07/25/2004 7:11 PM ET
Molitor humble in induction speech
Hall of Famer takes little credit for his enshrinement
By Mike Bauman / MLB.com
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Paul Molitor accepted none of the credit Sunday in his Hall of Fame induction speech.
Sunday was the perfect day for this speech. You could tell that with the first words out of Molitor's mouth:
"This truly is a glorious day that the Lord has made."
That was the touchstone, not only for Molitor's remarks upon his induction. That was the core of the way he viewed his career, the career that put him eighth on the all-time hits list, the career that brought him to this July afternoon at the Clark Sports Center.
Molitor believes that a player can take credit for the effort he put into the game, but at the base of it cannot take credit for his achievements, because those sprang from abilities that are God-given.
"I'd like to thank God for his many, many blessings in my life, including my salvation that he's allowed me through His son Jesus," Molitor said near the close of his remarks. "I know the giftedness I had to play this game came from Him. You know, why someone can hit a 95 mile-per-hour fastball and someone else can't, certainly isn't something you can take credit for.
"So, Lord, I give you all the glory for all the things you've allowed me to accomplish, including induction into the Hall of Fame."
It was not surprising, then, that Molitor's speech was heavy on human recollections and light on his own achievements. His 21-year Major League journey through Milwaukee, Toronto and back home to Minnesota -- in his retelling -- focused on the people who had meant the most to him.
"The baseball memories are great," Molitor said, "but when you think about it, the people memories are even better."
Molitor was composed and precise and upbeat through most of his address, appearing to be overtaken with emotion only at the points when he spoke of his parents, who are now both deceased. He had a long list of friends, family members, teammates, managers, coaches and fans to thank, starting with his boyhood, and he covered the entire landscape.
To the delight of the Milwaukee fans on hand at the Clark Sports Center, Molitor paid particular tribute to fellow Hall of Famer and former Brewer teammate Robin Yount. Molitor suggested that his first big league camp, in 1978, did not begin auspiciously.
"I went through some pretty ugly days early in camp," he said. "There was even one day when (then Brewer coach) Frank Howard asked me if the scout was drunk when he signed me. But somehow, I made the Opening Day roster, largely due to an injury to Robin. It was the beginning of a very memorable 15 years in Milwaukee.
"One of the best parts about my time in Milwaukee was that Robin Yount and Jim Gantner were my teammates the entire time I was there. ... What can I say about Robin? I learned so much from Robin. Although we were contemporaries in age, he had played in the big leagues four years before I got there. Robin had a simple philosophy about playing: 'What can I do to help my team win today?' And believe me, there were a lot of things that Robin Yount could do to help his team win. I'm honored to follow him into the Hall as the second player to wear a Brewers hat on his plaque.
Molitor's stature in the game was secured by this induction, but his stature as an individual was also bolstered by the comments of another Hall of Famer. Harmon Killebrew was given special recognition Sunday, and it was fitting in more ways than one. Growing up in St. Paul, Molitor said that Killebrew was his idol when Killebrew was belting home runs and leading the Minnesota Twins.
"He's baseball," Killebrew said of Molitor. "He's he kind of a guy you'd like to have as your brother, your teammate, your friend."
And he also turned out to be the kind of a guy who would be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Paul Molitor got to Cooperstown Sunday. Regardless of where the credit is bestowed, he had a lightning-quick bat, foot speed, the versatility to play defensively wherever he was asked, the desire to excel and the baseball intelligence to turn almost any situation to his advantage. The Hall wasn't a specific goal of his, Molitor said. But the way he played the game, the way he loved the game, this had to become his eventual destination.
"My dreams never took me to Cooperstown," Molitor said. "Like most of these (Hall of Fame members) and probably all of them, I didn't play the game to get here. I played the game because I loved it. That being said, it's the Hall of Fame. It's that magical place, it's that place that transcends time. Baseball is respectful, traditional, simple and pure."
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.