27 March 2010, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
Thank you very much. Thank you Richie (Dick Ebersol), long time friend. I had a lot to say but that (Antonio) Inoki guy (who spoke in Japanese) said the same stuff I was going to say. I was back there saying, ‘What’s he doing? He stole my stuff.’
Anyway, I wasn’t always a great player. People say, ‘You talk the way you do because you were always a great ballplayer.’ Well, I wasn’t. Actually, the first sport I tried when I was a youngster was football. My dad didn’t know a lot about sports but he wanted me to do what all the other kids were doing. He gets me this football. We were passing it and trying to kick it. I couldn’t throw it. He can’t throw it. We were really getting aggravated and stuff like that. Then a nice-enough neighbor came over and put some air in it, and it made a huge difference.
Actually, I took an interest in wrestling, in high school. I wasn’t a very big guy. I was about 5-11. I weighed, I don’t know, maybe 75, 80 pounds. A couple guys used to wear my supporter as a wristband. I came from a family that didn’t have a lot of money. My mother made my supporter out of a flour sack. Little specks of flower came dropping out of it. In the front, it said ‘Pillsbury’s Best.’
I signed for a very modest $3,000 bonus with the Braves, which aggravated my old man because he didn’t have that kind of money to put out. But the Braves took it and from there I went on. I was with the Braves, twice actually because they didn’t believe I was so bad the first time. The second time, I proved it.
I played for the St. Louis Cardinals, where I won a world championship in 1964. Bing Devine was the general manager of the Cardinals at that time. He asked me to do him a favor that would really help the club. I said, ‘Sure, I’m a team guy.’ He said, ‘We want to inject you with hepatitis. That will allow us to call somebody up to take your spot.’ I said, ‘Can I sit on the bench?’ He said, ‘Yeah, we’ll put a plastic thing around you. Maybe you can go over and shake hands with some of the Yankee players and infect them.’ We went on to win the World Championship that year.
Tonight, I wore my Hall of Fame ring from wrestling. They gave everybody one from the WWE, thank you very much. All the other wrestlers got a diamond. I got a zircon. And theirs is not adjustable like mine. At the awarding of the championship rings the following year, that’s what every player’s dream is, a world championship. I remember opening night in St. Louis, 1965, they’re presenting the rings and they threw mine out in left field. I found it and put it on. Nobody else got theirs thrown. They had to hand it to them (shrugs).
I set a lot of records. I never stole a base in the major leagues. I never attempted to steal a base in the major leagues. I showed up for every game, which I thought showed great team spirit. The ones I didn’t show up for, I always tried to catch on the radio.
Meeting (NBC Sports and Entertainment Chairman) Dick Ebersol a long time ago. Midnight Special. Saturday Night Live. All those shows through Richie I participated in. When he called me about wrestling, I didn’t really want to do it. I was doing baseball. Spring training was when Wrestlemania III was going to take place in Detroit. I kept telling him no but he came out there and we finally agreed to do it, and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.
I remember going to Los Angeles to do the promotion stuff. It was Hulk Hogan, (Andre) the Giant, (Bobby) the Brain (Heenan), Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, who coincidentally said, ‘Uke, why don’t you take a picture with Damian?’ I said, ‘Who’s Damian.’ He said, ‘He’s in the bag.’ I said, ‘So am I. Give me a couple more beers.’ So he took the snake out and I put him around me. He said, ‘Don’t worry. He’s big and he's strong.’ He got his tail around my leg hee and I’m holding him and I’m looking at Jake and he’s got this huge scar right here (on his chest). I said, ‘What is that?’ He said, ‘That’s where Damian bit me.’ I said, ‘Oh, what a great time that must be. I hope he bites me, too.’
I remember the one thing with Jake with Donald Trump’s wife, Ivana. He put that snake down at her feet and she left Wrestlemania so fast, she just left Donald there and she ain't seen him since, I guess.
We did the promotional stuff. I got to work with Mary Hart. Beautiful lady, great sport and all that. When we go to Detroit to do the show, I’m having the time of my life. And when the Giant came out and choked me, and let me go, I didn’t know he was going to do that. I really didn’t. I was supposed to talk about Vanna White. He didn’t care about Vanna White. He wanted to kill somebody. When he choked me and let me go, now if the camera stays on, you see me on top of Andre. Oh yeah. Vince McMahon was screaming, ‘Get off him. He’s got a match.’ I got him in a step-over toe hold, I don’t really know what it was. It wasn’t all Andre. I remember later on, when I was changing underwear (laughter)… I wasn't going to let that guy get away with that.
As I said earlier, some of the greatest times I’ve had in sports, entertainment, anything else, was to be around Richie, Vince McMahon and all these wrestling greats. The old-timers back there, back when I wrestled, I think got more interested in wrestling, when I was 8 or 9 years old, my mother started taking in wrestler’s laundry to make a couple extra bucks. I remember taking Dick ‘The Bruiser’s’ tights and putting them on. They were tight, nice. He came in the booth one day. I was doing play by play, imitating Dick ‘The Bruiser.’ (Gruff voice) Swing and a miss, struck him out. One day he came in and said, ‘Let’s see if you think you’re funny now.’ He was a football player with the Green Bay Packers, Dick ‘The Bruiser.’ All the wrestlers that came to Milwaukee in those years wrestled at the (indistinguishable) Hall. I started becoming a wrestling fan. I got a kick out of that. I still do today. Unbelievably strong, athletic. It reminds me of myself when I was younger.
When I look back, I was a right-handed-hitting, strikeout artist. Sooner or later, I was going to hit .200. It tied me with another sports great, Don Carter, one of our top bowlers. To have been a member of baseball team, to broadcast baseball today, to mess around with television shows and movies and all of this stuff, and tonight especially to be here with you. When I walked in here tonight and looked around, I said, ‘Man, this pace is jam packed.’ I know it will be tomorrow, too, for Wrestlemania. I'll be there, too.
Anyway, I wanted to thank you for your time tonight and patience. To all the members of the WWE, like I said before, great athletes, unbelievable entertainment. I don’t know how you guys do it, I really don’t All the body punches you take. That’s why I didn’t want to play and get hurt. Getting a hit once a month was OK. Hitting .200, that was OK. If you did more, they’d expect more of you. One hit a year, let’s leave it at that. Anyway, thank you very much for your time. Thank you."