A while back, this blog had a little fun with Rickey Henderson and what his Hall of Fame speech might be like. The Fan is happy to say that Henderson was great. His speech was humble, touching, funny here and there and though he doesn't speak real well, spoke with an honest eloquence that seemed to hit the right notes.
The biggest surprise from Henderson's speech was his accolades for Billy Martin. All we know about Martin was the buffoonery that he and Steinbrenner reveled in. But the man had his moments as a manager and he apparently made a big impression on Henderson.
The funniest moment of Henderson's speech was him relating that he used to wait outside the Oakland ball park waiting for Reggie Jackson. But Jackson would never sign his autograph and instead, gave Henderson a pen with Jackson's name on it. Funny stuff.
Jim Rice was Jim Rice. Not nearly the player that Henderson was, Rice was also not nearly as humble. He made a point of slapping the media one last time and made it understood that they were the ones who made him wait for fifteen years.
Rice did acknowledge those who helped him along the way, but you can tell he is a proud man. And proud men don't acknowledge that any mistakes were made along the way. Proud men don't admit that his treatment of the media was unkind and disrespectful. He tried to explain it away by saying that he wouldn't answer questions about his teammates. But that gives short shrift to what was a long standing distance to those who helped sell tickets for the team.
The Fan is at peace with Rice's enshrinement. It's hard to put his career into perspective with the way the game is played today. Certainly, those who claim he was the most feared hitter in baseball were a bit bloated in those opinions. But he was fairly dominant for a decade and he's in, so we'll leave it there.
Joe Gordan's daughter's speech was touching. It's hard to feel much about a player who died so long ago and who played in the 1940s. But her speech made this writer glad for her and her family that her dad was recognized.
It is difficult to acknowledge Tony Kubek for his award. The Fan has said it before and will say it one last time: It is hard to accept such an award from a guy who walked away from the game after one of the early labor disputes. Sure, the game was in trouble. Sure, it was upsetting to have work stoppages. But walk away? And never come back? And then accept an award for the Hall of Fame as a broadcaster? No, it doesn't ring right and it seemed others were much more deserving.
The Fan was a bit tweaked by Rice when he acknowledged Henderson and Gordan but made a point of Kubek and others getting a different honor. No, Mr. Rice, it's the same honor. They are in the Hall of Fame now. The same Hall of Fame as you. Get over yourself.
One last comment about the day. Well, maybe two. The Hall of Fame is special because it is a collection of the best of baseball over the years. We are all a part of this game that we love and the Hall of Fame celebrates and honors those that played the best, wrote the best, managed the best and was the best in the front office. It celebrates the people we were honored enough to watch over the years. This writer has to admit being a bit choked up over the Henderson induction and speech. The guy was a big part of the Fan's baseball past. Not always loved, but always respected and appreciated. And that's what the Hall of Fame is for the Fan: an appreciation of the past and how much fun it was to watch it unfold.
And as a post script: Can't they find a sculpture for those plaques that can at least make the players on the plaque look a little like the actual players? If you showed the biggest die hard baseball fan twenty plaques and covered up the names, the Fan bets that the die hard wouldn't be able to identify 75% of them. They are that bad. Terrible.
Congrats, Henderson, Rice, Gordan, Kubek. Thanks for the memories.