Friday, August 6, 2010

What's in a name? A lot if "24" says it

In my opinion, the two best sportswriters working today are Tom Verducci and Joe Posnanski, now both at Sports Illustrated. Verducci usually writes about baseball, but Posnanski writes about everything. If you care about baseball, anything he writes on the game is a must-read.

I just finished Joe's "where are they now" profile of Stan Musial in the current edition of SI. It is another remarkable effort from this writer.

One portion hit home for me. In the story, my friend and longtime St. Louis baseball writer Rick Hummel describes the first time Musial ever called him, "Rick." He was flabbergasted. I had a similar moment with Willie Mays.

Mays is not good with names, but you knew that. He got his nickname because he would see teammates as a rookie and yell, "Say, hey" because he couldn't remember. In my time knowing Willie, the only writer he ever called by name was Nick Peters, recently retired and winner of the J.G. Spink Award (Hall of Fame). To Willie, everyone else is, "Hey, writer."

A couple of springs ago, I was standing near the table in the Scottsdale Stadium clubhouse where Mays holds court. He wanted to ask me something and said, "Hey, Henry...." I was floored. I knew I'd arrived.

Will Clark calls me by name, too, but it's like, "Hey, Henry, what kind of s-- are you trying to stir up in here?" Barry Bonds called me by name, too, only he thought my name was #%$&^!@!. Just kidding, Barry, wherever you are. Matt Cain called me by name during the last homestand as he was throwing an aerobie around the stands with Madison Bumgarner. Cain came up the press box, held up the hollowed-out Frisbee-like thing and said, "Hey, Henry. Looks like a donut, doesn't it? You like that. Don't you?

If you can read the Posnanski piece on Stan the Man, do it. It's terrific.