Carlton's speech full of thanks

August 01, 1994|By Jerome Holtzman | Jerome Holtzman,Chicago Tribune

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Steve Carlton, who refused to speak to the press during the last 10 years of his career, did a sudden turnabout yesterday when he was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame.

Carlton thanked the baseball writers for electing him in his first year of eligibility and then said:

"It's like Rush Limbaugh being voted in by the Clintons."

Carlton, who won 329 games and struck out 4,136 batters, second to Nolan Ryan, was among the three principals honored in a 2 1/2 -hour ceremony in an open meadow a short distance from the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, the repository for the game's most treasured artifacts.

Also enshrined were Phil Rizzuto, former star shortstop of the New York Yankees, and, posthumously, Leo Durocher, who had a 24-year managerial career.

Durocher's third wife, Laraine Day, a movie actress in the 1940s and '50s, made the acceptance speech on his behalf along with their son, Chris, who was in tears and had to be led back to his seat.

Also honored were the late Wendell Smith of Chicago, winner of the J. G. Taylor Spink Award presented annually to a sportswriter for "meritorious contributions," and Bob Murphy, play-by-play announcer for the New York Mets, recipient of a similar award for broadcasters. Murphy was an Orioles announcer in 1960 and 1961.

In introducing Carlton, Ed Stack, president of the Hall of Fame, acknowledged that "privacy was part of his mystique."

Carlton, who paid a speech writer to help him through, was expansive in his praise of his former teammates and managers and Gus Hoefling, the former trainer of the Philadelphia Phillies.

"Thank you, Gus, for extending my career," said Carlton, referring to Hoefling's regimen of flexibility and strength

conditioning.

He also expressed appreciation to Tim McCarver, his catcher with the St. Louis Cardinals and Phillies who was among the crowd estimated at 10,000.

"Behind every successful pitcher there has to be a very smart catcher," Carlton said, "and Tim McCarver was that man. We had incredible rapport."

Carlton had five 20-victory seasons and won a record four Cy Young Awards. His most remarkable year was in 1972, when he was 27-10 with the last-place Phillies, who won a total of 59 games.

"For 24 years, I did something I loved and got paid for it," Carlton said.

Day told of her eight years with Durocher and the time he was undecided whether to pitch Sal Maglie or Sheldon Jones in a crucial game.

"I told him to go into the closet and pray to God for advice," she said. "He did and said he was advised to go with Jones."

On the way back to the hotel, after Jones had lost the game, Durocher asked her, "Does your friend have any other suggestions?"

In a broken voice, their son, Chris Durocher, thanked everyone for honoring the memory of his father, whose teams won 2,008 games, seventh on the all-time list. Durocher died in 1991 at 86.

"His last years were spent hoping he would get a call from the Hall of Fame," Chris said. "At first, I thought what a shame it was that he could not have lived to receive it himself. But now I know, as I stand here, that my father stands with us here today. I guess he got time off for good behavior."

Rizzuto insisted that he had a sore throat but rambled on for 24 minutes and said he "owed a lot to [Yankees owner] George Steinbrenner."

His election, he said, was essentially due to "Steinbrenner and my family and friends, who, over the years, have put a lot of pressure on the Hall of Fame.

"Please don't boo the next person I'm going to introduce," Rizzuto told the fans. He then introduced Steinbrenner.

Midway through his speech, Rizzuto broke up the crowd.

"If people are understanding this speech, raise your hands," said Rizzuto, who turns 77 in September. "My family knows me. They're raising their hands."

As he was rambling toward the end, Rizzuto told the 34 Hall of Famers on the dais they could leave if they wanted to. Johnny Bench and Yogi Berra, Rizzuto's former teammate, took the cue and walked off.

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