - 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 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."
Tributes to Ted Williams
"With the passing of Ted Williams, America has lost a baseball legend. Whether serving the country in the armed forces or excelling on the baseball diamond, Ted Williams demonstrated unique talent and love of country.
"He inspired young ballplayers across the nation for decades and we will always remember his persistence on the field and his courage off the field. Ted gave baseball some of its best seasons -- and he gave his own best seasons to his country. He will be greatly missed." -- President George Bush, former owner of the Texas Rangers
"During his lifetime, Ted was uncomfortable when praised for all he did for the Jimmy Fund But, let me say now, that his commitment to the Jimmy Fund and to the children facing cancer should go in the record books as among the most any professional athlete has done to advance a cause." -- Dr. Edward Benz Jr., president of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
"He is the premier measuring stick for all hitters. He's light years ahead of anybody as far as hitting a baseball. The country lost a great American today." -- Frank Howard, played for Ted Williams on the Washington Senators
"I think he was the best hitter that baseball has had. He wanted to be the greatest hitter of all time, and he worked hard at that, but he was also a great teammate. He patted everyone on the back " -- Bobby Doerr, Red Sox second baseman, played with Williams 10 seasons
"I am truly heartbroken. We have lost another great ballplayer, another great person. When I was just a rookie in 1941, he took me under his wing. After he hit a double one day, he called timeout and told me, 'Kid, you've got a chance to play for the Yankees for a long time, so bear down.' He was a credit to the game and did so much for so many people." -- Phil Rizzuto, New York Yankees Hall of Fame shortstop
"Ted was an American legend. Besides being one of baseball's all-time greats, he was a genuine war hero, having served as a Marine flyer in World War II and in the Korean conflict. "When Ted was a young man, he often said it was his goal that people would say of him: `There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived.' Ted fulfilled that dream.'' -- Bud Selig, Commissioner of Baseball
"There was no one more dedicated to this country and more proud to serve his country than Ted Williams.'' -- John Glenn, former U.S. Senator, astronaut, and Marine pilot who flew with Williams in Korea
"This is a sad day for baseball, a sad day for anybody who knew Ted. Nobody was more loyal, generous, courageous, more respected than Ted. He sacrificed his life and career for his country. But he became what he always wanted to be: the greatest hitter ever.'' -- Yogi Berra, former New York Yankee catcher
"This guy was courageous, bigger than life, tough as nails, and he had that rare ability to sum up perfectly in his character a generation, a game, a country. I'd say we won't see another like him, but for America and baseball's sake I sure as hell hope we do. No one knows what kind of career numbers he would have had and what records he would have broken. But those years more perhaps than even his years at Fenway Park spoke to who Ted Williams was and why he was such an inspiration. -- John Kerry, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts
"I remember the first time I met him. In 1976, only a few months after I was drafted, I was standing in line at a movie theater and he was right behind me. I was almost speechless, but I introduced myself and told him that I was just drafted by the Red Sox. He looked at me and said 'can you hit?' I told him I hit .485 in my senior year of high school and he said 'you'll do great.''' -- Wade Boggs, former Red Sox third baseman
"He told me, 'You don't even have a clue what makes a ball break, do you?' I said, 'The spin?' 'No, you idiot.' He'd bring out the equations from his aviation terminology. He'd be screaming at you.'' -- Bobby Cox, Atlanta Braves manager
"I have his book on hitting and every offseason, I read that book. What stands out is his tone, the way he talked: 'Hey, I know how to hit and this is how to hit.' When you read that book, you feel Ted Williams is talking to you.'' -- Sean Casey, Cincinnati Reds first baseman