My first order of business that everybody told me when you get up here, just take a deep breath (Pause).
So, OK, I’m good.
What an honor and privilege it is to be here as an inductee to the Baseball Hall of Fame. I want to thank the baseball writers for voting for me. I want to thank Jane Forbes Clark, Jeff Idelson, Brad Horn, Whitney Selover, and all the folks at the Baseball Hall of Fame for making this an unbelievable experience for me and my family.
Little did I know as a kid, when I used to think it was a good idea, to stand on the front porch of my parents house and throw snowballs over the trees trying to hit the cars passing by, little did I know how far my left arm was going to take me at that time.
Needless to say, there was one passersby that was less than pleased with my accuracy. He had a conversation with my mom, the wait until your dad gets home scenario played out, and after a good talking to, needless to say, my snowball throwing days were over.
We all figured I could come up with a better, more productive way to work on my accuracy, so I think that was probably the start of the painted square of the chimney outside my parents house.
I’m honored to go into the Baseball Hall of Fame with such a great group of men: Frank Thomas, Joe Torre, Tony La Russa, and of course my longtime teammate and manager, Greg Maddux and Bobby Cox. All of you guys represent what is great about the game of baseball. With your competitiveness, it’s no surprise you are all here today. Congratulation to all of you guys. I’m humbled to be part of this class with you.
I’d like to take an extra minute to thank Greg and Bobby. It’s hard to imagine as I’ve said over and over that a day like this could get any better. But for me, it does.
To have the opportunity to go into the Hall of Fame with these two guys, two guys that had such a profound impact on me as a person and on my career, Bobby from the managerial side teaching me to respect the game, teaching me how to play the game the right way, how to go about my business and represent my organization.
And I can’t tell you, I like old Smoltzie’s word in that video, I can’t tell you how good he was at pumping you up all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I would pitch a bad game and read the newspaper the next day and read Bobby’s comments, and I would think, what game were you watching, and how did I not win?
Bobby, thank you so much for all your guidance, appreciate everything you did for me.
Greg, as a teammate and as a friend, you made me better through our conversations. You made me better by watching you pitch, and you made me wealthier with all the money we took from Smoltzie on the golf course.
We all have choices to make in life, and in June of 1984, I was an 18-year-old kid enjoying high school graduation and looking forward to going to college. Within a span of a couple of weeks, I had the good fortune of being drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the NHL and the Atlanta Braves.
I had a difficult choice to make and as a left-handed pitcher, I thought that was the thing that would set me apart and make baseball the smartest decision.
Of course I always wonder what would have happened had I taken up hockey and in my mind, of course, since I was drafted ahead of two Hall of Famers, Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull, that obviously means I would have been a Hall of Famer in hockey, too (Laughter).
But clearly, I’m positive I made the right choice, as sure as I’m standing here, and like I said, I’m honored to be here and be part of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Seems hard to believe, it’s been 30 years since I sat at my parents kitchen and signed my professional contract to go play for the Atlanta Braves. Sitting with me there that day, Tony DeMacio and Paul Snyder from the Braves saw something in me that compelled them to convince the Braves to take a chance on me. I doubt they projected me as a future Hall of Famer but nonetheless they saw enough to give me a chance, and for that, Paul, Tony, thank you very much.
Perhaps part of what they saw was that the work ethic that was certainly prevalent in my house and in my hometown of Billerica, Massachusetts — actually, I said that wrong. It’s (Bill-rika), sorry. I know there’s a huge crowd here today from Billerica. I want to thank you guys for not only being here today, but I want to thank you guys for your support throughout my career. I know so many of you put your allegiance for our beloved Red Sox on hold during my career, but I promise you, your secret is safe with me, so thank you very much.
I was blessed to have a tremendous support team around me through my career, people that helped me to keep things in order and keep things in perspective. My agent and good friend, Gregg Clifton, was so helpful with his advice and his representation over the years. Gregg, thank you so much for all your help and for your friendship.
My good friend, Rose Cortina and Scott and Meryl, who helped me to be smart, frugally and financially, you were so helpful in taking my mind off things and help me concentrate on the game of baseball so thank you for that.
I’ll piggyback on Greg’s comments.
I had three dear friends over the years in Atlanta who helped keep me on the field. Dr. Joe Chandler, Joe, to this day, you have yet to miss a spot when I needed a cortisone shot. Dave Pursley and Jeff Porter, longtime trainers with the Braves, you spent countless hours taking care of me and so many other guys.
I honestly felt bad at times in certain years with the amount of time I would have to spend on the training room table to try to get ready for my next start, but you were always so patient and helpful and did everything you could to get me back out there and for that I appreciate it.
Same holds true, Mike Herbst, the trainer with the New York Mets when I was there. Thank you for all your time and your efforts to keep me healthy and keep me on the field.
I had a couple goals in mind each time I put on the uniform. The first was to represent the logo on the front. That meant to play hard, play the game the right way and give it your all whenever you stepped on the field. As the old saying goes, play hard because you never know who is watching you for the first time.
The second part was to not embarrass the name on the back. I wanted to represent my parents to the best of my ability. They worked hard to represent our community and I wanted to do everything I could to protect that. I’m so proud whenever I hear somebody say to me, you must have had great parents. When I hear that, I know I’m representing them well.
I do have great parents and they took me everywhere I needed to be for both hockey and baseball. They never missed a practice or a game. Oftentimes I heard my dad leaving before the dark in the morning, so he could get to work, get his work done and get home for my game later that day. They were and they are a great team.
People always ask me where I got my qualities from. My hard work ethic I got from my dad, and as much as my mom hates to hear it, mom, I’m sorry, I got my stubbornness from you.
I always marveled how they were able to get us kids where they needed to be.
I can honestly say as a kid I wanted to be a professional athlete. Red Sox or Bruins, I didn’t care. I loved Bobby Orr, I love Yaz, Pudge, Jim Rice.
But my role models were and always have been my parents, Fred and Millie. They gave me the two best things you could ever ask for as a kid. They gave me their time and their example. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I’ve always said that if I can be half the parent to my kids that my parents were to me, I would have been successful.
I’m blessed to have had your support and example. You have been the great influence in my life. I know I made you proud as a baseball player, and I hope more importantly, hope I’ve made you even more proud as a son and father. To say thank you would never be enough, but thank you so much for your love and support. Couldn’t have done this without you guys. I love you guys.
Thanks, also, to my sister, and my brothers, Fred and Mike. You guys have always been a great supporting cast. When you play for 20 years, there are a lot of ups and downs, and after all, I did lose 203 games in my career so there were a lot of downs. You guys were always there for me whenever I needed it, even if it was as simple as a phone call. I love you guys and thank you for your support.
I had the opportunity to play for two great organizations in my career, the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets. I had so many fantastic coaches and teammates who helped me to get here, many of you who are here in attendance today and I thank you for your help along the way for being here today.
In the interest of time I couldn’t possibly thank everybody because if there’s one thing I heard from these guys all weekend, it’s been hurry up.
I had so many great teammates, some who will be on this stage, as Doggy mentioned, our good friend, Smoltzie better be here next year and there will be more to come. I had teammates who made great plays for me, got big hits, helped to get big outs and guys that were great examples and guys that I learned a ton from through conversation.
I appreciate all of your help and I thank you for the role you played in helping me to get to this incredible honor.
My two longtime pitching coaches, Leo Mazzone, thank you so much. When you first came to Atlanta with Bobby, and you told me were going to start throwing twice in between starts, I thought you were crazy because my arm already hurt at that time. Wasn’t really sure what throwing more was going to do, but boy, did that help. You helped me to understand my mechanics, you helped me become my own pitching coach, and that ultimately became my goal every game I went out on the mound was not to have Leo come out and visit me at any point in time.
Rick Peterson later in my career with the Mets, Rick, you helped me to reinvent myself and make the changes I needed to make for the latter part of my career, and trust me, when you were doing something for 16, 17 years, it’s not an easy thing to change. But you talked me into it, you convinced me of it and you gave me confidence to do it. So Leo, thank you so much for your help, and Rick Peterson, thank you for your help.
To all the folks associated with the Mets’ organization, thank you for treating me and my family the way you did. Thank you Fred and Jeff Wilpon for the opportunity to play in New York and for providing the resources so I could experience a postseason there.
To the fans of New York, thank you so much for your support and for ultimately treating me and my family with so much respect.
Playing for Ted Turner was a treat and when I say it was a treat, it was a treat. Thank you, Ted, for providing the likes of John Schuerholz, Stan Kasten and Bobby Cox to lead our organization.
Thank you for providing the resources to get the players that enabled us to have such an unbelievable run of success. It was such a thrill and so much fun to be a part of putting Atlanta back on the map in the game of baseball.
Your support on and off the field meant so much to me and I know there’s a ton of you here today and a ton of you back at Turner Field watching this in Atlanta, as well. Thank you guys so much. Atlanta has become my home. I have so many great friends there now, many of whom are here today and I’m truly grateful and honored for your support and friendship.
My best teammate and best friend of all, though, happens to be my wife, Chris. In my case, the saying behind every good man is a great woman, is definitely true.
As a young player it’s easy to be selfish and only worry about yourself and baseball. Often my sister would call me before spring training if she needed something for a charity event or auction that was coming up during the baseball season and she said, “You know, if I don’t call you and bug you now, once spring training starts, it’s going to be impossible,” and she was right.
When you get to that point, it’s all about you and it’s all about baseball. Once you have a wife and a family, all that changes. It isn’t about you anymore. I learned balance early in my career. I remember a hockey game as a kid that didn’t go so well. And in the car on the way home, my dad wanted to talk about the game. Didn’t want to criticize me but just wanted to have a conversation.
So after a short time of me being less than pleasant in the conversation because things didn’t go so well, my dad told me something that I’ve never forgotten and, in fact, I’ve used on my kids today and they will attest to it. He said: “You’re going to go into that locker room with a smile on your face and you’re going to come out with one, or I’m not taking you any more.”
I tried really hard to leave the game at the field. Chris was always great at recognizing when I needed a little space, when I needed some kind words, and certainly whenever I needed a kick in the butt.
When you have kids, that balance is really tested. I can’t tell you what a luxury it was to be able to leave for the ballpark totally freed up knowing that there was a wonderful mom at home holding down the fort and getting everybody where they needed to be. In reality, our wives are single moms a lot of time when you factor in travel and spring training. To this day, I don’t know how Chris was able to do everything with me not around, from school carpools to kids’ sports teams, everything was always handled perfectly, and that made my job so much easier.
In addition, I’m so proud of her and what she’s meant to our community in Atlanta. She’s helped to raise over $4 million for Cure Childhood Cancer, raising money for much needed research. She truly is one person making a difference. As I said, she’s a great mom and I couldn’t be more proud of the job she has done raising our children.
Jonathan, Amber, both in college now, can’t believe it and doing very well. Peyton, Mason, and of course our little guy, Keenan. I realize the sacrifices all you guys have made. I know it wasn’t always easy. There were a lot of sacrifices, a lot of missed things throughout the years, but you guys handled it like champs. I’m so proud of you and I love you guys so much.
Chris, I’ve been blessed to have you as my wife. You’ve been my best friend. You’ve been my rock. Thank you so much for all your love and support and for making my job so much easier.
And finally, people have asked me a lot since I got the phone call how I thought I would feel when induction day finally arrived. My response has usually been, whatever I tell you won’t scratch the surface of what I will feel on that day. Safe to say I was right. To say this day, this weekend was unbelievable would definitely be true.
I don’t think any of us up here ever thought we would become Hall of Famers on the day we were drafted. I do believe that each of us worked hard to get the most out of our God-given talent and tried to be the very best that we thought we could be. The fact that we are here is a testament to that hard work and perseverance.
Standing here today as a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame is the ultimate recognition of a career in baseball, a career that saw lots of ups and downs, lots of sacrifices on and off the field, and more than a few times where I questioned what I was doing.
There are no more questions, only gratitude toward those who were so helpful along the way; my family, friends, coaches and teammates, and thanks to God for giving me the talent and work ethic and more than a little bit of stubbornness to see it through.
I’m humbled to be a member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. I’m humbled to be here and thank you all for sharing this day with me. Thank you very much