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.
Eventually, Major League Baseball was smart enough to catch up to Teddy Ballgame's progressive views and attempted to make amends for their institutionalized racism by inducting many Negro League greats into Cooperstown, but at the time, it was uncomfortable to be in the audience.
14 John Smotlz
John Smotlz is a great pitcher, who currently holds the honor of being the only player in MLB history to recover from Tommy John surgery and earn induction to the Baseball Hall of Fame. However, he took the opportunity to warn young players and their parents of the dangers of year round baseball and the alarming normalcy that young players undergo Tommy John surgery. Smoltz encouraged young players to take up multiple sports in order to make themselves well rounded athletes, which probably did not sit well with many scouts and youth development executives. Despite the warnings, he managed to inject humor into his speech throughout and even donned a wig when speaking about his time playing with Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux in Atlanta.
13 Terry Bradshaw
Terry Bradshaw is an enormous character, so much so that Hollywood has come calling on him multiple times to appear in television and movie roles. He also has a weekly television appearance on CBS' NFL studio show, but his 1989 Hall of Fame Induction occurred long before that. Bradshaw's speech was fantastic. He gave a tearful homage to the late Art Rooney and managed to whip the attending Steelers fans into frenzy. However, his speech was not without a particularly cringeworthy moment during which Bradshaw joked, "What I wouldn't give right now to put my hands under Mike Webster's butt just one more time." Sure enough, at Webster's induction in 1997, they two did just that, with Bradshaw receiving one final snap from his center.
12 The Ultimate Warrior
Throughout his career, The Ultimate Warrior performed with an incredible intensity and passion that was apparent to anybody that witnessed him step into the squared circle. He spoke about the demands of the road and the deleterious effects that it could have on a wrestler's body. While this is typical of WWE Hall of Fame speeches, The Ultimate Warrior made numerous references to the end. He said, "No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man's heart one day beats its final beat; his lungs breathe their final breath...And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others and makes them believe deeper in something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit will be immortalized by the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory." Three days after giving this speech, Hellwig died suddenly of a heart attack, in hindsight giving the whole affair a cringe-inducing feel.
11 Dick Bavetta
NBA fans are familiar with the league's tarnished reputation when it comes to officiating. Despite allegations of fixing games circulating since 2002 and accusations from Tim Donaghy surrounding several games he officiated, Dick Bavetta was enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015. Bavetta was a steadfast servant to the game of basketball, officiating in over 2,600 consecutive games. However, he chose to highlight his lack of favor with the fans for the first three minutes of his speech as he prompted the gathered crowd to deliver the insulting chant of "Oh no! Bad call! Get a job!" The resulting chant was awkward, forced, and undeniably cringeworthy. Dick probably should have consulted with his friend Charles Barkley before delivering his opening joke.
10 Michael Irvin
Michael Irvin's speech at the 2007 NFL Hall of Fame Induction was not very over the top and was an accurate reflection of the man that Cowboys fans grew to love over his tenure with the team. Irvin had a fairly routine Hall of Fame speech, thanking God and the influential people in his life that helped him have such a productive football career. The speech also referenced the numerous indiscretions that took place throughout his career, but the real cringe worthy moment occurred when Irvin told a joke about his Hall of Fame blazer. Irvin apparently refused to take the jacket off, even when making love to his wife because, "I wanted to perform like a Hall of Famer on and off the field."
9 Mr. Met
When Mr. Met was inducted into the Mascot Hall of Fame in 2007 thanks to a fan vote, the beloved mascot of New York's second favorite baseball team wanted to thank his many fans. Being a mascot incapable of displaying emotion or violating the mascot code by verbally communicating with fans, Mr. Met chose a different route to deliver his acceptance speech, he used cue cards. On the display screen at old Shea Stadium, Mr. Met delivered his "speech," but somehow forgot to thank his better half, Mrs. Met. Mr. Met is now celebrated in the same fashion as Brutus Buckeye and the immortal Phillie Phanatic.
8 Gary Bettman's Lockout Speech
The summer of 2012 was a tumultuous time for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. The league was in the midst of a lockout, the third of Bettman's tenure as commissioner. Despite being universally despised by hockey fans, Bettman proceeded to make an appearance at the 2012 Hall of Fame Induction to deliver a speech full of empty platitudes and compliments, while the camera cut around the audience to find several prominent hockey figures glaring back. Mercifully, after two minutes, Bettman cut himself off and left the stage to the lukewarm applause that he has no doubt grown to favor over a deafening chorus of boos.
7 Joe Torre
Joe Torre is undoubtedly one of the greatest managers in the history of baseball. As the skipper of the Yankees, he led the team to an era of pennants and World Series titles. His Hall of Fame speech was overall a fitting tribute to the career he had as a player and manager. He was humorous and gracious throughout, making light of several situations, but his speech did run a bit long at 27 minutes. What makes this speech amazing and cringe worthy at the same time is that he somehow managed to almost completely ignore the contributions of George Steinbrenner. Few figures in Yankee history have had such an enormous impact on the club, and to forget The Boss is almost unforgivable.
6 Jerry Rice
There is no question that Jerry Rice is the greatest wide receiver to ever play the sport of football. He has many records that will likely never be surpassed and was a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame on his first ballot in 2010. His speech started with a joke about black and blue socks, that wasn't actually funny and he continued with a rookie rhetorical move, where he proceeded to read his speech. By reading his speech verbatim, it had an awkward cadence and undersold several accomplishments and stories that would have otherwise been well received. Ironically, Rice's speech could have used a bit of the preparation and practice that made him such a legendary route runner.
5 Rod Woodson
Rod Woodson had a legendary NFL career that was full of frustrating opposing quarterbacks and delivering vicious blows to the receivers he was tasked with covering. Many athletes take their induction speech as an opportunity to thank God and Jesus as their lord and savior. That's perfectly fine and normal, however quoting scripture and interpreting it is probably better suited for an environment like church, rather than a field in Canton, Ohio. In the end, his speech ended up being more reminiscent of a homily gone far too long rather than the thankful Hall of Fame acceptance speech that it began as.
4 Hulk Hogan's Speech for Macho Man Randy Savage
During their amazing wrestling careers, both Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage made their share of enemies, perhaps most notably each other. The two enjoyed a rivalry that extended beyond the mat, with many including Bret Hart, suggesting that the two had a genuine dislike for each other. With all that being considered, it didn't make much sense for Savage's Hall of Fame Induction to begin with an introduction from his fierce rival Hogan. Thankfully, after a few minutes of Hogan waxing poetic and washing over their past disputes, Randy's brother Lanny took the stage to give a whimsical and poetic speech that served a much more fitting tribute to the high flying superstar.
3 Tex Winter
Tex Winter is an enormous figure in the world of basketball, best known for pioneering the triangle offense. On his eighth and final appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot, he was voted into the ranks of the Hall and chose to have his son Chris speak on his behalf. Perhaps a physicist may not have been the greatest choice for an induction speech, because Chris' speech can be accurately described as awkward. Tex's speech had been affected by a 2009 stroke, but he still managed to speak up to attempt to prompt his son to wrap up the speech. Not even signals from family members in the crowd could deter the determined physicist from finishing his cringe worthy 11-minute monologue.
2 Ryne Sandberg
Baseball Hall of Fame speeches are typically free from acrimonious accusations although there is always a certain amount of grandstanding. Sandberg chose to go a different route by making numerous references to respect for the game of baseball. The former Cubs second basemen chose to speak out against the use of steroids in the game among the current generations of players. He hammered his point home numerous times; speaking about the sacrifices he made for his love of the game and even took a thinly-veiled shot at Sammy Sosa for being a prominent steroid user in an era of steroid users. Overall, the speech sounded like a lecture from an uncle that made sure to remind you how much harder things were back in the day.
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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