On Sunday, retired umpire Doug Harvey was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The first hour and change of the ceremony reverted between boring and absurd, and thankfully, Doug Harvey broke the tedium by saying something meaningful.
Harvey, who suffers from throat cancer, recorded his speech for broadcast in advance. Here is a partial transcript:
"I realize that for many of you, this may be the only time in your life you will hear from a major league umpire. So there are a few things I would like to share with you. I've heard it said that umpires are necessary evil. Well, we are necessary, but we are not evil. We are hard-working and dedicated people whose primary interest is to make sure the game is played fairly. We are the integrity of the game.
"Before I joined professional baseball, I started umpiring in San Diego, California. I worked 155 games in a five-month season. For three years in a row, I was working tripleheaders on Saturday and doubleheaders on Sunday. I remember that while watching Don Larsen throw his perfect game on TV, I told the guys with me that I was going to go into professional umpiring, and someday they would be watching me on TV. They laughed me out of the room. Eleven years later, they were watching me on TV, working my World Series plate job.
"I studied my rule book two hours a day for every day that I worked in the minor leagues. Two hours every day, and I never missed. All you players, managers, umpires, broadcasters, writers, at any level, I suggest you know the rules. The real rules. Not the made-up kind.
"Sacrifice can be physical as well as mental. In my first year, umpiring in the major leagues, I was working the plate. Bob Gibson was pitching, and the catcher missed. It caromed up under my mask and broke off two teeth, which I spit on the ground. Shag Crawford came up, said, "you're bleeding. What's wrong with you?" When I told him what happened, he said I should have someone look at it.
"The next day I went to the dentist. He said I needed to take time off. I said no. So he gave me a shot to stop the bleeding, and went on my way. Two months later, it was infected. So I went to another dentist. He punched a hole in it and packed it with cotton. But I kept bleeding. So I just stuffed some chewing tobacco in it.
"I also want to thank the National League for their support, and I will never forget the brotherhood of my fellow umpires. Years ago, my dad told me that someday, 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.
"I'll be watching to make sure you do. Thank you."
After his recorded speech, Harvey, whose nickname is "God," stepped to the microphone for a brief message:
"I'll be quick. I won't hold you long. I want you to notice that I stopped the rain."