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12 Incredible Stories from Eddie DeBartolo Jr.'s Hall of Fame Speech

Eddie DeBartolo Jr.'s hall of fame speech was pure gold. 

His 27 minutes on stage were spent telling jokes that landed perfectly, sharing heartfelt stories about his family and proving why he's a legendary owner, worthy of membership in football's most elite club.

Below are 12 of the best anecdotes from DeBartolo's time at the podium that are promised to be worth your time.

From all of us with 49ers Studios, we once again send out a massive congratulations to "Mr. D." on a well-deserved induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

1. Opening with jokes

DeBartolo began with a comment on how many fans in attendance were wearing Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers colors.

"I thought for a minute that I was at another NFC Championship game," he said. "I don't know about Joe Montana, but I think we could probably talk Brett Favre out of retirement." 

He also joked about his own height, acknowledging that he was so short that he needed to stand on a box to reach the microphone. The self-deprecation didn't stop there.

"I could be the only inductee of this great Hall who didn't make his high school football team," Debartolo said.

2. The "longest day" of his life

"Mr. D." explained that his most stressful moments during his 23-year tenure as the owner of the 49ers were on Oct. 17. 1989: The night of the big earthquake in San Francisco. Two of his three daughters, Lisa and Tiffanie, were driving to meet Dwight Clark and Montana at the World Series game. They had to take the Bay Bridge to get there, which collapsed during the quake.

"We couldn't reach them. None of the phones worked," DeBartolo shared. "All my dad and my wife and I could do was pray. About an hour later, we got a call from Dwight saying, 'All is well. We have the girls with us. They're safe. Thank God. They had already crossed the bridge.'

"To me, that was the greatest catch of Dwight Clark's career."

3. Hiring Bill Walsh

Walsh and DeBartolo met at the Fairmont Hotel, and the owner explained that it took only 15 minutes for him to know that he had his coach. "Mr. D." called Walsh a "gentle man," and explained how he changed the game with his West Coast offense.

"He tried to explain it to me a few times, but it was trying to teach physics to a two-year old," DeBartolo joked.

4. Drafting Joe Montana

DeBartolo graduated from Notre Dame and hardly needed to be sold on a quarterback from South Bend. That's how he described taking Montana in the third round of the 1979 NFL Draft. DeBartolo's reaction when he laid eyes on Montana the following day is what makes the story so great.

"I looked at him and almost fell over. He was a kid. He had a big Fu Manchu mustache," he reminisced. "He looked like he weighed about 170 pounds. He was listed at 6-foot-2, and he didn't look an inch past 6-foot. I said: 'Oh, dear God.'"

5. "The Catch"

Take a look at some of the best photos of one of the newest members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame: former 49ers Owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

The story about DeBartolo's vantage point for San Francisco's most iconic play in franchise history drew the biggest laugh of the night. No need to paraphrase this one…

"There was about a minute left and we were driving," DeBartolo explained. "I wanted to be on the field with the guys, so I went through the tunnel and out of the dugout. I was trying to see what was happening, but I was behind the biggest horse that you could ever imagine, with the police officer on him about 12 feet above me. Then I heard the screams of the crowd and looked up to the officer. He put his thump up and winked and said, 'Clark, touchdown.' That's how I found out. At our moment of glory, I was literally blocked by a horse's a--."

DeBartolo also shared that the goal post from that end zone sits permanently at his ranch in Montana.

6. Consoling Charles Haley

DeBartolo recalled a memory of when Haley was ejected from a game against the Bears in Chicago.

"I knew he'd be alone, so I went to the locker room to be with him," DeBartolo said. "He saw me and said, 'Hey, 'Mr. D.,' they ejected you, too?'"

7. Ribbing Jerry Rice

DeBartolo had Rice on his feet during the speech, wondering what he did to deserve being the butt of a few jokes.

The first crack at Rice was from his rookie season.

"He came to camp with this really high haircut, and the guys called him 'Fifi,'" DeBartolo divulged.

DeBartolo didn't stop there.

"Can I let you in on one secret, though? Do you know why Jerry looked so pretty on the field all the time?," DeBartolo asked the audience. "Because the man hated to be wet. He'd go into the locker room and change his uniform two or three times a game. And that's true."

8. Trading for Steve Young

"Mr. D." was at the happiest place on earth when the team made the move to get Young. He got on the phone from Disney World and made the trade.

9. Remembering Freddie Solomon

DeBartolo said that he was "devastated" that the late Solomon couldn't be in attendance and explained that the two of them became very close when they lived in Tampa Bay.

"I loved him with all my heart," He shared. "Until his very last breath, he dedicated himself to helping kids and I never met a man who cared so much about others."

10. The one thing worse than losing

Take a look at 2016 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee and former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.'s career with the San Francisco 49ers.

The owner couldn't stand to lose a player to injury. When a player left the game, "Mr. D." would as well, just to make sure that they were OK. That includes riding with them in an ambulance to the hospital.

DeBartolo shared that when Jeff Fuller lost the use of his arm while making a tackle, he felt obligated to take care of Fuller and his family for the rest of their lives. 

"Frankly, I think we could use a little bit more of that sense of family in the NFL today," he said.

That quote drew a standing ovation from the hall of famers on stage with him, the only time that happened throughout the entire ceremony.

11. Remembering Walsh

"Mr. D." still thinks about the legendary coach on a daily basis. He explained that he was with him "at the very end" at Stanford hospital.

"It meant so much to have those last few hours together, laughing and sharing old memories," DeBartolo said. "He told me that even though he wouldn't be there to see it, that he believed I would make it to this hall one day."

Walsh's intuition was right, and the coach put a plan in place before he passed in 2007. DeBartolo became aware of that plan the week after he was selected as a member of the hall's Class of 2016.

"I received a package in the mail from Bill's son, Craig," he said. "It was a small 49ers helmet with Bill's autograph and a note Bill wrote that said: 'I knew it was just a matter of time. Congratulations on your election. Love, Bill.'"

12. Remembering his parents

Like Walsh and Solomon, DeBartolo also wished that his parents could have been in Canton to share the special moment with him.

"Mr. D." explained that his father used to keep the 49ers first four Super Bowl rings in his coat pocket at all times, strung together by a rubber band. Unfortunately, his father passed before the 49ers won No. 5.

"I've never talked about this publicly, but when we got our fifth ring, we took it to my dad's final resting place, and it's with him to this day," DeBartolo said in his final story of the speech.

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