Hall of Fame inductions are typically jubilant experiences where the careers of some of the greatest figures in sports are celebrated and given the recognition that they deserve. However, some inductees take these opportunities as a chance to throw shade at their past opponents or critics. Others attempt to inject humor into their speeches to lighten the atmosphere of these stuffy events, but may have forgotten to test their speeches in front of a live audience and hear their jokes fall flat. Regardless of the reason, these speeches have the ability to uplift the fans viewing or in attendance, but they can also induce cringes worthy of the most awkward exchanges from Michael in The Office.
To be fair, these athletes being inducted are often not professional orators and many do not enlist the services of speech writers or editors. However, some of these athletes may wish they had handled their speeches differently. Others took the chance to poke at the establishment and point out some serious flaws that exist within their sport or our greater society, sending the media into frenzy. Given what well may be their final chance to speak to the greater audience of their sport, some athletes chose to challenge rather than placate.
On the whole, Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies are typically dry affairs, with little controversy involved. Many speeches are far too long as players, coaches, and other figures attempt to thank as many people as possible, squeezing in their most interesting anecdotes. The inductees listed may have attempted to stick to these themes, but found themselves straying from the path, and into cringeworthy territory. Here is how these speeches are now remembered in hindsight.
15 Ted Williams
Ted Williams chose to take a stand during his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1966. During the speech he decided to take a shot at the minority of writers who gave him "the treatment" throughout his historic MLB career. However, he received much broader criticism from conservatives of the time for taking a shot at the establishment in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Williams praised Willie Mays, who had just surpassed his career home run total, which drew harsh reaction in Southern audiences. Williams advocated for the induction of Negro League legends like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, suggesting the only thing that stood between these players and MLB greatness was segregation.
14 John Smotlz
13 Terry Bradshaw
12 The Ultimate Warrior
11 Dick Bavetta
10 Michael Irvin
9 Mr. Met
8 Gary Bettman's Lockout Speech
7 Joe Torre
6 Jerry Rice
5 Rod Woodson
4 Hulk Hogan's Speech for Macho Man Randy Savage
3 Tex Winter
2 Ryne Sandberg
1 Peter Vecsey
Throughout his time as a sports columnist, Peter Vecsey expressed a genuine passion for the sport of basketball and an ability to honor and chastise just about any member of the basketball community that he saw fit. His Hall of Fame acceptance speech in 2009 was no different. Vecsey appeared on stage without any notes or teleprompter assistance and proceeded to call out individuals who he felt deserved to be in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, which you can see here. The cameras cut to individuals in the audience squirming in their seats, while David Stern shook his head and checked his Blackberry. It was an awkward, somewhat ribald speech that will be tough for anybody to top in terms of awkwardness and length. Even Michael Jordan couldn't stand the awkwardness and walked out in disgust.
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