SI Vault
Grady Jim Robinson
May 16, 1983
"We've got one last chance," I mumbled to Kenny Kaaiohelo, my old college pal, who had just driven 10 hours and 500 miles from Edmond, Okla. with his two sons, Jason and Jared, to see the sixth game of the 1982 World Series in St. Louis.
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May 16, 1983

Silent George Was The Last Word In Good Hosts At The World Series

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"Grady Jim. He says you're looking for him."

Another silence. Then she hung up the phone and looked at me, again without expression. I imagined her saying, "You jerk! Clear out!" Instead she said, "O.K., sign the clipboard and follow the usher over there."

Like something out of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the locked door clicked and opened wide. We hurried through it behind the usher. Dignitaries and club officials rushing about with clipboards and shouting orders to gofers ignored us as we made our way to the stairs leading downward to the Cardinal locker room. Kenny mumbled in my ear, "I can't believe this!"

"Neither can I," I said. "Stay close and keep the boys near you." Through a hallway we hustled, but our usher escort disappeared in the tangle of humanity. At the bottom of the stairs we turned left. I looked for the familiar face of Silent George. Sure enough, there he was, with a huge smile, buttoning his famous long-legged, double-knit pants.

"Hi, fellas!" he said softly. "Stick close and we'll walk out to the dugout, and after batting practice, we'll come back to the locker room and chat awhile."

From that point, the details melt together like a technicolor dream. Passing Tom Seaver and Tony Kubek in the tunnel, we walked with Hendrick to the dugout and looked out at the AstroTurf field. Was that Whitey Herzog? Who was that NBC guy? Hundreds of media people. Crack of bat on ball. Cameras clicking. Busch Stadium empty like a vast cavern reaching upward. And, above, the ubiquitous Goodyear blimp, now benevolently droning into the wind.

Only 12 brief hours after leaving their warm beds in Oklahoma, Little Leaguers Jason and Jared sat in the dugout of the St. Louis Cardinals. Tommy Herr walked by, Ozzie Smith sat only a few feet away. Ted Simmons, Dick Enberg, Bob Costas, Jack Buck showed up. Then it was back to the locker room with Hendrick. Players, coaches and visitors walked in and out of the busy clubhouse, some chatting with reporters, others sitting on stools in front of their lockers patiently awaiting one of the most important events of their lives. Jim Kaat, 43 years old and in his 24th season, stood only a few feet away talking quietly with John Stuper, the 25-year-old starting pitcher. A small sandbox cum spittoon sat in the middle of the floor; it seemed out of place until I remembered that modern ball players are still men of great expectorations.

Hendrick sat the two boys down on his locker stool and wiped the perspiration from his face. Keith Hernandez walked hurriedly to the adjoining locker and asked George for a pen so that he could autograph some pictures. "Keith, meet Jason and Jared from Oklahoma," said Hendrick.

Hernandez smiled, shook hands with the speechless boys and their daddy. Hendrick, with the game only an hour or so away, sat down and pulled two bright red World Series duffel bags from his locker. The bags were filled with all kinds of souvenirs that would go back to Oklahoma and be pawed over by the boys' school friends. A new baseball was casually tossed into each bag, which held note pads with Cardinal emblems, wristbands and batting gloves. Then, without a word, the Silent One walked into the equipment room and reappeared carrying two Louisville Sluggers, George Hendrick-autographed bats. They were the real thing. The number 25—Hendrick's—was neatly inscribed on the knobs, and three single strips of tape about one inch apart were wrapped around the handles. The bats were ready for World Series action. "Here you go, fellas, something to take home from the Series," said Hendrick. The boys were stunned. Kenny smiled and muttered many thank-you's.

After handshakes all around, the delirious quartet left the confines of the future world champions' locker room...still without tickets. I didn't have the heart to ask Hendrick for player passes, although I was sorely tempted. I felt that he had done enough. I said, "Hit a home run for us, George."

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