Famous faces in St. Louis
By Bill Francis
ST. LOUIS — The stars were out this week at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and the Baseball Hall of Fame was on the mind of many of the most famous people in sports and entertainment:
NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, who played in the Taco Bell All-Star Legends & Celebrity Softball Game Sunday night: “I’m really excited to get to meet (Hall of Fame shortstop) Ozzie Smith. We’ve been trying to meet up today. He’s out there managing the game that’s going on. I hear he’s a little upset at me for stealing his back flip, but we can hopefully work that out and shake hands over it. I’m really excited to meet him.”
Actor Billy Bob Thornton, on meeting Hall of Famer Stan Musial: “I’d have to say out of all my experiences out of meeting baseball players in my lifetime when I got to meet Mr. Musial, which I have to call him that, that was probably the biggest thrill I ever had.
“But Bob Gibson (like Musial, a Hall of Famer) is my guy. I threw the first pitch out in 1998 here (in St. Louis), we were playing the Braves, Tom Glavine was pitching for the Braves. I’ll never forget this. I was in the clubhouse with (Cardinals manager) Tony (La Russa), (Mark) McGwire, and Bobby Knight, and we were all taking pictures together, and Gibson comes in and so we took some with him. And of course I was thrilled already, that was the first time I met him. And Tony said, ‘Bob, you’re the guy’s hero. Why don’t you catch the ball today?’ I wanted to say, ‘Tony, don’t make me throw it to him.’ So we were on the mound and Gibson knew I had been a pitcher so I had to throw him something. I learned my slider from Gibson’s instructional book in the ’60s when I was a kid. So I threw him a slider, and it was a good one, about two inches off the plate, it was a strike, and Gibson comes out and hands me the ball and he goes, ‘Where did you get that pitch?’ And I said, ‘Out of your book.’ And he goes, ‘You’re kidding me. That old book from the ’60s?’ After that he just warmed up to me just in a great way. Since then I’ve seen him a bunch of times and he’s always really gracious to me.”
Dodgers manager Joe Torre, a National League All-Star coach, on the Class of 2009 at the Hall of Fame: “Jim Rice, I’m really pleased for him, Rickey Henderson was a no-brainer, obviously. Jim Rice waited a long time and he put some pretty impressive numbers up. I’m just happy for Jim Rice. A class act, he was a player that really was a no-nonsense guy, just got up there and did what he did. I’m really pleased for Jimmy. Rickey, his ability spoke for itself. He put all those base-stealing records and leadoff home runs in his hip pocket.”
The Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2009 – Joe Gordon, Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice – will be enshrined in Cooperstown on July 26.
Bill Francis is a library associate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.