This Sunday I will be inducted into the California Sports Hall of Fame. I am very proud of this honor, mainly because of the people that I will be inducted with. To have my name mentioned with people like Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Eric Dickerson, Rafer Johnson, Marcus Allen, Reggie Jackson, Elgin Baylor, Chick Hearn, Bill Walsh, Jackie Robinson, John Wooden, Wilt Chamberlin, and Magic Johnson is quite an honor.
This is the first induction class, and I am very proud to be a part of it. I would like to thank all the people who made it possible for me to be included. This is a most gratifying experience, and I hope you will join us at the Anaheim Hilton this Sunday to help honor these tremendous athletes.
Tonight, I am going to a special screening of the upcoming movie, Bobby, which is the story of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. He was assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 6, 1968. It just so happens that I was supposed to be at that dinner. My wife Jo, and I, ate lunch at the Ambassador that afternoon, and my good friend Zach Manasian, who was the food and beverage manager, told me that Kennedy wanted to meet me and talk to me, which was an invitation I was honored to accept.
Before going to the dinner though, I planned to going to the Dodger game because Don Drysdale was on the mound and besides him being one of my favorite pitchers, and a great friend, he was going for his sixth straight shutout. His scoreless innings pitched streak was the big topic in baseball, and I wanted to be on hand to watch. 58 2/3 scoreless innings was amazing.
As I dressed that morning, I put on a brand new pair of shoes. They were CoreFam shoes, and as I wore them around that day, they really started to hurt my feet. So much so, that I had to leave the game, and I walked to my car with the CoreFam?s in my hand. That?s how badly they hurt.
We decided to skip the dinner at the Ambassador. When we got home, we turned on the TV and saw that Kennedy had been shot.
It was a night of mixed emotions. While I was happy for Big Don, I was sad and angry about the assassination. No matter what your politics are, or which party you align yourself with, an assassination of any elected official, or national leader, is tragic.
Today is a very special day for two of baseball?s greatest. Although and Cal Ripken, Jr. have always been considered stars, today, as Dale Petroskey, President of the Baseball Hall of Fame announced their induction into Cooperstown, he solidified their place in the grand history of our game as immortals.
Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn, welcome to Cooperstown.
Both men are deserving of the high honor. For those of you who don?t know, the motto of the Hall of Fame is: Preserving History, Honoring Excellence, Connecting Generations. Both Gwynn and Ripken have made tremendous contributions to our game. Their play on the field is most was definitely excellent, as Gwynn led the league in hitting seven times, was on 15 All Star teams, won five Gold Gloves, seven Silver Slugger awards, had a .338 lifetime average and challenged the hallowed mark of hitting over .400 in a season in 1994 ending the year with a .394 average. With Ripken, well, you?re talking about a player who broke a record that nobody thought would ever be broken.
Lou Gehrig, the Iron Horse, is certainly one of baseball?s immortals because of his consecutive games-played streak. When Ripken broke that streak, I, along with everyone else in baseball stood in awe of his accomplishment. He also hit more than 400 homeruns and collected well over 3000 hits. But playing in 2,131 consecutive games is just amazing.
What makes each career even more special is they never played for more than one team.
Both men are ambassadors of the game. Cal and Tony wore their respective uniforms in the highest degree of class, dignity and character. Neither did anything to embarrass themselves, the organization which the represented or the game. They are both fine role models for children and adults, fans and players. If you don?t believe me, just ask Alex Rodriguez who his favorite was while he was growing up.
It is a pleasure to have them inducted into this special fraternity. The Hall of Fame is a place for excellence in all of its forms. I am looking forward to being in Cooperstown this summer to see each man enshrined, to hear their acceptance speeches, to see their plaques unveiled and to shake each man?s hand and thank them for their contributions to the game and their commitment to the fans.
Tomorrow night, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation will have its annual gala, and I can?t wait. The PBSF was formed to provide support to scouts of professional baseball who have fallen on hard times due to illness, job loss, retirement or other financial setbacks.
I am proud to say that I am a member of the PBSF. As a former scout, I can tell you how hard these men work, and what their collective impact has on our beloved game. Without them, and their tremendous effort, there are no players in the big leagues. They drive all hours of the night, from town to town, to watch high school games, college tourname nts and random workouts only to try to find the next star.
Their sacrifice is the benefit of every fan. I can remember the hardship of being away from my family, but also the joy and reward of signing a player who you think is not only a great talent, but a young man of character and class. Believe me; it?s not as easy as people think.
I am also proud to present the Tommy Lasorda Award. The award is given to the most outstanding major league manager. Last year was the first year the award was given, and I was honored to receive it as the Manager of the Century. I won?t tell you who this year?s recipient is, but I will say that he is most deserving.
So next time you go to a ball game, or tune into one on the TV, remember that you are enjoying the hard work and sacrifice of baseball scouts.