Schuckman: Quincy native Hummel set standard all baseball writers should strive to achieve
QUINCY — Things go awry even with the best-laid plans.
Rick Hummel and I laughed about that a couple of times.
Last December, with the weather unseasonably warm on the second day of the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic, Hummel and I planned to record an episode of “Schuck on a Truck” following one of the Quincy High School boys basketball team’s games.
Rain negated that. So I suggested the Hall of Fame baseball writer, who spent five decades covering the St. Louis Cardinals for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, join me for a video interview inside Vergil Fletcher Gym at some point when the opportunity presented itself.
Hummel had a different idea. Since he planned to be in Quincy in February for his annual baseball chat with the Exchange Club, why don’t we record something then he said.
“I want to sit on the tailgate,” he told me.
It sounded like a perfect plan. So inevitably something was bound to trip us up.
Again, weather played a part. It was too chilly to sit outside for a prolonged period. Plus, his window to return to St. Louis ended up being a little tighter than he originally anticipated. So we altered our plans again, pushing his appearance on the tailgate back to April when he would be in the Gem City for his induction into the Quincy University Hall of Fame.
His health never allowed that to happen. Battling a short, aggressive illness, Hummel didn’t make the trip to Quincy that weekend, telling me via text message he was “making progress.”
And he told me once again, “I’d like to sit on the tailgate.”
Heartbreakingly, that never happened.
Hummel, affectionately known as “The Commish” throughout the baseball world, passed away Saturday in his St. Louis home. He was 77.
A 1964 graduate of Quincy High School who studied for two years at Quincy University before transferring to the University of Missouri, Hummel became the standard by which baseball writers were measured while covering the Cardinals.
Knowledgeable and informed, fair and understanding, quick-witted and wry, Hummel went about the business of telling the story the right way. He built relationships with the players and coaches, leaned on them to know the insides of the game and developed a unique way of relaying that information to the readers.
Maybe the most telling aspect of how respected Hummel became has been the response from decades worth of Cardinals who called him trustworthy.
Hummel was that and so much more.
He was a colleague and a mentor. He was genuine and devoted. He was a Quincyan and St. Louisian. He appreciated his hometown, was forever a Blue Devils fan and knew as much about high school basketball history as he did baseball lore.
At the end of every day, no matter who won or lost, Hummel was always the same. He was true to himself. He didn’t change when he was honored with the J.G. Taylor Spink Award from the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, nor when he was inducted into the QHS Hall of Fame a year later.
He accepted those honors — clearly on difference scales — with the same grace and humility as he did every other honor bestowed on him. And there were many. Too many to list, too many to count, all incredibly deserved.
I wish I could have given him one more moment. I wish he could have joined me on the tailgate. I wish I could have told my friend just one more time what his friendship meant to me.
And I wish the best-laid plans didn’t go awry.
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