Missouri pair take similar paths to Hall
Hummel, Matthews have remained where they began careers
KANSAS CITY -- Denny Matthews and Rick Hummel have a lot in common. Both have been with the same Missouri ball clubs throughout their careers. Both covered Whitey Herzog as a manager. Both grew up in Illinois. And, next Sunday, both are being honored at the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Matthews, a Kansas City Royals announcer since the team's inception, will join the broadcasters' wing at Cooperstown. Hummel, who has covered the St. Louis Cardinals for 30 years, will go into the writers' wing in the New York hamlet.
Along with Tony Gwynn, the hitting magician of the San Diego Padres, and Cal Ripken, the iron man of the Baltimore Orioles, they form a unique quartet. Each has been with the same team for his entire career.
"This may be the last time when you have four people going into the Hall of Fame who have spent their entire careers in one organization," Matthews said.
"So that's kind of a theme for this year's induction, a constant thread ... the factors of stability and loyalty. And I'm sure that Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn and Rick Hummel would say, 'Yeah, that's neat because I've spent my entire career in one place.' "
Hummel, a University of Missouri graduate, began covering the Cardinals full-time for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1978. Now the national baseball writer for the paper, he is known throughout the game as "Commish."
Matthews, a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan, beat out a horde of applicants to become the No. 2 announcer to Buddy Blattner when the expansion Royals began play in 1969. He succeeded Blattner as the lead voice in 1976. This is his 39th season calling Royals games.
For several of those years, Herzog was the Royals manager.
"You wouldn't stick around that long if people didn't enjoy listening to you," Herzog said. "He's done his job, and he's never been vindictive to anybody. He's been very fair, and I think, professionally, that's the thing I remember most about him."
The paths of Matthews and Hummel crossed in the 1985 World Series, when the Royals defeated the Cardinals in seven games. The focal point, of course, was the disputed call by umpire Don Denkinger that led to a Royals comeback and victory in Game 6.
One of Hummel's most vivid recollections of that Fall Classic, however, is of a bit player for the Cardinals.
"I remember Brian Harper getting the hit, batting for Danny Cox in the top of the eighth inning, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. He was a little-used player. He was a pretty good player at Minnesota later on, but he was nothing at that point. Of course, the later happenings rendered that hit meaningless," Hummel said.
"And I remember what Whitey always said: 'Some guys just aren't meant to be heroes,' and that was the first thing I thought about when that game ended. We all had our Brian Harper stories [already written], you know -- 'Brian Harper Wins the World Series.'"
And, for all the drama that the Royals' first and only World Series championship entailed, Matthews always recalls an earlier game in the AL Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
"Game 3 of the playoff with Toronto when we were down, two games to none," Matthews said.
"We come back to Kansas City and George Brett has the game of his career -- two home runs, four hits and a magnificent third base. He just literally willed the Royals to win that game. And if we don't, we never see the Cardinals. That was the most important, most significant game in Royals history."
Since 1985, Cardinals fans have been gnashing their teeth over the Denkinger call. Hummel also thinks about another significant development, the Busch Stadium tarp rolling over outfielder Vince Coleman in the playoffs. That might have had a bigger effect on the World Series.
"And we'll never know what would have happened if [Vince] Coleman would have played," Hummel noted. "The Cardinals had to bat Willie McGee leadoff, and he didn't like batting leadoff. The whole offense was messed up -- not that the Royals didn't pitch great, because they did -- but the Cardinals didn't have their club the way they wanted it."
In his lengthy career, Hummel has carried on a great tradition of Post-Dispatch baseball writers, which includes J. Roy Stockton, Bob Broeg and Neal Russo in a city rich with baseball tradition.
"I couldn't have had a better beat writer for 10 years than Rick," Herzog said. "He was good, and he was honest. You could tell him something off the record and it'd never be printed. And that's basically what you're looking for."
Hummel is from Quincy, Ill. Matthews, though born in Florida, grew up in Bloomington, Ill.
Both worked their way through their professions -- one with the written word and one with the spoken word -- and developed reputations for accuracy, honesty, candor and the ability for rich and informative communication with the fans.
On Sunday, their efforts will be rewarded at Cooperstown.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.