Date: December 11, 2006
About: Rick Hummel - Class of 1964
The Write Stuff
By Matt Schuckman
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Three days had passed since Rick Hummel learned he was receiving the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, and still his phone kept ringing.
"It's tapered off a little bit," Hummel said on Saturday.
About then, a phone started ringing in the background.
"I'm overwhelmed by it," Hummel said.
By both the honor and the attention.
"It's been covered more than it should be," Hummel said.
The 60-year-old Hummel, a 1964 graduate of Quincy High School and member of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports staff since 1971, will join a legendary list of journalists honored in the "Scribes and Mikemen" wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame next summer when he officially receives the Spink Award.
The honor has been given annually since 1962 to a journalist or writer by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and the list of winners includes notable names like Grantland Rice, Ring Lardner, Bob Broeg and Peter Gammons.
"C'mon," said the humble Hummel, who will be honored during the July 29 induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y. "To be in the same sentence with that group is amazing."
And well deserved.
Hummel, a 1968 graduate of the University of Missouri and a former Pulitzer Prize nominee, began covering the St. Louis Cardinals in 1973 and spent 24 seasons as the primary beat writer. He became the paper's national baseball columnist five years ago.
"This sort of validates whatever I did, I did it the right way," Hummel said.
The response he has received confirms it.
Hummel estimated he received 100 phone calls and 200 e-mails after the honor was announced last Wednesday morning. The Post-Dispatch sports office fielded another 25 or 30 calls, and the newspaper held a reception for him last Friday.
"They wouldn't stop applauding," Hummel said. "A sports writer shouldn't be treated like this."
The funny thing is Hummel never planned to be a sports writer.
"I wanted to be a broadcaster," Hummel said.
Introduced to Mel and El Tappe as a kid, Hummel assisted them with WGEM's broadcasts of Quincy High School basketball as a stat keeper and maintained the notion he would become a broadcaster himself until he took driver's education at QHS with Mel as the instructor.
"He told me all these jobs are going to go to ex-athletes," Hummel said. "Imagine him recognizing that back then. But he said, 'You ought to try to be a sports writer.'"
So Hummel gave writing a chance. He attended Quincy College for two years, did some work at the student radio station and wrote for the school's weekly newspaper.
One problem. He didn't know how to type.
"My mother worked for one of the railroads and did some professional typing on the side," Hummel said. "I would write it out long hand and Mom would type it."
He decided to take a typing class his sophomore year.
"I needed to learn," Hummel said.
It changed his career path.
It's taken him to the Hall of Fame.
Contact Sports Writer Matt Schuckman
or (217) 221-3366