Dick Vitale didn't really need the microphone to be heard at the Little League Baseball World Series. He didn't even need to keep speaking, as his words actually trailed him upon leaving the field.
Vitale and airline executive Ron Ricks were inducted into Little League's Hall of Excellence during a pregame infield ceremony Saturday evening at Lamade Stadium.
The 73-year-old ESPN college basketball announcer thanked Little League and his most important team - his family - before accepting the award from former LL Board President and ESPN Executive Dennis Lewin.
Vitale then returned to the microphone, which had been shut off, to throw more platitudes to the crowd but he couldn't be heard by everyone until his microphone came back on. It was just in time for Vitale to deliver his trademark line, "Williamsport is awesome baby, with a capital A!"
He then walked off the infield, award in hand, as the stadium public address started up its canned recording of Vitale saying "Are you ready?" to get the crowd focused on the upcoming Parsippany, N.J., vs. Gresham, Ore., game.
Vitale's appearance almost felt overdue after the fact, as he represents an intersection of sports and entertainment that ESPN strives for in its name with college basketball and the Little League World Series.
He played Little League in Garfield, N.J., where he told reporters earlier Saturday how his uncles once chastised the umpires after a late single ruined a perfect game where he struck out 15 of the first 17 batters. They were the same uncles, he said between pauses to fight back tears, who took him to Yankee Stadium when he was 5 and helped him get interested in sports through arguments with his father over Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.
"But then they came back and said 'It doesn't matter Ricky, you were great.' They always called me Ricky," Vitale said.
But then, just as quickly, Vitale recalled a recent message from ESPN colleague Jay Bilas, who reminded him he couldn't catch, throw or hit, yet was going into a Little League Hall of Excellence that also includes President George W. Bush, Vice President Joe Biden, plus Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Tom Selleck and other personalities.
"This is my 11th Hall of Fame. I've got a body of linguine," said Vitale, who also is in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. "If it can happen to me, it can happen to you."
Vitale spoke with some of the teams after arriving Saturday morning, telling them life was pretty simple: make good decisions and good things will happen. Make bad ones and bad ones will happen.
"Man, you get 40,000 people here, look at that hill, it's unbelievably exciting," Vitale said. "You know, what impressed me, on TV I always thought it was easier to hit a home run but to stand out here, 225 is a long way for a 12-year-old kid.
"Carolina-Duke is special, but I'll tell you this - if my grandson is playing in this game, no Carolina-Duke can match that," Vitale added.
Ricks spoke first during Saturday's ceremony. He now is an executive with Southwest Airlines, the busiest in the U.S., and a 31-year employee. Before that, he played in the 1962 Little League World Series for the South Region champions from Del Rio, Texas.
"When I hear the phrase 'Field of Dreams' it's here and now in Williamsport, Pennsylvania," Ricks said. "And so for Little League Baseball I say, as the old song goes, thanks for the memories now and again."
Heartfelt to be sure, but also an opening act for the main event before Saturday's game. Vitale ended his speech thanking the network still in its infancy when it gave him a chance in broadcasting after he was fired from coaching.
"They took me at a low point, and soon I'm doing my first big-time college basketball game on ESPN," Vitale said. "I said 'ESPN? It sounds like a disease. And if it is a disease, I'm proud it got a hold of me.' "