Emotions got the better of the inductees at the Cardinals Hall of Fame ceremony Saturday at Ballpark Village.
Both Ray Lankford and Vince Coleman, the two living inductees along with Harry Brecheen, had to stop to fight back tears during their speeches.
“Just in that moment, you get a little emotional,” Lankford said. “It was just a great feeling to be up there. It’s like the old days with the fans out there cheering for you. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
“I knew I would cry,” Coleman said. “I remember a month ago starting to write out the speech and I started crying then. And then as I was going over my speech, I always shed a tear.”
The ceremony brought out Baseball Hall of Famers Tony La Russa, Bob Gibson, Whitey Herzog, Bruce Sutter, Ozzie Smith and Lou Brock and Cardinals Hall of Famers Chris Carpenter, Mike Shannon and Willie McGee. The ceremony was preceded by a moment of silence for late Hall of Famer Red Schoendienst, who had some connection with everyone on the stage.
The entire process has been a big deal for the family of Brecheen, who played his last game with the Cardinals in 1953 and died in 2004. He won three of the four games for the Cardinals in the 1946 World Series and still is in the top 10 in franchise history in wins (128), ERA (2.91) and shutouts (25) but isn’t well known today. Brecheen was represented by his only child, Steven, 63.
“I’m old, my father quite a bit older, and a lot of the people today don’t know him,” he said. “When he was playing you could say ‘Harry the Cat’ and you don’t have to give a last name and they’d know who you’re talking about.
“There’s a lot of guys now who are 75, 80 years old who say ‘I remember your dad playing. I used to listen to him on the radio.’ But you have to be that old. When they called, it was kind of a shock. I’m glad people remember, look back and see what he did. It’s a great honor for the family.”
While both Coleman and Lankford mentioned a lot of players as being instrumental in their development, one person they both paid tribute to was legendary instructor George Kissell.
“He touched a lot of lives,” Lankford said. “A lot of players owe a lot to George. He was one of those guys who took a lot of pride in what he did. He had a lot of knowledge, and we soaked it up.”