"Wow. Are you having fun? Thank you, Jane, and thank you, Bud. You know that feeling as a kid, when you go into a candy store for the first time? All you can do is smile and just stand in awe. Well, this kid is in the candy store today. Cooperstown, where all dreams come true. Can you feel it? It is so sweet.
There are so many people to thank today that have influenced my life and my career. I’ve been told by the other Hall of Famers that I have a time limit. 20 minutes. Those of you that know me, this is gonna be difficult. Alright. I have a tendency to elaborate at times, so I am gonna try to do my best. Just bear with me. I would be remiss if I did not say a few words in French. So here it goes.
“Bonjour Madames et Monsieurs, M. President, et les invités distingués. C'est avec grand plaisir et grand honneur d'être ici aujourd'hui. J'aimerais remercier tous les participants, les Expos, Mets, Giants et Dodgers. Mes amis, merci beaucoup."
I would like to thank all the sports writers, obviously, for this tremendous honor. I would also like to congratulate Hal McCoy for his great journalism through the years. All the pleasant times coming into the clubhouse. And to Bob Uecker, for all the fantastic years of broadcasting. Now Ueck, you’ll never be in the cheap seats again, pal, because you’ll always be in the front row.
I am so humbled to stand before you all and be in the presence of all these great Hall of Famers. This has been a terrific weekend and I would like to thank all the people involved with the Hall of Fame. From Dale Petroskey to Jane Clark to Jeff Idelson to Kim Bennett, and, of course, all of the other staff members. I had a dream as a young boy like all of these Hall of Famers up here, to be a professional athlete. I was blessed with a gift and I thank the Lord above for the wonderful, wonderful opportunity to have played this great game of baseball.
I played all the sports as a young boy, but it was always baseball that I loved the most. I collected baseball cards as a hobby, and one day dreamed of what it would be like to have my picture on one of those cards. I grew up in southern California, a Dodgers fan, and my idol was the Mick, Mickey Mantle. I know you’re here with us today, Mick, so thank you for instilling in me the love of the game. You see, I always have been a fan of the game first and a ballplayer second. Maybe that’s why I had the love and passion for this great game so much.
My dream became a reality in 1972 when the Montreal Expos drafted me in the third round. In high school my main sport was football as an All-American quarterback. Most of my scholarship offers from colleges were for football, not for baseball. So I had to think and pray hard and long to help make my decision. My decision was altered after a serious knee injury which resulted in sitting out my entire senior football season. After surgery and rehab I played the basketball season, but I was looking so forward to playing my passion, baseball.
It is funny because my primary positions in high school were as a pitcher and an infielder. During…I only caught five or six game my senior year of high school. But during those five or six games a scout by the name of Bob Zuk, who is here with us today, believed I could become a big league catcher some day. He held true to his word, and on the night of the draft, at 18 years of age, I signed a contract with the Expos and started making plans to head off to Jamestown, New York. Bob, thanks for believing in me.
So off I went to New York for a two-week tryout camp to determine where I was going to play that year. And it was there that Bill McKenzie, my first catching coach, who taught me all the fundamentals and techniques about catching. He was the one who taught me how to catch. Thanks, Bill, for your motivation and discipline. I don’t know if you’re here today, but I just want to thank you for everything that you did for me. And it was there in Jamestown, New York, where the journey began. I would like to thank all the coaches and managers I played for. For my very first manager, Pat Daugherty, to my very last manager, Felipe Alou, in Montreal. However, there is one manager who has left such an impact on my life and in my career and that was Karl Kuehl, who is with us today. He managed me when I was in the Instructional League, AA, and AAA, and I know he believed in me more than anyone else. I remember he would throw tennis balls to me, worked on my hitting, and to get out of the way of pitches. And he would even charge me 25 cents for every ball that I would drop when I was catching in a game. This, of course, helped me to concentrate better and helped me focus. And truly, I dropped a lot of balls when I was playing in the minor leagues, so this really did help. Although, at the end of the year, Karl said, “Aw, you don’t owe me anything.” Karl, thanks for working so hard with me and for helping me to be a better ballplayer.
I would also like to thank all of my teammates, some of them that are in the audience today. Thank you for inspiring me, making the game more fun and enjoyable. A lot of great memories that I will never forget. After two-and-a-half years in the minor leagues being groomed as a catcher, I began my rookie season in the major leagues in 1975. The Expos started me in the outfield. Well, that was when I could run pretty good and had some pretty decent knees. But after having a pretty good first half, I was invited to the All-Star Game in Milwaukee. Well, there it was Johnny Bench who befriended me and kind of took me under his wing. By then Johnny had established himself as one of, if not, the greatest of all time. He had already won two MVP awards and had developed the one-handed style of catching. And also as one of the best defensive catchers there ever was. Maybe, just maybe, he saw a little of him in me.
We had a picture taken together and later I asked him if he would sign it for me. And he wrote on it, he said, “Kid, in a few years it’s all yours.” Well, that inspired me to carry the torch for catchers, because it made me want to work hard as possible and to try to make every All-Star Game, and be the best at my position. Thanks, J.B., I appreciate it very much.
I was sitting there talking to Eddie, and he says, “You’re the one who chose those tools of ignorance,” but really, I always considered them being the tools of excellence. And there is something special, I truly feel, about being a catcher, that only another catcher can understand. So, Yogi, Pudge, J.B., you know what I’m talking about. It is an honor to enjoy being a part of this great fraternity.
Well, after two and a half years playing mostly in the outfield, I finally got a chance to play every day behind the plate in 1977. Dick Williams was instrumental in making that happen. From that point on, the rest was history. You see, going to a baseball game, just like you guys are here today, and sitting in the stands is like going to that happy place where you can leave your worries behind.
One of my favorite lines comes from a movie, Field of Dreams, and it goes something like this: “This game, this great game, is as innocent as children longing for the past. The feeling you get when you go to a ball game, walking through the aisles to your seats, sitting in your shirt sleeves, on a perfect afternoon. You find your reserve seat somewhere along the baselines, and acting as if you were a kid again. It’s almost as if though, you were dipped yourself in magical waters that the memories will be so thick you have to brush them away from your faces. Yes, the one constant through all the years has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, built and erased again, but Baseball has marked the time. America’s pastime.”
Baseball has allowed me to meet so many special people along the way. One here today that I am so honored to have in our presence is former President George Bush, Sr. He has been such a great friend through the years and I appreciate very much the effort of you coming to today’s ceremony with your grandson, Robert, and I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, Mr. President. God bless you.
A few more people who kept me on track, especially on the business side of baseball, were Dick Moss and Matt Merola. They couldn’t be here today, but thank you guys, for helping me with all the contracts and endorsements through the years.
I’d also like to especially thank one particular good friend, and that’s Jerry Petrie, who not only was instrumental and was such a great guy and became such a good friend in Montreal, but he also was my agent. He represented me in all aspects as an agent and I appreciated the guidance and direction that he gave me. He encouraged me to be accommodating to the press, the fans, and made sure I always looked my best. “Petes,” thanks for everything.
I also want to extend a very special thank you to my good friend, Mead Chasky. I have known this man for a long time, when he was a huge fan and would hang around the team bus and would get autographs from all the players. I tell you what, he’s now my manager and he’s been the best man for this job to handle so many things for me. You’re awesome, Mead, and I can’t thank you enough. What a godsend you have been.
The greatest thrill of my career certainly was that amazing ’86 World Series. Nothing will ever top that and the memories will last forever. All of you that were there, everybody, will remember the dramatic Game Six and certainly the way we came back in that series. So all you Mets fans, God bless you, ’86.
I will be forever grateful to the Expos for beginning my career and winding up my career in 1992. The Lord gave me a storybook ending of my career in front of over 40,000 fans. My last at-bat was a game-winning double, and after hobbling to second base I left the game to a standing ovation. There is nothing like the roar of the crowd.
Now I’d like to take this moment to say what an honor it is to share this date with you, Eddie. Even though we only shared one year together with the Dodgers, I always respected your desire and your professionalism. A lot of people don’t know Eddie Murray the way I do, and it was in spring training in 1991, after one of the games, Eddie headed back to the clubhouse with a bat that he had broken in the game. In the midst of a large crowd, Eddie handed that broken bat to a smiling little boy. That boy happened to be my son, D.J. He was only six years old at the time and he ran into the clubhouse to show me what he had just gotten. I was kind of shocked because, Eddie, you don’t share a lot of things with a lot of people, you know? [laughs] But anyway, I walked over to him and asked him if he would kindly sign it, and after a brief hesitation he did, and, well, today, D.J. considers that bat one of his most prized possessions. And that, right there, was the start of the Carter-Murray connection. Who would have believed that we’d be standing here today on July 27, 2003 being inducted with all these great players?
Okay, this is where it might get a little tough. I want to take this time to thank the most important people in my life. Above all, I want to thank my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. A great verse that spoke to me while writing my speech, and kind of explains what it is all about, it comes in Psalms 18: “I love you Lord, you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior. And my God is my rock in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the strength of my salvation, and my stronghold. I will call on the Lord who is worthy of praise. I praise the Lord, my God, my best friend, for giving me the ability, the desire, the love and the guidance that brought me here today. Without you, I would be nothing.”
I thank you Lord for giving me such wonderful parents. My parents can’t be here today in person, and I know that they are smiling down from heaven today, because they have the best seats in the house. I have said to a lot of people that my father’s on my right shoulder today and my mom’s on my left. I love my parents very, very much. I only had my mother until I was just 12 years of age, but I always felt her presence throughout my career. My father Jim, who inherited the responsibility of both parents, didn’t have a mean bone in his body and always had a smile for everyone. He was always there for me. He coached me in Little League, Pony League, and American Legion and also supported me in any other sport I played, constantly encouraging me. His favorite time of year was spring training, when he’d come visit the family and watch a few games. He would go early with me to the ballpark and would stay until the end. He just couldn’t get enough baseball. I’ll never forget the time when we were playing cards in the clubhouse and the manger called a team meeting. That meant everyone out of the clubhouse, except the team. Well, my dad’s response was, “Do I have to? I have a pretty good hand.” Well, if you know my pop, that’s the way he was. And mom, pop, you’re missed, but you’ll never be forgotten. I know how happy and proud you guys are today.
I am also very blessed to have my other parents, my in-laws, mom and dad, my brother-in-law, Jim, who are with me today. They have known me since I was 16 years old and have watched me grow up. Thanks for all your love and support throughout the years, and always opening up your home in California for after-game celebrations.
Well, as for my big brother, Gordon, who is four years older than me, I thank you for being such an amazing role model for me growing up. It meant so much to me that you would allow me to always play ball with you and your friends, even if I did bug you all the time. You have been the one who has influenced me to always strive to do my best. I always tried to be your shadow and looked up to you in so many ways. I realize now how much you did for me while growing up. I am so thankful for the relationship we have. I love you, big brother.
Well, to my immediate family, there is so much to say and not enough time to say it. So, the one thing I remember the most is how much the kids and Sandy would be at all the games. You know, I never felt comfortable or relaxed until I saw their happy faces sitting in the stands behind home plate. What a blessing I truly have had, for my wife and my kids to be right there with me through it all. After each game, I would always be the last player to leave the clubhouse. It still amazes me to look back and think about the many hours my family waited for me without complaining. It was funny, because if I had a good game or if the team won, the kids knew the car ride home would be a heck of a lot more fun. To my three precious children, I love you all very, very much, and I am so proud of each and every one of you and for all that you have done. I am so thankful that each one of you have chosen to walk with the Lord.
Christy, you remember the most about my career, and have always prayed that I would do well in games. You were my number one cheerleader. What a help you were to mom and a great role model to Kimmy and D.J. You have become a beautiful woman and an excellent teacher. To my new son-in-law, Matt Kearce, who I feel is like a second son already, thanks for taking care of my kiddo.
To my little catcher, Kimmy, who would sometimes only last a couple of innings before she would head off to the wives’ room and start up her own games. She played softball with the same kind of passion and desire that I did. I got the chance to coach her, and I was amazed to see how much she reminded me of myself on the field. I certainly wouldn’t want to try to slide into her either, because, I tell you, she could some kind of block the plate. And she also left her mark at Florida State University. She enjoys teaching kids in the classroom and on the field, and she has truly turned out to be a beautiful woman, inside and out.
To my son, D.J. What a phenomenal man you have become. No father could ever be more proud of his son than I am of you. You light up on stage and you light up any room you enter. You are the most encouraging person and positive person I know. D.J., you inspire me, bud, to be a better man.
As for my wife and high school sweetheart, and now wife of over 28 years, I fell in love with you, honey, when I was 16 and my love for you has remained constant through the years. I thank you always for your encouraging words and all the letters you wrote to me while in the minor leagues. And for taking care of the family, and for always being by my side. You have truly shown your love to me and have always been the wind beneath my wings. For that, I will be forever grateful. I share this day with you honey, more than anyone else here. I love you more than you’ll ever know.
And in closing, I have mentioned and for so many that I have not been able to mention, thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is nice to know that even though my body feels like an old man now, I will always be a kid at heart. I love this great game, I’m so honored to be in Cooperstown as a Hall of Famer. I love you all, God bless you, thank you very much.
Source: National Baseball Hall of Fame (Link).