07/25/10 8:35 PM ET
Hearts on display during induction speeches
By Marty Noble / MLB.com
Harvey, Herzog and The Hawk triumphantly crossed over the threshold that distinguishes elected from inducted and into the Hall of Fame on Sunday afternoon. Hazy, hot and humid were denied admittance when the doors to the Hall opened.
Andre Dawson, the Hawk with the hose, was the headliner, of course. But Doug Harvey, the umpire par excellence and part-time deity, and Whitey Herzog, known for his managerial genius and connection to the rodent population, were nearly arrested and charged with stealing the show.
Jon Miller, playing hooky from ESPN for a night, and Bill Madden of the New York Daily News, the subject -- rather than the author -- of stories for a day, added to the entertainment value of the celebration.
Each offered heartfelt and poignant remarks that made the brief rain a quite acceptable annoyance. But Harvey's speech, words presented on an extended video, were the most touching. Nothing less would be expected or accepted from "God."
"My voice is shot," Harvey said on Saturday, "from hollering and talking too much over the years."
Cancer has ravaged his throat and made his voice gravely, so his remarks were recorded in April and presented to a gathering estimated to include 10,000 fans. They may have thought his speech needed editing -- it did run long -- but his audience appreciated his sincerity and, in particular, his final thoughts.
"Years ago," Harvey said, looking quite like Andy Rooney on video, "my dad told me that some day I would wake up and realize what I had achieved. Today, I woke up in Cooperstown. Now I know what he meant.
"As we all know, Cooperstown is the home of baseball. One of the many duties of the home-plate umpire is to make sure that the runner touches home. Well, if you're a true baseball fan, you need to visit Cooperstown. This is home. And you need to promise yourself that you'll touch home before the end of the game."
And, after a pause, he added, "I'll be watching to make sure you do. Thank you."
"Old Dougger really did it," former manager Dallas Green said. "I like what he had to say more today than some of things that used to come out of his mouth."
Harvey, 80, moved to the microphone for one more comment. "I'll be quick. I won't hold you long," he said. " I want you to notice that I stopped the rain."
Indeed, the rain which had been forecast had begun before his video, and it increased as his video went along. But sunshine moved in before the ceremonies moved on to Herzog.
The former Royals and Cardinals manager did his own on-the-spot editing, because, as he said, "I've got numerous stories which we don't have a lot of time for, because some of these guys were pretty little long-winded."
He later apologized for neglecting to mention Joe Burke, his boss with the Royals and Rangers, and might not have realized he hadn't spoken the word "Royals" in his speech. He did acknowledge the fans in Kansas City, though.
And the White Rat did say, "I want it to be known I've got three Hall of Fame players [George Brett, Ozzie Smith and Bruce Sutter, who were seated behind him], and if all three hadn't played for me, I wouldn't be here today. I'd probably be back in Illinois digging ditches or something."
Herzog linked his early years in small-town Illinois to his now permanent presence in small-town New York. He went so far to as to recognize five reporters who covered the Mets during his time with the club for probably helping him get his first job managing. He had identified them Saturday as Joe Donnelly, Joe Durso, Barney Kremenko, Jack Lang and Dick Young.
But Herzog mentioned no one as prominently as Casey Stengel, who, he said, had recognized him as managerial timber when he was a young player in the Yankees' chain. Can't go wrong quoting Casey.
"I came out of the service in '54, during the Korean War. The Yankees invited me to their rookie camp. That's when I met Stengel. And when I met Stengel, it was like an enlightening thing, because I would go to bed at night, instead of thinking about girls, I would be thinking about what the hell he talked about all day. He had his own language, and it took me hours sometimes to figure him out.
"But the big thing about Casey was they thought he was a clown when they brought him back to New York. But Casey was an outstanding teacher. He was a very smart baseball man, and he and I became fast friends. ... The reason he took a liking to me -- I was almost like a pet to him -- he played with Buck Herzog, and I'm sure he thought I was [Buck's] grandson. I'm sure of that. And I never told him any different.
"He said, 'How's Granddad?' I'd say, 'Oh, he's great.'"
"So, you know, Casey and I used to sit in Colonial Inn [on St. Petersburg Beach] during Spring Training, and every night we would have a few pops and talk baseball. And Casey told me so many things that I've been using the rest of my life. But for some reason he knew that I was going to be a big league manager. My high school teachers would have died if they had heard him say that. But the big thing is ... he knew. And he wrote on some pictures, some autographs, I was a great leader, and I had not done anything in my life.
"Casey told me so many things that became valuable to me. He said you're going to be a manager. You've got to learn how to handle the press. When you manage the Mets, you got a bad team. Here is how you handle the press. You're very nice to them. And then he said, 'You feed 'em. And you drink 'em. You stay up all night with 'em, having a few pops. Put them to bed about 4:30. And by the time their deadlines come, they won't even put the score of the game in."
Herzog's final words were heart-warming, too. He had acknowledged several times in the preceding weeks that the responsibilities of a Hall of Fame designate had too often kept him from his favorite activity, fishing. "I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward Monday morning," he said on Saturday.
But his sense of it had changed on Sunday. "The one question everybody asks me is this: 'What's it feel like to be a Hall of Famer?' "Well, I didn't know. I kept saying I won't know until July 25. Well, now I can tell you what it feels like. Being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y, is like going to heaven before you die."
Earlier, he congratulated his fellow inductees, but saved Harvey for last. "And the reason for that is," he said, "Doug and I didn't see eye-to-eye all the time. Doug was a great umpire, a great umpire. I mean, I never got in trouble with him. Or [had] arguments with him over balls and strikes, safe or out, fair or foul.
"It was always a day like today. He wouldn't put the damn tarp on the field. We'd send a message out to him -- 15 minutes, severe thunder showers and lightning at Busch Stadium. Here was 'God,' and about 15 minutes later they'd put [down] the tarp, but the field was so muddy it took two hours to get the field ready when he took the tarp off
"So, Doug, I want to say one thing. My sincere congratulations. It's sunny now. Don't put the tarp on! And one other thing, Doug. Please don't kick me out of Cooperstown!"
Not much chance of that. Earlier in the day, Harvey had admitted patching up relationships with two people who had made the trip to Cooperstown for the weekend. He identified neither. But Herzog had a real chance at being one of them. After his speech, Harvey still declined to say. "Was one of them Whitey," was the question put to him.
"Nope," Harvey said. "Whitey knew the rules. And I like guys who know what they're talking out, what the rules are.
"My only ambition has been to improve the profession of umpiring," Harvey said in his speech. "I have tried to mentor the people I worked with, teaching them everything I know about the game. I have challenged each of them to be better than I was. And I was good."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.