I should have posted this yesterday, though I have a sort of excuse. I'd looked for the video a few years ago and could only find the audio, so I figured it didn't exist. But then last night I was watching a TV special about "Mr. Baseball," Bob Uecker, on the MLB Network and they had footage, so I figured it had to exist -- and so I looked again. And there it was. The whole thing.
A brief background.
For many years, Bob Uecker built a career making fun of his years dismally playing major league baseball, though still insisting he belonged in the Hall of Fame. Never mind that his career batting average was a pathetic .200, with only 12 home runs. But -- beyond over 100 appearances on the Tonight Show, starring in his own TV series, and making commercials and movies, most notably Major League -- he went on to have a terrific career as a play-by-play announcer for the Milwaukee Brewers, an announcing career that's still going, in fact, now in his 44th year. And in 2003, he finally and actually did make it into the Hall of Fame. Not as a player, of course, but as recipient of the Ford Frick Award for broadcasting.
This is Bob Uecker's speech when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
As you might imagine, it's hilarious. Not just in parts, but pretty much all the way through.
There's a slight story behind it. When contacted by the Hall of Fame, they asked him if he could work something up for his speech. He asked how much time he'd have, and they told him about six minutes. No, Uecker told them, he really couldn't put something together proper in less than 15 minutes. The Hall agreed, and Uecker spoke for 18 minutes. And he had pretty much everyone laughing the whole time -- not just the audiences (and those of us listening at home), but the legendary Hall of Fame ballplayers behind them. In fact, as Uecker recounted in the special, he'd turn around and see the players laughing and pushing him to go on.
There's something else remarkable about this speech which I didn't know until watching the TV special. It's that Bob Uecker did the entire speech extemporaneously. Nothing was written down. I don't mean that he just didn't read a speech -- he didn't even make notes. (Bob Costas tells the story on the show that he urged Uecker to at least write down five or six highlight stories that would be important to tell and write them out on note cards. No, Uecker said, he didn't need that, he'd just talk.)
And talk he did. Even if you don't follow baseball -- or even like it -- this is just a wonderful monologue. But if you do love baseball, this is about as terrific a Hall of Fame acceptance speech as you'll hear.
Keep in mind, that in pretty much every other Hall of Fame induction speech (and I'm guessing that "pretty much" is another phrase for "all of them), the recipients spend their time talking about excellence and thanking all the many people along the way who allowed them to reach the pinnacle of their profession. On Sunday, for instance, Frank Thomas of the Chicago White Sox spent almost his entire 10-15 minute speech making a list, simply thanking people, and eventually doing so for the second half of it in near tears. But whoever makes the speech, it's always about excellence, dedication and achievement with the help of coaches, teammates and most of all, family.
And then, onto the podium stepped Bob Uecker.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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