One of the pleasures of working at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is standing in a hallway in our offices and talking to Senior Writer Bob Creamer. The casual observer may think that Creamer and his rapt audience are merely holding up the walls, but in fact they are figuratively somewhere else, likely as not watching the 1955 Kentucky Derby on TV at the Red Rooster in Harlem with Willie Mays, Monte Irvin and this neophyte radio announcer named Cosell. (More on that in a moment.)
Creamer has another kind of story to tell in this week's issue, a profile of Milwaukee Shortstop Robin Yount beginning on page 34. Cheerfully dating himself, Creamer, 60, recalls that the first time he went to Milwaukee for SI was back in July of 1955, two months before Yount was born.
P.G. Wodehouse, one of Creamer's favorite authors, had that nonstop talker, the Oldest Member, and we have Creamer, although his listeners succumb willingly. Actually, he is the Second Oldest Member of the staff, Art Director Harvey Grut being 62 and having arrived at SI seven months before him. Creamer was our first baseball writer, but in 1959 he took up editing. This year he went from senior editor to senior writer, to the regret of those he edited and the delight of those who know his writing.
Creamer's love of baseball has led to several books, including, most notably, his classic biography of George Herman Ruth, Babe: The Legend Comes to Life. He is now finishing a bio of Casey Stengel, which is scheduled for publication in 1983 by Simon & Schuster, tentatively entitled Stengel. He and his wife, Margaret, at home in Tuckahoe, N.Y., have also produced five baseball fans of their own (Tom, write home).
"Sometimes I think my interest in baseball is childish," Creamer says. "I'm still amazed when I stand behind a batting cage and see how well the players can hit. I love to watch a pickup game on a playground. This summer a local cable channel had on a softball game between teams of 9-year-old girls, and I thought it was really marvelous."
Clearly, baseball is Creamer's passion, and shortstops are a passion within that passion—"The first I can remember is Frank Crosetti of the 1932 Yankees," he recalls. Since that time, Creamer has been impressed by Dick Bartell, Joe Cronin, Billy Jurges, Pee Wee Reese, Phil Rizzuto, Roy McMillan, Mark Belanger and Yount. "I never knew how good Yount was until I saw him play in person," Creamer says. "After a few games, I realized he was among the best I'd ever seen. The funny thing is, the one shortstop he reminded me of was Daryl Spencer, who showed great promise but never really developed."
Creamer also has a fondness for such forgotten names as Jack Glasscock, Mickey Doolan and George McBride, although he would like to make it clear he knows them only through The Baseball Encyclopedia.
And then there's Creamer's own encyclopedic memory: "...so we got a pool up on the Derby, and somebody asked Mays, who was deep in conversation with a beautiful woman, which horse he wanted, and he looked up and said, 'Oh, I'll take Swaps.' "