Hall of Fame

Roland Glen Fingers – Induction Speech

Cooperstown, NY

August 2, 1992

Source: Baseball Hall of Fame

Mr. Commissioner, Hall of Famers, invited guests, baseball fans, if it seems I’m a little nervous right now, I am because I’m not used to starting things, if you know what I mean. (laughter)

As I look at this plaque with my likeness, this handlebar mustache, I know that a hundred years from now there will be a ten year old boy go up to his dad and say, ‘Hey dad, they messed up on this. Shouldn’t this say 1892 instead of 1992? (laughter) I know it’s going to happen.

There are several people who have had a lot to do with me being here today. Unfortunately, there’s one who cannot be here, my dad. He passed away about a year and a half ago. He was my coach. He taught me everything he knew about the game. He taught me how to pitch. He would have loved to have been here today but somehow I know that he is.

Rollie Fingers was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1992. (National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

I’d like to tell you a story about him and me. When I was about eight years old, I went over to my neighbor’s house and there was no one home at the time and I found a book of matches and I started playing with these matches. Well, the next thing I knew the bedroom was on fire. Yes, well as I sat there and watched the fire department putting out the fire, I realized what a terrible thing I had done. My dad was at work and when he got home from work my mother told him what I had done and I was up in my bedroom and I heard his steps coming up the stairway to my room. Well I knew I was going to get it. But instead he kinda surprised me. He didn’t spank me, he didn’t yell at me. He said, ‘Come with me.’ So down the stairs we went, outside to my dad’s old Dodge, and down towards town we started driving. Well he pulled up in front of the Sheriff’s station and I didn’t know what he was going to do there and we went indoors into the Sheriff’s station. He knew the Sheriff in town, they were real good friends, and the next thing I know we were walking down the hall to one of the cells. I was eight years old now, so my dad he puts me in the cell. The Sheriff opens it and he puts me in and he leaves me there for three hours. Well for those three hours it seemed like three years. Now you might think this is a cruel thing to do to an eight-year-old boy but you have to really know my dad. He had his way of doing things and he had his way of getting his point across and on that day he did three things. First of all he scared the hell out of me. Second, I never, ever played with matches again and thirdly, I gained a whole lot of respect for him that day because of the way he handled it. (applause) And it’s kind of ironic that for seventeen years in the big leagues my job was putting out fires (laughter) not starting them.

There are several people that I would like to acknowledge today. One of course is the scout who signed me in 1964 at Christmas eve, Art Lilly. Another gentlemen, a sports writer from Chicago, who in 1969 created a new statistic. This statistic is now known today as the save. This statistic helped revolutionize relief pitching. It gave relief pitchers a gauge to show how their, how successful they were during a season and every relief pitcher owes a whole lot of thanks to this gentlemen. I’d like to thank the Lambert Company and Rolaids for their involvement in relief pitching (laughter). Believe me their creation of the Fireman of the Year Award, which is probably the most prestigious award a relief pitcher can win. It gave relief pitchers something to shoot for.

I learned a lot from watching and in 1970 I had the opportunity to sit in the bullpen with a guy who was on his way out of the game. He had some great years with Cleveland, Minnesota and he was our stopper in 1970 in the bullpen.

I had the chance to sit and talk with him and watch him pitch and watch him pitch and I learned a lot from this man and I’d like to thank him, Jim Grant. Thank you Jim. (applause)

In the seventeen years that I played, I had fifteen managers but there are a couple that I’d like to acknowledge. First of all, (laughter) Hank who in 1969 gave me my first shot at the big leagues. (applause) And secondly, a guy who along with my first pitching coach, Bill Posdell, came to me one day and said, ‘Son the only way you’re ever going to see the ninth inning is going to be as a relief pitcher because you’re never going to see it as a starter.

And he put me in the bullpen and when he did that he changed my whole career around because I was almost on my way out of baseball and he gave me confidence in myself to be able to do the job out there. And he did that by doing one thing and that was handing me the baseball day after day after day, and that was Dick Williams. Thank you Dick. (applause)

I’d like to thank the organizations that I played for, Bud Selig, the Milwaukee Brewers, the late Ray Kroc with the San Diego Padres and Charlie Finley with the Oakland A’s. (applause)

I found throughout my career that if you surround yourself with great ball players, great things are going to happen and there’s no doubt this has happened to me. Believe me, I had some great ballplayers around me but I had the opportunity to play for probably one of the best baseball teams in the last forty years, the Oakland A’s in the early 70′s. (applause) I lived and died with the double-play ball and I had probably one of the best double play combinations behind me in Bert Campaneris and Dick Green. I had a good solid third baseman in Sal Bando. I had two good glove men at first, Mike Hegan and Mike Epstein and in the outfield I had Reggie Jackson, Billy North and probably one of the best defensive left fielders to play behind me in Joe Rudi. (applause)

In Milwaukee, I had an All Star infield; Cecil Cooper, Jim Gantner, Robin Yount, Paul Molitor.

In San Diego, I had the opportunity to watch a young rookie come up and play shortstop, second base and third base all at the same time and he’s still doing it, Ozzie Smith. (applause) All of these players and many more the reason why I’m standing here today. These are the guys who made the plays. I couldn’t have done it without them.

I’m proud to be here and I’m proud of my accomplishments in the game of baseball. But I think I’m most proud of the position that I played, the relief pitcher, the short man, the stopper, the closer, the ace, the fireman. Whatever tag you want to throw on him that’s what I’m most proud of.

There have been sportswriters who have asked me how it feels to be the pioneer of relief pitching. Well, I’m far from being a pioneer. I’m not that old and there have been a lot of great relief pitchers long before me who had some outstanding years coming out of the bull pen. Johnny Murphy, Jim Konstanty, Joe Black, Elroy Face, Dick Radatz, Lindy McDaniel, Ron Perranoski, Hoyt Wilheim and who could ever forget what Larry Sherry did in the 1959 World Series when he was the Most Valuable Player. These are the pitchers that opened the door for the relief pitchers of my era. The Bruce Sutters, Sparky Lyles, the Goose Gossages, Kent Tekulves. Dan Quisenberrys, Tug McGraw’s, Darold Knowles. You’ve heard all of their names and the list is endless. Each and every one of these players had as much to do with the success and the recognition of relief pitching as I did. It’s just that I happen to be in the right place at the right time, and on the right ball club.

I’d like to introduce my mom, she’s here today. (applause) Mom I’d like to thank you for all your support. (applause) All those trips to the ball park. I’d like to thank my lovely wife, Susie, who has been my best friend. (applause) My kids Laurel, Jason, Amy, Tyler, Cory, Matthew that’s enough. (applause) I’d like to thank all my family and friends, aunts and uncles who traveled from all over the country to be here today, from Toronto, Ohio to Kukamunga, California where I grew up as a young kid playing baseball.

I’d also like to give special thanks to a couple of gentlemen here today who have gone out of their way to make this weekend go very smoothly for me and family, John Boggs and Andy Strasberg. (applause) I’d also like to congratulate the other inductees, Tom Seaver, Hal Newhouser, the late Al McGowan for their outstanding careers and their contribution to the game. It’s an honor for me to be going into the Hall of Fame with these gentlemen.

In closing, I’d like to say to every relief pitcher before me, every guy who ever had to sit in the bullpen, every guy who had to sit and wait for a phone call to ring and every guy who ever had to walk into a pressure situation, you all own a piece of this. You’re all winners and this day confirms it. Thank you.