SALISBURY — Brewers beat writer Tom Haudricourt has something in common with Milwaukee slugger Corey Hart.
He’s on the 60-day disabled list.
Hardricourt was the most conspicuous and least mobile of the troupe of National Sportscasters and Sportwriters Association award winners who gathered at the Holiday Inn on Saturday for meatballs, sodas and other beverages.
“Foot surgery,” explained the bandaged and beleaguered Haudricourt, who hobbled into Saturday’s reception powered by crutches. “Can’t drive. Can’t carry anything. But I really wanted to get back here to Salisbury (he’s a repeat NSSA honoree). And thanks to her, I’m here.”
The “her” to whom Haudricourt referred is his wife. Trish, who smiled cheerfully and waved.
Hardicourt, 58, was nicknamed the “Prince of Darkness” by former Milwaukee manager Phil Garner for his uncanny ability to see the glass as half-empty 99 percent of the time.
“If there was a Hall of Fame for casually complaining,” Drew Olson offered on ESPNMilwaukee.com, “Haudricourt would be voted in on the first ballot.”
Olson’s blog also contained the following exchange between Garner and the “Prince of Darkness.”
Garner: You’d be pissed off if you won the lottery.
Hardricourt: Of course. I’d have to pay taxes.
You get the idea.
Still, Hardricourt proved remarkably amiable for someone dubbed the “Prince of Darkness.” Maybe it’s because that while he’s on the shelf he’ll be spared from watching Wily Peralta hang sliders and threaten walk records at Miller Park.
Brewers baseball is somewhat bland this season, but it wasn’t always so.
Haudricourt arrived in Milwaukee to serve as beat writer for the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1985. Three years earlier, the Brewers piloted by Harvey Kuenn and led by Hall of Famers Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, had taken the American League pennant before dropping a seven-game World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals. But, alas the 71-90 Brewers of 1985 had little in common in the standings with the wall-banging Brewers of 1982.
“They were kind of in decline when I got there,” Haudricourt said with a sigh. “I started thinking that I just wanted to live long enough to see them get back on top.”
Haudricourt, who is good friends with commissioner Bud Selig, has succeeded in that goal — to some extent. It took a while, but the Brewers were a playoff team in 2008 and 2011. That first World Series title, however, remains elusive.
A love of sports crept into Hardricourt’s blood early. He grew up in Virginia, and as a youngster his father took him to Baltimore to observe Johnny Unitas, arguably the greatest of all quarterbacks, lead the Colts in a Sunday afternoon struggle. That day remains his favorite sports memory.
Hardricourt went to the University of Virginia, opted for a journalism career and was hired by his hometown paper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
“They put me on the Richmond Braves (Atlanta’s Triple A team at the time), and I thought that was the pinnacle,” Hardricourt said. “But I really got bitten by the baseball bug because every single game is different. Then I wanted to see how far I could go.”
His arrival at the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1985 came next. The Sentinel and the Milwaukee Journal merged into the Journal-Sentinel in 1995. Five months after those papers produced their first combined edition, Hardricourt had his most memorable sports moment — covering the game at Camden Yards in which Baltimore’s Cal Ripken Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played.
Hardicourt worked for the Bergen (N.J.) Record for a brief period after Trish got a job offer in New York, but he returned to his old post in Milwaukee in 2003.
“The game itself hasn’t changed that much over the years,” Hardricourt said. “But the job has changed. People don’t have to wait for the morning paper anymore. It’s all about online now, because online is 24/7. I produce far more material for online than print now. I’m an old dog, but I had to change or get out of the business.”
Modern baseball, unfortunately, almost always has a scandal lurking around the next corner. The Brewers’ superstar Ryan Braun has been named in the Biogenesis mess, but Hardricourt is taking a wait-and-see approach.
“Braun is a very special player,” Hardricourt said. “You have to let it play out. Who knows? He could be completely exonerated.”
Hardricourt’s favorite player of all is old school — Hank Aaron — but his job now is new school. Blogs, chats, videos, the whole nine yards.
This weekend, he’s kept Milwaukee fans updated on the Brewers’ draft picks via Twitter, and while his foot mends in the months to come, he’ll crank out Sunday columns.
It was time for Hardricourt to join his wife and colleagues, but he replied to the question, “Who’s the most underrated Brewer?” as he reached for his crutches.
“Jeff Cirillo,” Hardricourt said. “Hit right at .300, but no one remembers. Go Google him.”
For the record, the almost forgotten Cirillo batted .296 over 14 seasons and hit a healthy .307 while wearing a Brewers uniform.
Who knows? If Cirillo was blessed with a catchy nickname like the “Prince of Darkness,” maybe he’d make the Hall of Fame.