On July 25, 1966 Ted Williams was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame. The occasion was supposed to be a romp for Casey Stengel, also being installed that day, but Williams, striking a note of sincere warmth that visibly moved his audience, stole the show with a speech (printed here almost in its entirety) he had written at a motel the night before.
I guess every player thinks about going into the Hall of Fame. Now that the moment has come for me I find it is difficult to say what is really in my heart. But I know it is the greatest thrill of my life. I received 280-odd votes from the writers. I know I didn't have 280-odd close friends among the writers. I know they voted for me because they felt in their minds and some in their hearts that I rated it, and I want to say to them: thank you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Today I am thinking a lot of things. I know I am thinking of my playground director in San Diego, Rodney Luscomb, my high school coach, Wos Caldwell, my managers, who had such patience with me and helped me so much—fellows like Frank Shellenback, Donie Bush, Joe Cronin and Joe McCarthy. I am thinking of Eddie Collins, who had such faith in me—and to be in the Hall of Fame with him particularly, as well as all those other great ballplayers, is a great honor. I'm sorry Eddie isn't here today.
But I'd not be leveling if I left it at that, because ballplayers are not born great. They're not born hitters or pitchers or managers, and luck isn't the big factor. No one has come up with a substitute for hard work. Eve 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 522nd home run. He has gone past me, and he's pushing, and I say to him, "Go get them, Willie." ...Baseball gives every American boy a chance to excel. Not just to be as good as someone else, but to be better. This is the nature of man and the name of the game.... I hope that someday the names of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson...can be added as a symbol of the great Negro players who are not here only because they were not given a 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 and South American countries. I know Casey Stengel feels the same way, and I'm glad to be with him on his big day. 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 grateful...I had a chance to play the game I loved, the greatest game.