Ex-O's GM Hemond honored with O'Neil Award at Cooperstown
By Tribune Newspapers
Jul 24, 2011 at 12:11 AM
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Roland Hemond never worked for George Steinbrenner, Walter O'Malley or Gussie Busch. He was never given unlimited resources to work with, but made up for it with a limitless imagination.
Competing with less became one of his specialties.
"Actually, you have to make it fun," Hemond said. "Certainly with Bill Veeck. He'd say, you know, 'We don't have any money, we'll think of something,' and sometimes we'd think of something at 2 in the morning. I'd say to Bill, 'I wonder why we didn't think of it earlier,' but we had fun."
Hemond, who was the Orioles' general manager from 1988 to 1995, was given the Buck O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award during Saturday's Hall of Fame activities. An unprecedented number of executives from around baseball made the pilgrimage to this out-of-the-way spot to pay tribute to him and Pat Gillick.
Gillick, the baseball savant who guided two teams (Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies) to the World Series and two others (Orioles and Seattle Mariners) to the American League Championship Series, will be inducted into the Hall today alongside former Orioles second baseman Roberto Alomar and pitcher Bert Blyleven. Gillick has done just about everything in baseball, but not what Hemond found himself doing one day atComiskey Park.
Veeck was having a hard time making payroll, so cash flow was critical. The field was in terrible condition, with heavy rains during a rock concert turning the outfield into a quagmire. The Orioles were in town, and their abrasive manager, Earl Weaver, wasn't happy.
When Hemond trudged to the outfield, Veeck was working on the muddy field, his shirt off and his hands busy. He told Hemond that under no uncertain conditions the game that night would be played, and then he ordered Hemond to go keep Weaver busy, so he wouldn't come out of the visiting clubhouse and see what terrible shape the field was in.
Hemond turned and started walking away. Then he remembered something he had to tell Veeck so he turned back toward the outfield.
"I look out there and Bill is stuck," Hemond said. "His [wooden] leg is sinking in the mud, and he's trying as hard as he can to pull it out. I wanted to laugh but he would have killed me. Those were great years, crazy years, but great years."
Hemond thrived on the uncertainty of his years with Veeck.
"We stayed up late, talked baseball and Bill was a tremendous influence on me for the five years that I worked with him," Hemond said. "He was highly inspirational. He was creative. He challenged me to come up with any ideas that I would come up with and pass it by him, and then he'd say, 'Well, go get it done.' He gave me the support to do some daring things along the way."
Hemond and the late Chuck Tanner came to the White Sox as a package deal from the Los Angeles Angels.
"Chuck was one of the most positive-thinking people I've ever encountered," Hemond said. "I guess he'd be the [best] as far as positive attitude and never having a bad day and just going out there and grind it out. He played a major role in my success. Without Chuck, my career might have been much briefer than it is and it's continued to be, so I learned from him about being positive to the utmost degree on a day-in and day-out basis."
After being fired in Chicago, Hemond went to Baltimore. He was there for the worst start in baseball history, 0-21 in 1988, but put them into position to win under Gillick.