Over 40,000 people were on hand when Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame earlier this afternoon. Each inductee gave a lengthy speech while at the podium, as is tradition for all Hall of Fame inductees year-in and year-out. Each speech contained both heartfelt and humorous moments recalled from years of baseball experiences and memories. But, Mike Piazza made a lasting impression on listeners and baseball fans all across the nation when he honored Tommy Lasorda, the former Dodgers manager, with his words.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 24, 2016
According to CBS Sports, Mike Piazza told listeners how Tommy Lasorda had recognized something special in him as a player, after watching him hit, at the young age of 14. It was Lasorda’s vision that put Piazza in major league baseball to begin with, because Lasorda called in a favor. He was the lowest draftee ever inducted into the Hall of Fame. As a 62nd round draft pick, Piazza seemingly didn’t stand a chance as a Hall of Famer.
Needless to say, however, Tommy Lasorda’s vision for Piazza paid off, as he became one of baseball’s most loved, most successful and most memorable players.
In his speech, Piazza said, “It truly was an honor and privilege to be drafted, signed and developed by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Mr. Peter O’Malley was a wonderful owner, was a tremendous family man who prided himself in the best possible atmosphere to play baseball in an otherwise quiet town of Vero Beach.” He continued, “I will always be eternally grateful for the opportunity.”
He went on to say, “Tommy Lasorda was always in my corner. He believed when he watched me hit at the young age of 14 that I could play major league baseball. Tommy, you were always there for me. Y ou made me your batboy when the Dodgers were in Philadelphia. You always sent me baseball equipment when I needed it. You convinced the Dodgers to draft me. You gave me big league at-bats in spring training when I was a green, wide-eyed kid out of junior college. You went to bat for me when I walked away from the game. You convinced the Dodgers to let a very popular catcher in Mike Scioscia go so that a veteran pitching staff would know that I was their catcher in my rookie year, no matter how many mistakes I made, or how inexperienced I was.”
Piazza also honored his former teammate and longtime friend, Eric Karas, who was in attendance at the ceremony. He talked about John Roseboro and Kevin Kennedy who were his first instructors in the Dodgers organization. Even Sandy Koufax received a tip of the hat as Piazza recalled facing him during batting practice.
Mike Piazza enters the Hall of Fame as the 2nd representative of the New York Mets. pic.twitter.com/iE5gl9ypds
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 24, 2016
Finally, Piazza remembered Reggie Smith, who had helped convince him to keep pushing forward even when he wanted to quit the minor leagues. “You are a great hitting coach, but the biggest lesson that you taught me was how to get through the game of life, and to never quit,” Piazza said, thanking Smith.
Arguably, the most moving and emotional moment of Piazza’s speech came when he thanked his dad, Vince; both men had tears streaming down their cheeks when Mike said, “We made it Dad. The race is over,” Piazza told his father. “Now is the time to smell the roses.”
— Gerard Kane (@nyjerrykane) July 25, 2016
[Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images]