Acknowledged as one of baseball’s greatest hitters, Ted Williams was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on July 24, 1966. At his speech during the induction ceremonies at Cooperstown, Williams said:“Inside the building are plaques to baseball men of all generations. I’m proud to join them. Baseball gives every American boy a chance to excel. Not just to be as good as someone else, but to be better than someone else. This is the nature of man and the nature of the game. And I’ve been a very lucky guy to have worn a baseball uniform, and I hope someday the names of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson in some way can be added as a symbol of the Negro players who are not here only because they weren’t given a chance.”
Williams knew that there had been Negro League players who deserved Hall of Fame recognition. It was a fact that could not go much longer being ignored. The only African American players in the Hall of Fame at that time were Jackie Robinson (inducted in 1962) and Roy Campanella (inducted in 1969). Both got their start in Negro League baseball, but were inducted based on their tremendous success in the Major Leagues.Five years after Williams made his speech, the Hall of Fame began opening its doors to the great players of the Negro Leagues. Satchel Paige was inducted in 1971. Josh Gibson, Buck Leonard, and Monte Irvin were inducted in 1972.