Barry Larkin and Ron Santo will be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame this week, taking their place alongside 295 others who have a plaque hanging in Cooperstown.
The Hall of Fame is meant to showcase and preserve the game's greatest players, moments and artifacts, but has provided moments and talking points of its own over the years. The current debate about whether to allow known steroid users into the Hall is going to rage for years to come.
Here, we take a look at the 10 greatest moments of the inductees' speeches.
Cal Ripken, Jr. broke one of Major League Baseball's most unbreakable records, surpassing Lou Gehrig's mark of 2,130 consecutive games played. Ripken went on to play in 2,632 consecutive games, before taking himself out of the starting lineup in the final game of the 1998 season, so the streak could end on his own terms.
The longtime Baltimore Orioles shortstop was known for his class and professionalism off the field as much as his talent on it; he demonstrated this again in his induction speech, playing down one of the greatest achievements in baseball history.
"I know some fans have looked at 'The Streak' as a special accomplishment, and while I appreciate that, I always looked at it as just showing up for work every day."
For the full transcript of Ripken's speech, click here.
In his 1975 induction speech, Ralph Kiner relayed a story of the death threats he once received early in his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Kiner was the target of an extortion plot, and was told that if he didn't play, he would be shot while playing left field that Sunday. After the doubleheader was over, center fielder George Metkovich came up to him.
"And so the game got over, the doubleheader was over at seven, and we got inside and I sat down and George came up to me and he said, 'You know, I’m really glad this day is over.'
And I said, 'George, that’s really nice of you to worry about me getting shot out there in left field.'
He said, 'Worry about you? Not you.'
I said, 'What do you mean?'
He said 'What’s your number?'
I said, 'My number’s 4.'
'Well,' he said, 'my number’s 44. What if that guy had double vision?'"
For the full transcript of Kiner's speech, click here.
It took Bert Blyleven 14 of his 15 permitted ballots to make it to the Hall of Fame. It was a fair assumption that he would probably be quite resentful about having to wait so long to get his plaque. But his speech wasn't a rant about how he should have been elected a decade earlier. Instead, it was a series of humorous anecdotes about his life in baseball.
"My catcher was George Mitterwald and the first pitch I ever threw in the big leagues I think he leaped for. And somehow I got to count to three balls and two and at that time I was a two pitch pitcher, a fastball and a curveball; here it is, if you can hit it, hit it and that's the way I was taught. So I get to count to three balls and two strikes, George Mitterwald puts down one for fastball. I'm shaking out there. I shake him off. So George is probably thinking what a gutsy young kid, he wants to come with that curveball right off the get-go. Proudly puts down two. I shake him off. He calls time. 'Do you have a third pitch?' He asked me.
I said, 'No.' I said, 'George, I'm going to remember this guy the rest of my life.' I said, 'I don't know what to throw. What do you suggest?' He says, 'I'll tell you what, I'll go back, I'll put fastball away, down and away and just throw the ball right through my glove.' 'Yes, sir.' Went back. Sure enough, three-two puts the sign down and away, I throw that ball right to the glove but Lee May's bat got in the way and he hit that ball 400 feet over the right field fence. It wasn't that funny at the time, folks."
For the full transcript of Blyleven's speech, click here.
A lot of people were probably very disappointed in Rickey Henderson's Hall of Fame speech. Throughout his career, Rickey was one of the game's biggest personalities.
When it came time for his speech, though, he was more sedate and humble than ever. He didn't refer to himself in the third person, he didn't proclaim himself the greatest player of all time, he didn't provide a classic "Rickey" quote. What he did was prove himself to be a true professional.
"I would like to say my favorite hero was Muhammad Ali. He said at one time, 'I am the greatest.' That is something I always wanted to be. And now that the association has voted me into the Baseball Hall of Fame, my journey as a player is complete. I am now in the class of the greatest players of all time and at this moment, I am...very, very humbled."
For the full transcript of Henderson's speech, click here.
In 1997, Tommy Lasorda managed to sum up exactly how it felt to play and manage in the big leagues, playing a kids' game for a living.
"I used to go to bed and I used to actually dream that I was pitching for the Yankees. And I looked and Bill Dickey was giving me the signs, and I looked and DiMaggio and Gehrig were on the field. And then all of a sudden, I'd feel my mother shaking me, and saying, 'Wake up, Tommy, it's time to go to school.' I did not want to leave that dream. I wanted to stay there, because the dream was so real. After what is happening to me now, it's unbelievable. This is the greatest thing that ever happened to me in my lifetime."
For the full transcript of Lasorda's speech, click here.
Andre Dawson's speech wasn't just one of the most humble, it was also one of the funniest. The Hawk went through anecdotes and stories from his time in the Majors.
"Tommy Lasorda, he taught me how to get a free meal. He said eat half your steak and send it back and complain and get a whole new free one. You've got to love Tommy."
For the full transcript of Dawson's speech, click here.
Ozzie Smith will be remembered as one of the greatest shortstops of all time, but he was still making people smile at his Hall of Fame induction. The content of his speech isn't what made his induction notable. Rather, it was the fact he showed up wearing an afro wig.
Folks, there is no wizard in Oz. Ozzie Smith is not a uniquely talented person. In fact, he is no different than any man, woman, boy or girl in this audience today. Ozzie Smith was a boy who decided to look within. A boy who discovered that absolutely nothing is good enough if it can be made better.
For the full transcript of Smith's speech, click here.
Don Sutton gave one of the most touching speeches, shying away from his accolades and instead talking about his daughter, who had a "one-in-a-hundred" chance of surviving when she was born.
"And you, little girl, thanks for sticking around to be a part of this. A year ago you put it all into a proper perspective and this year you make it perfect. For the last two years, you've helped remind me of how much more important life is than the things in life, even this.You have been an inspiration, not only to your father, but to thousands of others. Someday you will see a video of this, and the first thing you will want to know is, why it isn't 'Zippity-Do-Da.' But it will mean something to you, but never as much as you have meant to me."
For the full transcript of Sutton's speech, click here.
Ted Williams spent his life wanting to be known as the greatest hitter who ever lived. In a career which spanned from 1939 to 1960, he certainly made a good case for it. Despite losing parts of five seasons to serve in the Marines, he hit 521 home runs, more than 2,600 hits and the compiled seventh-best batting average of all time (.344).
But Williams knew that even if he was the best ever to play in the Majors, that might not mean he was the best who ever lived, because so many great African-American players weren't allowed to play. In his speech, he expressed his hope that the greats from the Negro Leagues would someday join him in Cooperstown.
"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."
For the full transcript of Williams' speech, click here.
Ryne Sandberg was inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2005, the same year major league players testified before Congress about steroid use in baseball. During his speech, he didn't say the words "PEDs," "drugs," "cheating" or "steroids," but it was obvious he was referencing the PED abuse which had taken over the game in the decade prior.
Even in 2012, with some of the greatest players of the last 15 years soon eligible for induction to the Hall of Fame, it's a talking point which isn't going away in the near future.
"A lot of people say this honor validates my career, but I didn't work hard for validation. I didn't play the game right because I saw a reward at the end of the tunnel. I played it right because that's what you're supposed to do, play it right and with respect."
For the full transcript of Sandberg's speech, click here.
Adam MacDonald is a Scottish journalism student at GCU and has been a featured columnist for the Boston Red Sox since October 2010. You can follow him on Twitter, or tell him how awesome/terrible this article was, by clicking here.