Text of Kirby Puckett's Hall of Fame induction speech, Aug. 5, 2001:
"Before I get to a few words I have prepared, I would like to thank Commissioner Selig, the organizers here at the Hall of Fame and all of these great players for being here with me today -- particularly my fellow inductees, Dave Winfield, Mr. Mazeroski himself, and to the family of Hilton Smith. I am overwhelmed by the number of great fans who traveled all of the way from Minnesota or wherever you came from. You are the best.
"I also see some of my former teammates out there. It's awesome that you guys took the time to be with me today. When I asked my family for advice about my talk today, they were quick to tell me to keep it short. So I will.
"The only problem I have with that request is the time I need to thank all of the people who have helped me get here today. Because you don't get where I am today without help from a lot of people. I hope those I leave out will excuse me, but I want to thank the coaches who taught me the fundamentals of baseball -- Dewey Kalmier of Bradley University and Bob Simmons of Triton Junior College, who also taught me some of the important fundamentals of life.
"To Carl and Eloise Pohlad and the entire Minnesota Twins organization, as well as all of the many teammates I played with throughout my career, including my buddy Dave Winfield -- I can't tell you what a joy it is to be inducted with a friend.
"The tremendous guys I played against on all of the other teams. To Ron Washington, my first roommate -- in those days we didn't have any of those single rooms like guys have today -- he was my big-league father and he showed me the ropes as I broke in[to] the big leagues. My
manager and friend Tom Kelly -- he led our teams to world championships and he hasn't lost his edge today. To my good friend, Tony Oliva, an awesome hitter who helped me to become a better hitter with his tremendous knowledge of this game. I hope to be here next year listening to you give your induction speech, Tony. I love you.
"The amazing public address announcer voice of the Minnesota Twins, Bob Casey, who taught the world how to say my name. I also want to thank Ron Shapiro, Michael Maas, Brian Woods and everyone at Shapiro, Robinson, and Associates. Ron, you are not only my agent but one of my best friends. You have taught me so much about life and how to treat people, and I want you to know that I love and respect you very much, Ron. Thank you so much.
"To my mom and dad, and I'll talk more about them later. To my brother Ronnie, who's here. My sisters June, Frances and Jackie, all my sisters and brothers who followed my mom's orders to never let their little brother's clothes get dirty. I was the cleanest kid in the ghetto.
"And most importantly, my beautiful wife, Tonya, who has been there with me through a lot of the highs and lows of my career. And who has taken such great care of my life's greatest blessings, my babies, Catherine and Kirby Jr. I love you, Tonya, and thank you for all that you have done for me. And you'll always be there for me, and thanks for babysitting me for 16 years, sweetie. I appreciate it. And to Catherine and Kirby, Jr. You will never know how much your daddy loves you.
"I had a lot of help getting here today. I had some great role models along the way. My on-field heroes were the great Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Willie Mays. I wanted to be like them on the field and I am so damn proud to join them in the Hall of Fame.
"My off-the-field heroes, the people who gave me the values to live by and who inspired me with their hard work and unselfish dedication to their family were my mom, Catherine, and my dad, William. My only regret is that they and my two brothers, Donnie and Spencer, could not be physically here today. I do know that they are here spiritually. And mom's probably looking down right now and thinking about all those spankings she gave me for hitting balls through neighbor's windows and breaking lamps and breaking everything in the house. I want to tell Mom, well, Ma, I hope you can see now that it was worth it. Your little baby is going into the Hall of Fame.
"There may be a few people out there who remember a time when the word on Kirby Puckett was that he was too short or didn't have enough power to make it to the big leagues. Well despite the fact that I didn't get to play all the years I wanted to, I did it.
"And to any young person out there, if anyone tells you that you can't do what you want to do and be what you want to be. I wanted to play baseball ever since I was 5 years old. And I want you to remember the guiding principles of my life: You can be what you want to be. If you believe in yourself, and you work hard because anything, and I'm telling you anything is possible. It doesn't matter if you're 5-8 like Kirby Puckett or you're 6-6 like my man Winnie, you can do it.
"And don't feel sorry for yourself if obstacles get in your way. Our great Twins World Series teams faced odds and we beat 'em. Jackie Robinson faced odds and made this game truly the national game.
"And I faced odds when glaucoma took the bat out of my hands. But I didn't give in or feel sorry for myself. I've said it before and I'll say it again: It may be cloudy in my right eye, but the sun is shining very brightly in my left eye.
"And just think how the sun has shined. Right up to the door of this great Hall, the shrine for the greatest game in the world and the greatest players in the world, baseball.
"We call it the national game because of its great and unique history. And it doesn't matter where you came from. From the projects like me, in Chicago, or the gated communities of Beverly Hills. And because it doesn't matter what race, creed or national origin you are: Black, white, Hispanic, Japanese or whatever. It just matters how you play the game. And I played it with all my heart, with all my soul and with all my might.
"I played the game and tried to live my life in a way that would make the people that I love and care about proud. So, to my late parents, my two brothers who recently passed away, my remaining three brothers and sisters, all of my sisters- and brother-in-laws, my mother-in-law, my nieces and nephews and all the many friends that I have. And most importantly, my wife, Tonya, and my children, Catherine and Kirby, Jr. -- I hope I have made you proud. I have been blessed with so much and so many to be thankful for. And I have been blessed to play the greatest game for the greatest fans in the world. And now I join the greatest players in the Hall of Fame. For all of this, I say thank God and thank you. I love you all, thank you."