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Transcript: Peter Gammons induction speech

8/4/2005

Steve Jobs' advice at that time to a graduating class of Stanford this year was 'find what you love.' I am here today because I found what I love. Understand, I grew up in a household where when I got home from school my mother greeted me with, 'Can you believe they traded Jim Piersall for Vic Wertz and Gary Geiger?'

Ned weaned me on respect and reverence for the history and texture of the game. My sister
Anne hit me fungoes in a small New England town where the Red
Sox home opener was an acceptable legal excuse to leave school
at 10 a.m. My father found what he loved in music and
teaching and the goodness of man. He and Paul Wright, my
godfather, teacher and mentor, remain the two greatest men I have
ever known … teachers like Juney O'Brien and Jake Congleton. By
the time I was 18, I knew my role models and my life's mission
statement were defined.

When this award was announced, Mike
Barnicle left me a simple message. 'Tom Winship would be very
proud.' Winship was the editor of the Boston Globe, a Branch
Rickey of a man who changed the newspaper business in Boston and
opened a world for kids who were dying for a chance. Mine came as
a summer intern in 1968. It started the day Robert
F. Kennedy was shot. In those days you had a morning Globe
and afternoon Globe, and when I walked in, I was introduced to
my fellow intern Bob Ryan, basketball Hall of Famer. We were
told to call every team in business, ask them what they would
do for Robert F. Kennedy and write a story. We did. The 3:30
late stocks edition came up, and there on the front page of the
entire paper Mr. Ryan and Mr. Gammons had their first bylines.
We went to the Erie Pub, raised a couple of 10-cent drafts and
decided, you know, what we found what we loved.

My career
essentially has been very simple, Boston Globe, Sports
Illustrated, ESPN. I have been fortunate enough to work
for extraordinary people. There are hundreds, maybe thousands
who I should thank, but it was Tom Winship and Fran Rosa who
stuck their neck out to hire a kid who hadn't even graduated
from college … Mark Mulvoy, who hired me twice at Sports
Illustrated … Vince Doria, who brought me back to the Globe and
anyone who I ever worked for believes is the best sports editor,
if not the best boss who ever lived … John Walsh who had the
crack-brained idea to bring a sportswriter into television
because, as one of the businesses most creative visionaries, he
understood that information is king. I am very proud to say
today much of what ESPN is today is because of John Walsh and
there are hundreds of people that have gone and followed me out
of the print profession to ESPN because of
Walsh.

I am not here as a television personality, but as an ink-stained wretch. Publishers and new editors have no clue. They
have no understanding that the baseball beat is the toughest
beat in the newspaper business. It means severe personal
sacrifices. A few years ago Jayson Stark and I decided that over
a 25-year period we probably talked to one another more than we
talked to our wives and no one has sacrificed more than my wife
Gloria, who saved me in an unpredictable storm of a business
that knows no holidays.

The baseball beat today is much tougher
now than when I was traveling with the Red Sox for the Globe.
There is far less access, 10 times the bodies in the clubhouse.
The Internet, radio, television have broadened the baseball
information universe. And yet our business, I am proud to say,
keeps producing generation after generation of young reporters
who are tireless, good and fair. Throughout my career I have
tried to be guided by one principle, that because I am human I
have the right to like people. But because I am professional, I
have no right to dislike any one. People ask me, as a New
Englander, what was it like walking out there in the field when
Aaron Boone hit a home run. To be honest, my first reaction
was, I was ecstatic. I have known Aaron Boone since he was 13
years old, and that's my privilege. My second reaction, I saw
Tim Wakefield, head down, and I felt despondent. He's one man
who did not deserve that. As I walked out on the field to try
to get introduced, I turned to my producer, Charlie Moynihan,
and said, 'Look around here, you know what? I just got paid to
cover the greatest game ever played in the greatest sporting
venue in the world. I think I'm the luckiest man on earth.'

Jerry Coleman, I am honored to be in Cooperstown with you -- war hero, World Series MVP, announcer, gentleman.
Ryne Sandberg, I think of a 40-home run season, a 200-hit
season, a 50-steal season and the ego of a clubhouse kid.

But, to be here the day Wade Boggs is inducted is a special
thing for me. This is a guy who played seven minor-league seasons, hit
three something a ridiculous six straight years, went through
three Rule 5 drafts and kept saying, 'my success will be
measured in terms of dealing with adversity.' In the last half-century, Wade Boggs is the oldest position player to debut in
the major leagues and make the Hall of Fame. He is the model for
overcoming adversity of all kinds. I remember that afternoon in
the spring of '86 when you and I were driving with Ted Williams
over to have that night of discussing hits with Don Mattingly.
Ted leaned forward in the car and said, 'Hey Wade, did you ever
smell the burn of a bat?' Well, there are very few people who
have. I have never forgot that. When the All-Century Team
gathered around Ted at Fenway before the '99 All-Star Game, Ted
asked Mark McGwire the same question. He retold the story. He
said, 'Did you ever smell the burn of the bat?' There were six
National League players in the room at the time around McGwire.
What is he talking about? Well, let's face it, the burning of a
bat is the lexicon of the gods.

And to stand here in front of
the Hall of Fame players is like standing in front of the
baseball dieties, and yet I feel so fortunate to have known so
many of them as humans. I think of Carlton Fisk and I think of
eight to 10 hours a day of rehab in the winter of '73-'74, mostly
in the Manchester YMCA, to come back from a knee injury that very
few humans could have recovered from. Eddie Murray, I think of
the hours he took, watching him take BP, which allowed him to
know all of those thousands of clutch hits which were only by
design, not chance. I think of Robin Yount and the fastest he
ever got timed to first was 3.9 seconds, the slowest 4.0.
And I remember that George Brett always used to say he
wanted his career to end on a ground ball to second base on
which he busted his hump down the line. I think of Mike Schmidt
mowing and lining the field in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, so he
can coach his son's high school team. Then there's Sandy Koufax
telling me that I lived in L.A. the way he lived in Stonington,
Maine. I think of Bob Gibson's handshake, of Tony Perez, Petuka
Perez, I think he lived a quarter of mile from where I lived in
Brookline, Massachusetts, and to this day not two weeks go by
when someone doesn't say, you know, how are Tony and Petuka
Perez? They are the greatest people who lived in this
neighborhood.

I think of the hours and I thank Jim Palmer and
Tom Seaver for discussing pitching with me. I will never forget
the day that Orlando Cepeda hit four doubles in one game in
Fenway Park and could barely walk. I think of Reggie Jackson
and the two of us wandering around Kenmore Square in Boston
after the Angels had lost the 1986 ALCS, outraged because Reggie
Jackson's team had lost. I think of Dennis Eckersley and I
think of his start in the 1978 Boston Massacre, when
nearly 100 writers surrounded Frank Duffy because he made an
error. He started pulling them off. He shouted, 'He didn't load
the bases. He didn't hang a 0-2 slider. Get to the locker and
talk to the guy who has an L next to his name.' Dennis Eckersley
defines teammate.

I think of Kirby Puckett, my favorite days in
baseball while the lights were still off in the Metrodome at 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Game Six, the night he won the World
Series, probably the only guy in the world that called me Petey, says, 'Petey, get up in your SportsCenter and tell everyone that
Puck is going to jack the Twins up on his back today.' Well,
four hits, a game-saving catch, and a 11th-inning home run
later, Puck took us to the greatest seventh game, World Series
game I will ever experience: 10 innings, 1-0, Jack Morris.
These players are great players whose success is measured in
overcoming adversity, but no one had to be a great person, no
one had to be a great player to be a great person stored in my
memory bank. So I think from John Curtis to Bill Campbell to
Jerry Remy, Buckethead Schmidt to Bruce Hurst, Ellis Hurst to
George Lombard, I've been lucky to know thousands of people who
loved the game as much as I do.

In 1985, the Globe sent me to
Meridian, Mississippi, to do a story on Dennis 'Oil Can' Boyd's
background. I had dinner with his father, Willie James, who was
once a Negro League pitcher and maintained the field and team in
Meridian. He was telling me how he financed his life in
baseball by being a landscaper.

He told me a story of a day in
1964 when he was landscaping the yard of the grand dragon of the
Ku Klux Klan. He remembered seeing the cars coming up. They
all rolled up the street, up the road from Philadelphia [Miss.] to
[Meridian] Mississippi to take care of some civil rights workers. Mr. Boyd
looked me in the eye. He said, 'You know what? This is what
makes this country great. Today that man is destitute and
crippled with arthritis and my boy, Dennis Boyd, is pitching in the
major leagues for the Boston Red Sox.' In my mind the Boyd
family represents baseball's place in American society. Jackie
Robinson was in the big leagues seven years before Brown versus the Board of Education and we should never forget it, just as we
should never forget the important athletes of the 20th
century, arguably one of the 10 most important Americans of the
20th century. I remember waking up to read the story of
Roberto Clemente's death, a great baseball idol [who] died taking
medical, food and clothing supplies to earthquake victims in
Nicaragua. I was with Dave Stewart the morning after he won the
third game of the 1989 earthquake series as he crawled through
the rubble of the collapsed Cypress structure to hand out coffee
and donuts to volunteers searching for bodies.

I walked the
streets of Manoguyabo, Dominican Republic, with Pedro Martinez
and viewed the churches, school, athletic complex, day-care
center and houses that he built for poor people in his hometown.
I was not far from Fidel Castro when he stood for the American
National Anthem at attention, his hat across his heart because
baseball came to Havana in 1989. I remember George Bush strode
out toward the mound at Yankee Stadium before the third game of
the 2001 World Series, weeks removed from the World Trade Center
attacks, and turned and said to Karl Ravech and Harold Reynolds,
'We are among the 55,000 people who just experienced one of the
great chills of anyone's lifetime.' When Bud Selig asked us to
embrace the World Cup, it's not T-shirts in Taiwan. It's about
celebrating that baseball, more than any sport, is who we are. It
is reflected in our immigration patterns, our history because
we're all immigrants. We should want the world to see us not
for our politics, not for our business, but for baseball as our
metamorphic soul, inclusive, not exclusive, diverse, not
divisive, fraternal, not fractionalized.

If any of you are
familiar with the Cape Cod League you probably might have heard
of Arnie Allen, a special needs gentleman who for 40 years was a
batboy for the Falmouth Commodores. He was diagnosed with brain
cancer in the summer of 2002. Seventy-two hours later a duffel bag of
Angels paraphernalia arrived in Falmouth, courtesy of two
Falmouth players, Darin Erstad and Adam Kennedy. Of course, the
Angels went on to the World Series in 2002 and after winning one
incredible sixth game coming from a five-nothing deficit in the
eighth inning. Before Game Seven, Erstad and Kennedy pulled me
aside before they went out to stretch and told me, 'We know you
are going to be speaking at the Hall of Fame inductions in
two weeks on the Cape.' They said in unison, 'As you speak,
could you do us a favor, Arnie will be there probably for the
last time. Could you just tell him that Darin and Adam Kennedy
said we are thinking of him before they went out and won the
World Series?'

Every day at the ball park, for me, there's been something that's great. Ozzie Smith fielding ground balls, just
seeing Willie Mays, watching Tom Seaver throw a 3-1 changeup to Don Baylor in his 300th win, George, Gossage in 1980. More
important, what I have taken from all of these years is the
knowledge that the people who play this game inherently care so
much about that game, fellow players and those who love it. I
am very fortunate to have baseball as a part of my life for
35 years. I thank you, Gloria, and all my family for standing
aside me and all baseball writers for their friendship, support
and maintenance of a great and proud profession. The game is
also about players. I thank the thousands of players that I
have known for making this ride better than I ever could have
imagined. Ted Williams used to tell me, 'Hey, Bush, someday you
want to walk down the street and have people say you have the
greatest job in America.' Ted, it happens almost every day.
For that I thank all of you, every one who read or listened to
me, allowed me to try to be your eyes and ears, that allowed me
to find what I love and hold on to it long enough to experience
this, the greatest day of my professional career.

Thank you.