Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Hummel Inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame

Magazine article St. Louis Journalism Review

Hummel Inducted into Baseball Hall of Fame

Article excerpt

Like many sports writers, Rick Hummel likes to think he's an athlete. I understand, because as a former sports writer, I share the thought. Rick and I bowled together for many years on St. Louis Post-Dispatch teams and were on the same Post softball team that won the City Class B championship 21 years ago. That probably was Hummel's prime career achievement, but in July, that gilded trophy will be put aside, replaced by the J. G. Taylor Spink award in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The white-haired, 60-year-old Hummel, a Post baseball writer for 33 years, joins his former boss, the late Bob Broeg, former Post sports editor and columnist J. Roy Stockton, broadcaster Jack Buck and legendary publisher and editor of the Sporting News, J. G. Taylor Spink, as St. Louis media representatives. Spink, for whom the award is named, was in the first group of writers to be chosen, in 1962; Stockton, in 1972; Broeg, in 1979; and Buck, in 1987.

Major league baseball's own Web site and numerous baseball bloggers managed to ignore both Stockton and Spink when the announcement was made in December.

Full disclosure: I've known Hummel since the '60s, when he was a student at Mizzou and I was the PR director for the Football Cardinals. Bill Callahan, then the sports information director for the Tigers, brought his superior statistics crew to the old, old Busch Stadium to handle similar chores for me. Hummel was one of the crew, along with John Walsh, who went on to greater fame and fortune than either of us when his was the fertile mind that created what has become ESPN.

Hummel is nervously awaiting induction ceremonies, with his son, a cardiologist, and daughter, a public relations executive, and a high-school age son from a later marriage, all scheduled to attend. He smiled and glowed with amazement, and a touch of pride, as he mentioned receiving phone calls and messages from many baseball top management, managers, players, writers and fans--expressing their congratulations. "It's been amazing," he said.

After graduation from Mizzou, the Quincy-born Hummel spent three years in the Army, stationed in Colorado Springs the last two and also a part-timer at the town's Free Press, later the Sun. His Mizzou diploma was an asset when Broeg, an alum whose feelings could easily be described as rabid, was looking for a staff addition, but Hummers early days at the Post provided a string of failing, collapsing and disappearing teams.

Hummel and Bob McCoy, another long-time Post sports writer and editor, were reminiscing recently at Tropicana Lanes, where Hummel, who now bowls for the Lee Miserables, was celebrating his first 200 game of the season. McCoy, an inveterate punster and master of word plays, named the team, and the two men, possessors of amazing memory for arcane trivia, were rattling off games and teams that Hummel had covered which no longer exist. Most of them ceased to exist while Hummel was covering them.

Hummel credits McCoy, then the assistant sports editor, with giving him baseball assignments and then putting him on the beat.

"Neal Russo was the baseball writer for a long time," explained McCoy, "but he was getting older and his health wasn't always good and sometimes you couldn't find him. Rick came through every time."

This began with the '70s version of the St. Louis Browns; a girls' softball team, first of the shopping-bag teams (they folded easily) that he covered. Other teams he followed into their (not his) oblivion included St. Louis Stars soccer; the St. Louis Hummers, another girls' softball team; the Spirits of St. Louis, where Bob Costas got his play-by-play baptism in basketball; and St. Louis U. hockey, which folded, reorganized and promptly folded again.

"Given things like that," Hummel added. "I sometimes thought I was jinxed. I was national president of the BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) in 1994, and the president always has the prestigious job of being an official scorer at the World Series--but that was the year of the strike, and there was no World Series. …

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