News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

June 8, 2014

Finally, a chance to speak

53 years later Tommy John allowed to give high school valedictory speech

TERRE HAUTE — Fifty-three years ago, baseball legend Tommy John was denied the opportunity to give a valedictory speech at Gerstmeyer High School because he stuttered.

Today, that wrong will be made right. John will deliver a speech during the Terre Haute North Vigo High School commencement, which starts at 1 p.m. He will speak as the valedictorian of his 1961 graduating class.

He will offer advice and share some thoughts based on his own experiences, in baseball and in life. He’ll tell 2014 graduates to always remember their roots and where they came from — because in the end, that’s who they’ll always be.

John tells people he’s from Terre Haute, and proud of it.

He’ll talk about overcoming adversity, which tends to bring out personal qualities and strengths people never knew they had.

In an interview Friday, John said he hasn’t dwelled on what happened in 1961. “I forgot about it the next day,” he said. As soon as he graduated, he began his career in professional baseball.

But delivering that commencement speech — even 53 years late — is important to him “because I earned it,” he said. He had a 3.9 cumulative grade-point average and was at the top of his class. When he graduated, he had already signed with the Cleveland Indians and received a $40,000 signing bonus — which was written on his transcript.

The student record also has a quote that John would “stutter when trying to talk too fast.”

He did deliver the invocation for his 1961 high school graduation. “I didn’t stutter on that,” he said. They weren’t allowed to use note cards and everything had to be memorized. At first, “I forgot it [the invocation poem]. Then, I winged it,” he said.

John said he continued to stutter through his baseball career, but after his playing days ended, he decided to go into broadcasting. “If you want to beat something, you gotta go to the fight,” he said.

Eventually, he stopped stuttering, and today, he’s a motivational speaker. How did he overcome it?

He stopped worrying about it, he said.

When he was younger, he was very cognizant of his speech impairment and worried that he had to be perfect. “That was probably the worst thing that happened to me,” he said.

When he stuttered as a child and kids made fun of him, “the more they made fun of me,  the more I tried not to stutter, and the more I stuttered,” he said.

His parents never had the money to send him to speech therapy and back then, it wasn’t offered in schools.

But at a certain point in his life, he didn’t worry about being perfect anymore. He decided, “I am who I am … If you like me, you like me. If you don’t like me because I stutter, well that’s too bad.”

He offers words of encouragement to others who may have speech disorders. “If you do, you still are who you are. It doesn’t make you less or more, you are who you are. You just have a speech impediment. Just strive to be better,” he said.

Those challenges can be overcome. “If I could, anyone could,” he said.

The opportunity to give his valedictorian speech arose late last year when the Terre Haute Parks Department honored John by naming as “Tommy John Field” the neighborhood baseball diamond where he had played his last non-professional game. In town for the ceremony, he gave a speech in which he mentioned what had happened in 1961.

When Danny Tanoos, Vigo County schools superintendent, heard about the decades-old snub, he became very upset. “He was discriminated against as a student,” Tanoos said. The school system back then didn’t treat John appropriately.

Tanoos decided to offer John the opportunity he didn’t have 53 years ago — to deliver a valedictory speech as part of Terre Haute North Vigo’s commencement.

John had lived on the north side and would have attended North Vigo if he had been in high school when it opened.

Tanoos said he apologized to John for what the school system did in 1961. It was an emotional moment, Tanoos said.

“Every once in a while in this job I have a chance to right a wrong,” Tanoos said. John thanked him for the invitation to speak, and what Tanoos saw was a sense of relief and healing.

John is looking forward to giving the speech, which he promises will be “short and sweet  … I hope the kids like it.”

He’ll pass along some advice his father gave him many years ago. He’ll talk to graduates about how to reach their goals. He’ll talk about adversity and how to overcome it. “You gain strength through adversity,” John Wooden once told him.

This weekend, John has been visiting with friends and planned to attend a reception at Rick’s Smokehouse on Saturday. He also made time to visit his parents’ graves at Roselawn Memorial Park.

John is a Major League pitching legend. His 288 pitching victories rank as the seventh-highest total among left-handers in major league history. His career spanned three decades and six teams, and his groundbreaking elbow surgery in 1974 changed the game for future pitchers.

But it all started in Terre Haute — a place John is proud to call his hometown.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
  • MET 072514 WWI 01MORAHN.jpg Postcards from the war front

    A native of France, Marie Decleir saw humanity at its worst as she experienced the death and destruction caused by World War I, which began 100 years ago today.

    July 27, 2014 2 Photos

  • MET 072714 NASCAR STEIG.jpg Watching Gordon make history

    As race car drivers competed on the track on Sunday in Indianapolis, racing fans in Terre Haute gathered around television screens and watched history unfold during the “Crown Royal Presents, The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard.”

    July 27, 2014 3 Photos

  • STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Inept amid partisan fury

    Retired Congressman Lee Hamilton has warned of the perils of political ideology, calling the body where he spent 34 years “noxiously partisan.” Now, he worries the divide is downright dangerous.

    July 27, 2014

  • Restaurant Inspections: July 28, 2014

    July 7-11

    July 27, 2014

  • MET 072514 I-70 CONE.jpg Caution zone

    Travel the interstate at your own risk.

    July 26, 2014 5 Photos

  • Earl Elliott report1 copy.jpg Report: City‘s general fund to remain in red

    The city’s general fund balance on June 30 remained deep in the red, even after Terre Haute received its twice-yearly property tax check from the state.

    July 26, 2014 6 Photos

  • MET 072314 INTERN 01MILLER.jpg Interns, getting foot in the door, bring diversity to workplace

    Shanya Tompkins interviewed with Coldwell Banker-Troy Helman Realtors, anticipating an eight-week, part-time summer internship.

    July 26, 2014 5 Photos

  • MET072514dance porter.jpg Everybody get up and dance now

    National Dance Day promotes dancing as part of a healthy, active lifestyle.

    July 26, 2014 4 Photos

  • Pendergast.jpg Man arrested after rollover kills teen girl

    A Terre Haute man has been arrested and a teenager has died following an alcohol-related accident early today.

    July 26, 2014 2 Photos

  • MET072514 invenadamson step.jpg ‘Minds-on camp’

    Sylvia Ann Adamson longed for privacy, so she invented a solution to that problem at “Camp Invention.”

    July 25, 2014 5 Photos

  • Linda Tincher.jpg Riley lion’s roar goes global

    Linda L. Tincher has become the first woman from Indiana elected to serve as an international director for Lions Clubs International. She was chosen earlier this month during the clubs’ 97th international convention in Toronto, Canada.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • MET072514 SPPRAK glasses.jpg Kindness ‘undercover’

    Hundreds of people gathered at Bob Warn Field at Sycamore Stadium on Friday for a night of baseball, music, the “Green Man” and green shades.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Residents ‘stuff the bus’ with pencils, notebooks, backpacks

    After exiting a Wal-Mart store in Clinton, Roger E. Richardson stopped his shopping cart Friday in front of a large yellow South Vermillion School Corporation bus.

    July 25, 2014

  • Man faces 9 charges in homicide case

    A Solsberry man faces nine criminal charges related to a July 18 homicide and rape in rural Greene County.

    July 25, 2014 1 Story

  • maroon truck.jpg UPDATE: Rockville man dies after head-on collision

    A Rockville man has died from injuries he sustained this afternoon in a two-vehicle, head-on crash on U.S. 41 north of Lyford.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • red truck.jpg Head-on crash leaves Rockville man seriously injured

    A Rockville man was air-lifted to an Indianapolis hospital with serious injuries this afternoon following a two-vehicle crash on U.S. 41 north of Lyford.

    July 25, 2014 2 Photos

  • Vigo County Jail Log: July 25, 2014

    The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Thursday and Friday, based on jail records.

    July 25, 2014

  • Measles case confirmed in Central Indiana

    INDIANAPOLIS — State health officials have confirmed a case of measles in Central Indiana. The Indiana State Department of Health is working with local health departments and health care providers to identify additional cases of measles, and to prevent further transmission of the disease.

    July 25, 2014

  • Fast food workers prepare to escalate wage demands

    CHICAGO (AP) — Fast food workers say they’re prepared to escalate their campaign for higher wages and union representation, starting with a national convention in suburban Chicago where more than 1,000 workers will discuss the future of the effort that has spread to dozens of cities in less than two years.

    July 25, 2014

  • 4 doctors arrested after Indiana clinic raids

    CARMEL, Ind. (AP) — Authorities say four doctors have been arrested on charges of improperly prescribing a drug used to treat painkiller addiction from several Indiana offices.

    July 25, 2014

  • holiday world thunderbird.jpg Holiday World plans new winged roller coaster

    SANTA CLAUS, Ind. (AP) — The Holiday World amusement park in southern Indiana is building a new $22 million roller coaster that it says will launch riders to 60 miles an hour in 3.5 seconds, with a 14-story loop and four inversions.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Indianapolis pulls future support for Amtrak line

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — City officials in Indianapolis have cast the future of an Amtrak passenger line between Indianapolis and Chicago into doubt after deciding not to provide any additional money to subsidize that line.

    July 25, 2014

  • Pence leading annual governor’s motorcycle ride

    INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov. Mike Pence is leading the annual governor’s motorcycle ride from the Statehouse through southern Indiana.

    July 25, 2014

  • State asks judge to delay right-to-work ruling

    CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) — The Indiana attorney general’s office has asked a judge to put on hold his order striking down the state’s right-to-work law.

    July 25, 2014

  • MET 072414 HOESS 01KOR.jpg Voices from Auschwitz: Ties that bind

    A message that has spread like wildfire across Europe can easily translate to America.

    July 24, 2014 4 Photos 1 Story

  • Minimum wage frozen after 5 years

    Thursday marked the fifth anniversary since the federal minimum wage was increased, a wage U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez contends should again be raised.

    July 24, 2014

  • MET072414 CANDLES shake.jpg ISU, CANDLES join to ‘illuminate the world’

    Indiana State University and CANDLES Holocaust Museum are joining forces to educate current and future generations about the Holocaust, genocide and related issues.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos 1 Story

  • MET072414 JA hadley.jpg 50 years later, still business as usual

    Junior Achievement of the Wabash Valley marked its 50th anniversary hosting a luau Thursday at the Ohio Building in Terre Haute.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Two semis collide; one driver injured

    A semi-trailer driver from North Carolina was airlifted to Methodist Hospital Thursday after his vehicle collided with another tractor-trailer on Interstate 70 in far western Vigo County.

    July 24, 2014

  • Valley talent returns for show tonight

    Local musical collective Lunes Domingo is scheduled to be back at The Verve tonight to perform the last installment of its 2014 series.

    July 24, 2014

Latest News Poll
AP Video
Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Palestinians and Israeli Soldiers Clash Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma Raw: Violent Clashes Between Libyan Militias Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Video Shows Smiling American Bomber in Syria Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Sirens After Explosions in Israel Fox Dons 'Bondage Strap' Skirt at Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage
NDN Video
Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010