As if on cue, Hendrick sneaks up behind Pitcher Joaquin Andujar, who is passing a box of special World Series baseballs around the clubhouse to be autographed. Hendrick starts taking the balls and scattering them all over the room. "George, I thought you were my amigo" says Andujar.
"Not as long as you keep pitching the way you've been pitching," says Hendrick, who quickly adds, "You're still my amigo, Joaquin."
Says Manager Whitey Herzog, with that special eloquence known only to baseball, "The guy's a helluva guy."
"His favorite soap opera is All My Children."
"We go down to see him sometimes before the game."
"He doesn't like to have his picture taken, though...."
Hendrick's aversion to the press started when he was with Cleveland, from 1973 to '76. For obvious reasons, the details remain a little sketchy. But Hendrick felt that some of the older players resented his remarks—back then he was known as an honest, articulate and colorful interviewee—so he decided that he wouldn't talk after games, only before. Some writers, though, were not aware of his new rules, and when he politely begged off, they took offense. At least one of them ripped him for not talking. So, Hendrick thought, I won't talk at all. Once burned, forever shy.
His stand has been about as consistent as his swing, which is very consistent. He has spoken for the record only a few times since: after he was traded to San Diego, after he was traded to St. Louis in 1978 and after he signed a five-year, $2.5-million contract extension in February of 1979. At the press conference announcing that signing, the subject of talking to the media came up and Hendrick said, "I don't dislike anybody in this room, although some of you may think differently. If I have something to say, I'll say it, but it's hard for me to talk to reporters. It's a matter of my freedom.... I don't know whom I can trust and whom I can't trust, and I don't want to spend the time and energy to distinguish between the two. My policy has been to let you write what you're going to write. I won't be rude. If I don't have anything to say, I'll say, 'No comment.' "
Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch in St. Louis is friendly with Hendrick, and Hendrick occasionally opens up to him. Says Hummel, "This spring, when George started working out at first base, he thought the fans should know just why he was doing it, so he allowed himself to be quoted. He'll do that sometimes if it's something he thinks needs explaining."