The Baseball Writers' Association of America announced Wednesday that Rick Hummel, long-time baseball writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is the 2007 winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, presented annually for "meritorious contributions to baseball writing." Hummel, who has covered baseball in St. Louis since 1973, is the 57th winner of the Spink Award, which has been handed out since 1962.
Hummel, nicknamed "the Commish," joins a list of some of the most distinguished scribes in sportswriting history. He also now stands alongside some of his long-time friends in the business, such as recent enshrinees Hal McCoy, Tracy Ringolsby, Peter Gammons and Murray Chass.
"I was looking at the list, and come on," said Hummel after the announcement. "Ring Lardner, Grantland Rice, Damon Runyon and me? Come on. Let's be realistic here.
"Just to be in a group with Tracy and Peter and Murray and those guys, and then to look down and see Grantland Rice and Damon Runyon and Ring Lardner leading it off there, and Jim Murray and Red Smith, criminy. Some of those guys would close the door in my face if I knocked on their door."
The truth, though, is that practically no one would close the door in Hummel's face. In addition to his skilled touch at crafting a game story, and a genuine love for watching, talking, and writing about baseball, Hummel is well known as one of the most personable figures anywhere in the business.
Hummel was an overwhelming selection in balloting of BBWAA members with 10 or more consecutive years' service. He received 233 of 417 votes, outpacing the late Morris "Mo" Siegel and Nick Peters of the Sacramento Bee.
Not far from St. Louis, Hummel was the Cardinals beat writer for the Post-Dispatch from 1978-2001 and currently serves as the paper's national baseball columnist. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1980 and has been named Missouri Sportswriter of the Year four times by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.
Hummel was national president of the BBWAA in 1994 and served on the Spink Award Committee for 10 years. He has covered 28 All-Star Games and 29 World Series, most recently the Cardinals' five-game victory over the Tigers. He consistently has established respectful and trusting relationships with players, managers, front-office staff, umpires and virtually everyone he's covered.
Hummel said that 2006 Hall of Famer Bruce Sutter insisted on a call as soon as Hummel knew he was being honored. Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty took the stage at the morning's BBWAA meeting where Hummel was honored, saying some kind words on the organization's behalf.
It's safe to say that few Hall of Fame choices will be so widely well-received.
"I'm impressed that Jack [O'Connell, BBWAA secretary-treasurer] handled this just the way he handles the real Hall of Famers," Hummel said with typical self-deprecation. "He calls them, and he called me this morning at about 7:15. When there are only three people in the election, you know you have a chance. I don't know if I'm surprised. I'm just overwhelmed."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.