Ted Williams, ahead of his time, said at Cooperstown in 1966: "I hope that someday, the names of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson in some way can be added as a symbol of the great Negro players who were not here only because they were not given a chance."
Ernie Banks stood in front of assembled Hall of Famers in 1977 and began his speech by saying, "We've got the setting, sunshine, fresh air, the team behind us -- so let's play two!"
Harmon Killebrew was choked up in 1984 when he said he wished his father were there to see his induction. The Killer, whose passing two months ago leaves a void now, told the crowd, "I love baseball, and I consider this baseball's greatest honor."
That "greatest honor" will be conferred Sunday upon 12-time All-Star Roberto Alomar, 287-game winner Bert Blyleven and World Series champion-builder Pat Gillick -- the Class of 2011 inductees at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. MLB.com and MLB Network will provide full coverage beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET, including a live simulcast of the 1:30 p.m. ET ceremony, televised for the third consecutive year by MLB Network.
Start off with MLB.com video previews highlighting the participants. Explore a wealth of induction speech video excerpts -- including the one in 1994 when Phil Rizzuto said: "You're lucky that I don't have to go through all the pennants and World Series that the Yankees won -- I'd be here till next Wednesday."
MLB.com's simulcast of the pre-ceremony show, live from MLB Network studios and hosted by Greg Amsinger, along with with Hall of Fame voters Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci, will begin at 12:30 p.m. ET. That show will feature interviews by Bob Costas with Alomar, Blyleven and Gillick, live interviews with guests on-site and highlights from the Hall of Fame Parade of Legends.
MLB.com columnist Peter Gammons, a 2004 inductee into the baseball writers' wing, joins with Harold Reynolds and Matt Vasgersian for live coverage from Cooperstown, including interviews with Hall of Famers in attendance and special features on this year's inductees.
The ceremony starts with each inductee's acceptance speech, an appearance by Commissioner Bud Selig, followed by introductions of an expected 49 returning Hall of Famers, including Hank Aaron, George Brett and Sandy Koufax.
Hall of Fame voters Hal Bodley and Barry M. Bloom will anchor MLB.com coverage up to and throughout the ceremony.
Coverage begins with MLB.com simulcasting MLB Network's airing of the 2011 Hall of Fame Awards Presentation at 11:30 a.m. ET. The presentation, which will be held Saturday, will honor longtime Expos and Marlins announcer Dave Van Horne, who will receive the Ford C. Frick Award for major contributions to baseball broadcasting; Philadelphia Daily News national baseball columnist Bill Conlin, who will receive the J.G. Taylor Spink Award; and veteran baseball executive Roland Hemond, who will receive the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award.
The induction ceremony also will be available on MLB Network in Puerto Rico, as well as simulcast throughout Canada on Rogers Sportsnet.
Founded in 1936, the Hall of Fame welcomed its first class that year, opening its doors to the public three years later. Today, it is a multimedia blast, and the common thread is the induction speech itself -- sometimes transcending baseball, usually emotionally -- and is often unforgettable.
"It's incredibly exciting," Hall president Jeff Idelson said. "I've been a baseball fan since I could walk. This is my 25th year in baseball overall, 17 with the Hall of Fame, and every year the Hall of Fame continues to evolve. Part of that is the way we develop exhibits, and part is honoring those who were the greatest at their craft."