Hargrove slips in and out of Museum

Muder_90.jpgBy Craig Muder

Mike Hargrove spent his entire baseball career behind the scenes.

So when he made a trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in September, it was no surprise that it came without fanfare. But this time, “behind the scenes” also meant a look at baseball’s most sacred treasures.

Hargrove stopped in Cooperstown on Sept. 19 while on a trip through the Northeast. He and his wife, Sharon, travel throughout the country on their motorcycle, and few heads turned as the couple pulled into Cooper Park next door to the Hall of Fame.

9-22-08-Muder_Hargrove.jpgOnce inside, the Hargroves received a behind-the-scenes tour from Senior Curator Tom Shieber and chatted with Bull Durham writer/director Ron Shelton, who was himself experiencing the thrill of looking at the Museum’s archives.

A few hours later, the Hargroves emerged from the Hall of Fame and walked down Main Street to have a relaxed lunch. Soon after, they returned to Cooper Park, put on their leathers and rolled north on Main Street and out of town.

It was typical of Hargrove, who never sought the spotlight as a player or manager. A former Rookie of the Year and All-Star with the Texas Rangers, Hargrove was famous for his deliberate — or was that super-slow motion? — approach at the plate. And yet those tactics, which drove pitchers crazy and got them off their rhythm, often overshadowed a hitter who compiled a .290 career average and a .396 on-base percentage.

As a manager, Hargrove took over a dilapidated Cleveland Indians franchise in 1991 and led it to the World Series four years later. His even-handed approach and clubhouse skills resulted in five playoff appearances and two American League pennants for a team that was the laughingstock of baseball in the 1970s and ’80s.

At 58, Hargrove certainly has something left to give as a manager. Yet it would shock no one if he spent the rest of his days enjoying the fruits of his former lifetime. After a career in forced limelight, Hargrove seems content with his life.

Baseball is better because of people like him.

Craig Muder is director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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