A few years ago, I was sitting with Steve Stone, the broadcaster for the Chicago White Sox at an Arizona Fall League game, and this guy comes up and says, “Steve, can I have your autograph?”
He says, “Sure,” and he signs it. And he says, “Hey, you don’t want Bobby’s autograph?”
And the guy just stared at me.
And he said, “Yeah, I know you. You’re that guy from Atlanta that gets thrown out all the time, right?”
And I said, yeah, that’s me. But Lasorda, if he hadn’t had quit so early in his career, he would have the record that I’ve got now.
I can honestly say that I got along really well with the men in blue, and I have all the respect in the world for them.
I’m truly humbled to stand here before you in Cooperstown with two men that pitched for me and two managers that made my life as a manager so challenging, and a hitter that we never did figure out how to pitch to him.
To Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and I have to mention, the third member of the big three, John Smoltz, I can honestly say I would not be standing here today if it weren’t for you guys. Together, these guys earned six Cy Young awards by wearing a Braves uniform.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell a Glavine and a Maddux story, and it won’t take very long. They have heard them before, but only not too long ago, OK.
Anyway, since I’ve been voted in the Hall of Fame, I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on what a smart manager I am, or was. And not so smart all the time. Tommy Glavine is pitching this game and as usual, it’s tight and late, and I’m looking at the situation, runners on second and third, two outs.
At least that’s what I’m seeing.
I go out to the mound and I said, “Hey, Tommy.” And Chipper comes in and so do the other infielders.
And I said, “What do you think? Why don’t we just walk this guy instead of pitching around him?”
He said, “Skip, that’s one of the better ideas you’ve had in the last month, but where are we going to put him?”
So I looked at third, looked at second, there’s runners there and I glance over at first, happens to be a runner there, too. (Laughter.)
So I said, “Look, if this gets out to the press tomorrow, each one of you are going to be fined a thousand dollars.” (Laughter.)
Greg Maddux was the only pitcher who made me nervous when he started a ballgame.
Before the game started, he would always come to where I was sitting just below the dugout and give me this list of situations that might come up during the course of a ballgame, and I had to remember all these things.
So we’re late in the game, and I’m thinking to myself, this is one of those situations that Greg wanted me to help him out with. So there’s runners at second and third, two outs and a base open, and I remember that darn situation list. So I tell Leo Mazzone, “I’m going to go out and check on Maddux.” I get out to the mound and I say, “Mad Dog, is this the guy you want to throw two pitches to and then walk him?”
He says, “Yeah, don’t you remember, Bobby?”
I said, “Yeah, what are you trying to do, Mad Dog?”
He says, “I’m trying to pop him up to Chipper Jones at third base on the second pitch.”
And you know what? He did just that.
So, anyway. I was lucky in my career working for great baseball people. So John Schuerholz, my general manager and now president of the Braves, who gave us the players to win 14 straight divisional titles. I can only say, hope to see you here soon, John.
Because of free agency and monetary restraints on some clubs, it’s difficult for players to stay with one organization his entire career. But Chipper Jones did that. Chipper, you’ll be standing here soon. And thank you for everything you’ve done for the Braves’ organization, and thanks to all the players, coaches, scouts, trainers, clubbies and front office personnel that passed through Atlanta and helped make the Braves’ organization what it is today.
Thanks to Bill Lucas, Ted Turner, Bill Bartholomay, Terry McGuirk, Stan Kasten and Paul Snyder, thank you for believing in me when they hired me, even though I had no major league experience.
I also want to add thanks to Pat Gillick and Paul Beeston, who I worked for in Toronto. When you talk about enjoying your job and having fun, too, these two guys were the very best.
I also want to thank all of our family, friends, Braves fans that made the journey here today. And to the fans back in Atlanta at Turner Field watching this on the big screen, thanks for sticking with us all these years.
I had an awesome dad, mom, and my sister, Joy. My father had five brothers and six sisters who loved the game of baseball. In fact, they formed the first Little League and Babe Ruth league in my hometown of Selma, California, and that place is on the map because Tom Seaver lived 10 miles up the road from me.
My father made my first pair of spikes out of an old pair of shoes. I know they are watching from above today and I will say this: If there is a game going on at the same time as this ceremony, I will guarantee you that my father is switching the TV back and forth and second-guessing both managers (Laughter.)
I always dreamed of being a ballplayer. I had elbow surgery and missed my senior year of baseball.
I was sitting at home thinking of a couple of scholarships that I still had left when there was a knock on the door. I opened the door and I didn’t recognize the guy. He said, “I’m Red Adams, and I’m a scout for the Los Angeles Dodgers. And somebody around this city,” he said, “somebody told me that you just might make a ballplayer.”
Red took me to Los Angeles to work out and things were going really good. He pulled me aside one day and he said, “Look, Al Campanis, our scouting director, is coming to the workout tomorrow, and he’s going to stand behind the cage and give the signals what to throw to you.”
He said, “Now, look, when I wind up, and you see no white, it’s a fastball. And if you see white when I windup, it’s a breaking ball.”
I said, “Good.” So we start the batting practice. I see white, it’s a breaking ball, boom, line drive, over the fence. I see no white, it’s a fastball, line drives. This goes on for about five minutes. And Al said, “OK, boys, shower up and meet me in my office.”
Well, anyway, I signed a nice contract that day and my dream came true. I’m playing for the New York Yankees eight years later and I get this letter in the mail with Dodgers stationary on it. I opened it and there was a check inside with a note that said, “Enclosed, please find check for $2,500 as an incentive bonus for reaching the major leagues. And P.S. I know what you and Red were up to at that workout.” Sincerely, Al Campanis.
Two of my favorite people in baseball were Ralph Houck and Lee McPhail. If not for them I would never have managed a professional baseball game. They gave me the opportunity to become a manager.
And this has been really a great ride for all these seasons. Every one with a changing cast of characters and every one full of memories. I’ll never forget the ’91 season, and not too long after that, ’95 when we went to the World Series and got all the way past Cleveland in that series. But the first one in ’91 was so special, also.
In closing, I want to salute Hall of Fame president Jeff Idelson, one of the nicest men around in baseball, and his entire staff here in Cooperstown, and also our host at historic Otesaga Hotel. It belongs in a Hall of Fame all by itself.
And last but certainly not least, my wonderful wife and our children for their unwavering support, even though I spent half the year on the road and the other half at the ballpark, virtually between Valentine’s day and to the end of the World Series.
I would like to introduce my wife and my two sons, Randy and Bobby Jr., and my beautiful daughters, Debbie, Connie, Shelly and Skyla, and Keisha and Kami who are watching at home. I love you all and thanks for holding down the fort together, guys.
In my wildest dreams did I ever think this could happen, but I’m sure glad it did. Thank you.