Editor’s note: Hall of Fame baseball writer, Rick Hummel passed away at his home Saturday May 20, 2023. It was said he had watched the Cardinals game the night before, even keeping score and then died in his sleep with his wife, Melissa at his side. In the press box the writers noticed Hummel (nickamed “the Commish”) was not there and those who inquired were told he was sick, as in under the weather. No one could have believed he would never be back.
My memories of Rick Hummel
By Rob Rains
Rick and I became close in the 1980s. It was a different media world back then, and as the lead Cardinals beat writers for St. Louis’ two newspapers, we were always together. We shared press boxes across the country, airplanes, cabs, dinners and more.
Part of the reason we got along so well, even though we were competitors, was a mutual respect for each other and also a mutual respect for the way we each approached the job. I can’t imagine spending so much time together and not getting along. It would have made the job much more difficult and neither of us wanted that.
We both loved baseball, we both truly loved what we did and I think we also liked the idea of competing against each other. Did Rick get stories that i didn’t get? Of course, but I got my share too. I think it made both of us better reporters, and I know I learned a lot in those years about how to work a beat from Rick – about the value of developing relationships, about earning the trust and respect of the people you were writing about every day.
I think my favorite story of our travels together came one day in Philadelphia. It was the final game of a road trip and we were both scheduled to fly home on the team charter after the game. We knew where to meet the plane at a private section of the airport and told that to the cab driver who picked us up at the stadium.
He tried to tell us that we needed to go someplace else and of course took us there. No plane. We asked him to drive us where we were told to go, convinced that the plane would already have left. To our pleasant surprise when we pulled up the plane was still there.
As we boarded the plane, the charter rep from the airline, Cliff Day, greeted us by quietly saying, “Where have you been?” Then he turned to the manager, Whitey Herzog, and said, “OK the door is fixed. We can leave now.”
Those were fun times. The game has changed. The media world has changed. And now my friend is gone, which is by far the worst development in all of those changes. He was genuine, kind, helpful and a joy to be around – except when he got mad about a problem with his laptop. I will miss our press box chats, I will miss him asking the right question at the right time during a media scrum, and I will miss picking up the newspaper and seeing his byline.
Rest in peace my friend
When Rick announced his retirement, his friends in the press box honored him and someone got the idea to have a photo with all of us. Everyone wanted to have a photo with him for a memory but somehow we all thought we’d continue seeing him, which we did for a short while.
Photo: Front row, left to right: , Ben Frederickson, Benjamin Hochman, Rick Hummel, Katie Woo, Carter Chapley; Second row: Jen Langosh, Rob Rains, Dan Guerrero, John Denton; Back row, Jeff Jones, Derrick Goold.
Rick Hummel remained a friend for the 40-plus years we knew him. He came to our wedding in 1982. It was always an adventure to see him at the usual places that Baseball Writers travel to– the Winter Meetings and post-season play. We appeared on many panels together.
In the early days of our friendship when I was still at the Globe-Democrat and the team was still owned by Anheuser-Busch we were invited to many events held by Gussie Busch with Whitey Herzog, Lou Brock, Red Schoendienst, Jack Buck, Mike Shannon, and other dignitaries, scouts and player personnel people.
These parties included the wives and there was always merriment including a piano with songs sung by Jack Buck’s wife, Carole; Mary Schoendiest or their daughter Colleen; or Whitey Herzog– with each of them having a trademark song. Rick and I were the only writers invited and we often sat together, feeling completely included in these events.
One year we had a Cardinals theme for our Rainbows for Kids Fundraiser and Rick agreed to be a special guest along with Whitey, John Rooney, and me. We had a roundtable discussion and everyone loved hearing all the inside information on the Cardinals. Pat Jacoby, the owner of Patty Cakes Bakery in Highland, Illinois made a cake with the topper featuring likenesses of all four of the participants. The photo below, shows us standing by the cake. We still have the sugary cake topper, preserved in a place of honor in our house.
Left to right: John Rooney, Rick Hummel, Whitey Herzog, Rob Rains
I enjoyed working with him on Baseball Writers Dinners and then after a month or so of no baseball, seeing him at Spring Training.
Spring Training is so much different than the regular season because there is more time to have conversations with people in the laid-back atmosphere of the practice fields or the press box.
I think it was Rick who first told us about grouper sandwich at “The Hurricane” which was a big hot spot on Pass-A-Grille Beach in St. Petersburg when the Cardinals trained there.
This past spring training, my wife Sally ran in to Rick on the street while I was still in the media room. He had announced his retirement last year but came to Spring Training to do some stories. She was so happy to see him and said, “Oh I’m glad you are here. Spring Training would not be the same without you.”
Sally talked to Colleen Schoendienst on the phone, remembering Rick and so many spring trainings with Red and everyone.
It occurred to both of us, spring training will never be the same.
To hear Rob Rains on Frank Cusumano’s show talking about Rick Hummel and the Cardinals team on, CLICK HERE.