Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Hummel to Hall

In thinking about the election of Rick Hummel to the Writer's Wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame, I recall an incident in the fall of 1981. As part of my duties for Belleville radio station WIBV, I hosted the broadcast of a banquet put on by Belleville Area College (now SWIC). We broadcast the event because of it's keynote speaker--Whitey Herzog. The "White Rat" was beginning the process of rebuilding the, then struggling, Cardinals and we anticipated the possibility of some of his remarks being newsworthy. To my knowledge, I was the only member of the media in attendance.

Well, not only did Mr. Herzog manage to make news, he managed to stir up some juicy controversy with his remarks about shortstop Garry Templeton. In a question-and-answer session following his speech, Whitey signaled the impending trade of Templeton by indicating that his shortstop--paraphrasing--"Only played when he felt like it". There were some other racially insensitive remarks as well.

The next morning I took a call at the radio station from Hummel, who apparently had heard about Whitey's not-so-guarded comments, and asked if I had taped the broadcast. After I told Rick that we had, he was on his way to the station through a deep, new snowfall to review the tape for direct quotes.

The next day, even though few were aware of Whitey's comments from our broadcast, the story went nationwide with a banner headline on the Post-Dispatch sports page reading-- Whitey Says Cards Can't Win with Tempy.

What was important to me about this whole incident was that it spoke to the integrity of Rick Hummel. Even though Whitey had quickly built up a reverence in the local media with his "home boy" personality and hell-bent-for winning attitude, Hummel wanted the story and went for it knowing that it would ruffle Whitey's feathers. Rick was going to make sure Herzog's inflammatory words and baseball opinions were not lost in the banquet hall that night, and didn't care how it might effect his relationship with the Cardinals' skipper. A few days later, one Ozzie Smith became a member of the Cardinals and their lore.

Congratulations Commish! I'm proud to know you.

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