Fifty two years ago I left Norristown, Pennsylvania as a 17 year-old aspiring left-hander, scared to death. I had never been more than 14 miles from my home, and here it is 52 years later, I come into Cooperstown scared to death. You know I think it’s a day of Thanksgiving, to thank the people who made it possible for me to be here. My mom and pop, I wish they could be here because they were the greatest parents that anybody could ever have. If I could have seen God one week before I got married, and had written down on a piece of paper what I wanted for a wife, He couldn’t have given me a better one than the one I have, after 47 years, my wife Jo. Here with her is my daughter Laura, my son-in-law Billy, and my granddaughter Emily. I want to thank the veterans committee for making all of this possible. Without their support, It could never have happened and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
You know a few months ago a man that is very dear to my heart announced that he is going to be selling the baseball team. What would baseball be like, because for the last 50 years there was an O’Malley in there. He’s one of the most unique owners that anyone could want to work for and I love him and his family very much. I would like him to be recognized, him and his sister Terry and her husband, Rollie.
There’s a man I wish he could be here today but unfortunately he couldn’t make it because of health reasons. He was my mentor; I love him very, very much. I only wish he could be here because he taught me so much about the game of baseball and about life. My heart goes out to him and I know he’s here in spirit, there’s none other than the great Al Campanis.
In 48 years I served under two owners: Walter O’Malley and Peter. Three general managers: Buzzie Bavasi, Al Campanis and Fred Claire. Three farm directors: Fresco Thompson, Bill Schweppe and Charlie Blaney. I really enjoyed working for them, they are wonderful people. I want to thank my coaches, and Bill Buhler, for all the service he gave to the Dodgers. He’s one of the most dedicated men I ever met. There’s two guys sitting out there that played a very important role in my life and I’d like them to be recognized: Rod Dedeaux, the greatest baseball coach in the history of college baseball and Ralph Avila, the vice president of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
When you honor me here today you honor my family, you honor the organization that I represented for 48 years. I love the Dodgers. And to all of you fans, without you there would be no people like us. I have said time and time again that this game does not belong to the owners, nor does this game belong to the players and I’ll tell you why. You can have the greatest stadium in the world and the best ball team, but if nobody goes through those turnstiles, we’ve got nothing. This game belongs to the fans and we thank you for your support. We need you. We want you to continue supporting the greatest sport in the country, baseball, you got to love it.
As I stand here in front of all of these great Hall of Famers, some of them were my idols like Ted Williams and Al Lopez, some of them were my competitors, but I want to say this; we need more role models in this country and these gentlemen that are here with us are the greatest role models that baseball could ever have. I knew many of them and when I saw them I held them in high esteem. I put them on a pedestal because they did so much for our game of baseball. We appreciate it, we love them and we respect them very, very dearly. And may they continue to walk around and spread the words Major League Baseball in this great nation of ours.
You know I said this many times that if God had planned for me to be a high school baseball coach, I think my objective would be to try to impress upon the youngsters playing for me how important it is for them to get a good education and I believe that’s more important than winning. Or if God had planned for me to be a college baseball coach my objective would be to try to impress upon the youngsters playing for me how important it is for them to prepare themselves for the way of life. That’s more important than winning. But when you are a manager of a Major League Baseball team you can forget those two philosophies. You’ve got to win. And if you don’t win like many you’ll fall by the wayside. And to tell you how bad I wanted to win a few years ago we went into Cincinnati to play a big 3-game series against the Big Red Machine and I got up Sunday morning to go to church and who came in and sat right next to me, the manager of the Cincinnati Reds, Johnny McNamara. Now I knew why he was in church and he knew why I was there, and at the conclusion of the Mass we walked out the center aisle together and I’m thinking, “Man I’ve got to beat this guy today.”
Aswe approached the front door he said to me very quietly, “Wait for me outside Tommy, I’ll be right out.”
I said, “Okay Johnny.” And I said to myself, “Where is he going? The Mass is over.” And I watched him and he went over to that side of the church, he knelt down and he lit a candle. Instead of me going out the door I went over to the other side other church and I went in front of the alter and I waited. And when he left I went over and blew that candle out! I knew one thing; he was not lighting that candle for a dead relative, and all throughout the game I kept hollering over to him, “Hey Mac, it ain’t going to work pal, I blew it out.” And we clobbered ‘em that day 13-2. And Johnny Mac last year went to Rome and he sent me a postcard, and all it said was, “Try blowing this candle out!”
My four brothers are here today ladies and gentlemen and I’d like them to stand up: My brother Eddie, my brother Harry, my brother Morris and my brother Joey.
You know sometimes you think all of this is great, you stop and wonder. I think Pee Wee Reese said something to me that put life in the right perspective. I could remember when the ’55 Dodgers were being honored in Shea Stadium, and when they called us out on the foul line I happened to be standing next to the great Captain, Pee Wee Reese who we all loved.
I said, “Pee Wee, if someone had walked into the Dodger clubhouse in Ebbetts Field in 1955, and said to you ‘Pee Wee, one of these 25 guys will be managing the Dodgers to a World Championship in the year 1981, put them in the order of who do you think it would be.’”
I said, “Do you know where you would have put me Pee Wee, 25th.”
He said, “No, you’re wrong.”
I said, “Where would you have put me?”
He said, “24th.”
I said, “Who would you have 25?”
He said, “Amarose. He didn’t speak English.”
I want to congratulate Phil Neikro for this tremendous honor for him because I was fortunate enough to be his manager for two weeks when we went to Japan with an All Star team. I’m very, very proud of Phil Neikro and I wish him nothing but the best.
But you know I could remember this growing up when I was about 15 years-old, I could say this form the bottom of my heart; I was a Yankee fan. And I used to go to bed and I used to actually dream that I was pitching for the Yankees. And I looked in and Bill Dickey was giving me the signs and I looked in the field and I saw DiMaggio and Gehrig. And then all of a sudden I’d feel my mother shaking me telling me it’s time to go to school.
I did not want to leave that dream. I wanted to stay there because the dream was so real. After what is happening to me now, it’s unbelievable. This is the greatest thing to ever happen to me in my lifetime. I’ve been fortunate enough to win World Championships, manage Cy Young Award winners, MVP’s, nine Rookie of the Year’s, All Star games, but they come and go.
But the Hall of Fame is eternity, and I thank God for all of it, and I feel that it won’t be too long when my mother will be shaking me and saying, “Wake up Tommy, it’s time to go to school.”
I am living a dream.