Speech given at Cooperstown, New York, July 30, 2006
by Gene Elston
"The Voice of the Astros"
Yes, I am here in Cooperstown. This is the place that dreams come true.
Looking back to the 1830s, a young lad left his footprints as a scholar in and around this area. His name was Abner Doubleday. A man who never claimed to have invented baseball, yet remains one of the mythological figures of the game. And over time, with the grace of God, and history, the Hall of Fame came into being on this site.
Now I have received [the] prestigious 2006 Ford Frick Award and to me this is truly awesome, and I feel blessed to have been a part of such a great game for so long a time.
The one constant in time has been baseball, which has existed for 161 years through club ownerships, their staffs, the players, umpires, and of course, the loyal fans.
Over the past years I have attended many baseball-related events, and have spent hours rubbing elbows discussing just about every facet of the game. This opportunity to see and feel the pulse of the fans face-to-face has been very uplifting following years of talking to unseen audiences.
These are baseball loyalists in every meaning of the word. Meanings that convinced me of the overwhelming passion they have for our national pastime. Among the millions following baseball are our youngsters, the boys and girls, both on and off the fields, some beginning to know the game even before entering kindergarten, then playing T-ball, Little League, high school, pro ball, the big leagues, and for some, ultimately, the Hall of Fame. The youngsters not actively engaged in our on-field activity continue to follow the game with great interest, and most of that group will become fans for life. All of this begins in youth, which is one of baseball's national treasures.
It is an honor for me to be on the same program as those inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame today. Bruce Sutter, who has become, probably, one of the past good relief pitchers. Bruce pitched maybe two, three, four innings in each of his 300 saves, something we do not have today.
Bruce, you were a great one, along with the five executives and twelve players of the Negro Leagues, all helping to form the building blocks for our game today.
I mingle back forty years ago in relation to Negro players. And here is a quote taken from Ted Williams' speech upon his induction into the Hall of Fame in 1966:
"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 'em Willy!' Baseball gives every boy in America the chance to excel. This is the nature of man, and the name of the game. Someday I hope Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson will be voted into the Hall of Fame as symbols of the great Negro players who are not yet here only because they weren't given the chance."
Also, it's an honor for me to be on the [same] card as the winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, writer Tracy Ringolsby.
Y'all may not know this, but many years ago, writers and broadcasters were, to say the least, overly unfriendly. In fact, in 1938, broadcasters were told by the Boston Baseball Writers' Association to stay out of the press box, stating that broadcasters "will be confined to the radio booths". This ill-feeling has disappeared on the two sides. For the most part, the two sides tolerate each other in their own egotistical environments. Years ago, broadcast booths were referred to by the writers as "Earache Alley", and the announcers looked upon the press box as "the home of the ink-stained wretches".
In 2002, I was honored to give the keynote speech of the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame, and it was a situation that, at that time, I concluded my presentation with a take-off on a program that Master Card was sponsoring to select baseball's top ten major-league most-memorable moments. I decided, however, to get personal and pick the most memorable moment of my baseball career.
I said it happened on Labor Day 1953 when I walked through the press gate at Wrigley Field, up the ramp, and into the Cubs' broadcast booth to announce my first major league game. I ask you now, can there be anything more memorable for a young man, after spending eight years in the minor leagues?
Now, with all my heart, I would like to amend that moment and allow [that] first place is now occupied by Cooperstown.
This place, my field, and my dream.