CINCINNATI — Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol lifted his phone with the intent to read for a few writers the recent text messages he shared with Hall of Fame baseball writer Rick Hummel but stopped when he realized it was a suggestion on how to pitch to a specific opposing batter.
It was too on the nose.
So, Marmol kept scrolling.
“I can’t read that,” he laughed. “There’s another bunt one. Another bunt one.”
Although separated by more than four decades in age, Marmol, the 11th manager Hummel covered on the Cardinals beat, and the longtime St. Louis Post-Dispatch baseball writer bonded over strategy, pitch selections and even the occasional bunt. “The Commish” Rick Hummel would often give the manager grief about two of his habits — an aversion to bunting and also wearing his jersey.
People are also reading…
In the past month, before his death early Saturday morning at 77, Hummel texted more than a few times about bunting.
“He was just a solid man,” Marmol said before the Cardinals opened a four-game series at Great American Ball Park. “Constantly sending me stuff, watching other games, our game — Commish was one of the ones who when I got this job would sit in my office more than most, talk about stuff, and he was always very good to me.”
The Cincinnati Reds placed a single rose at a seat in the press box for Hummel and for Mike Shannon, the great Cardinals broadcaster whose memorial service was this past weekend. The Reds also put photos of each St. Louis icon on the scoreboard before the National Anthem and held a moment of silence as tribute.
A Reds official noted first-pitch temperature was 77, Hummel’s age.
“Commish touched so many lives, from readers to players to staff to other writers,” said John Mozeliak, Cardinals president of baseball operations. “As a writer, he could recreate the game in words and wind a story or two in the same thread, as he always found a way to bring insights to his audience. As a person, he was a joy to be around; he was not confrontational and was not looking to break a story but to share insights. He will be missed around this ballpark as he was a St. Louis treasure.”
Hummel covered the Cardinals as the lead baseball writer for the Post-Dispatch from 1978 through 2001, and he spent five decades writing baseball for the paper in a variety of roles.
Inducted into the writers’ wing of the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, Hummel retired at the end of the 2022 season, and throughout that summer, Albert Pujols, the three-time MVP, would remind Hummel that they were going to “go out together.”
“My heart goes out to Rick Hummel’s family and loved ones,” Pujols said. “The Commish was a sweet man who truly loved St. Louis and the game of baseball. He will be missed.”
Similar sentiments filled social media from writers and players, former and active.
“Commish was a favorite amongst players and staff,” tweeted Skip Schumaker, Miami’s manager and a former Cardinal player and coach. “He did it right and was one of the most-respected writers to ever do it. Our final conversation was this spring training, him coming over to the Marlins’ side, just to congratulate me. No other reason. Incredible.”
Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright shared, “St. Louis lost a legend in Rick Hummel. Always fair. Always in a good mood. Always wearing some kind of goofy hat and mismatched pants that made me smile. The respect and trust he earned from players is a rare thing in our world.”
Reds manager David Bell, a former Cardinals bench coach, said, “I’m probably one of the many who considered him a friend. Just an awesome guy and contributed so much to our game.”
Condolences for Hummel’s family and his colleagues came from every corner of Major League Baseball, from the commissioner’s office in New York to the Atlanta dugout, the Angels’ farm system and Cardinals players and executive from the past.
“I always respected him as a writer and person,” said former Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty, who now works with the Reds. “Very shocked and saddened to hear of his passing. He’s one of these guys you thought would go on forever. So many great stories. So many great connections with players. Everybody loved him.”
In Marmol’s office, Hummel found one of his favorite things to do — talk baseball — and a manager eager to parry and riposte with the best of questions from the best of ballwriters.
Even about the jersey.
Hummel felt the manager needed to wear and show his jersey, not hide it under a hoodie — or hide the fact he wasn’t wearing it at all. Marmol gave a subtle tribute to Hummel in the dugout Monday night in Cincinnati.
He wore his No. 37 jersey, no hoodie.
Gorman wins NL honor
Nolan Gorman, who carried the Cardinals to a win this past weekend against the Los Angeles Dodgers, won the National League’s Player of the Week award for his powerful performance during the recent homestand. Less than two weeks removed from his 23rd birthday, Gorman hit .458 (11 for 24) with four homers, a double and 11 RBIs. He slugged 1.000 for the six games in which he played during the week, and he increased the number of games he’ll play per week by vaulting into the lineup on most days against left-handed pitchers.
Gorman got a day off Sunday against Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw, but with a lefty on the mound for the Reds on Monday, Gorman was starting.
He walked and scored a run in his first at-bat. He added a double and scored twice in the Cardinals’ 5-4 loss in 10 innings.
The player of the week honor is a career first for Gorman, and he’s the first Cardinal to win the award since Pujols did so in September while hitting his 700th career homer. The American League’s winner was Yankees standout Aaron Judge. Like Gorman, the reigning AL MVP also hit five home runs and he hit .500 (11 for 22) last week.
Liberatore set for Cleveland
To get Miles Mikolas against the Reds this week, the Cardinals will stick with their rotation, in order, and insert lefty Matthew Liberatore over the weekend in Cleveland. The day Liberatore will start has not been finalized as the Cardinals weigh whether to keep Jack Flaherty on normal rest with a start Friday or grab an extra day of rest for the entire rotation.
Liberatore pitched an inning of relief Sunday, using that appearance as a bullpen day. He would be available for a start in Cincinnati, but the Cardinals preferred the matchup with the right-handed Mikolas against Cincinnati’s lineup.
Wainwright will start as scheduled Tuesday, followed by Steven Matz and then Mikolas in the series finale Thursday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
@dgoold on Twitter