Hrabosky shares thoughts at Southeast benefit

Tuesday, June 20, 2006
Cardinals commentator Al Hrabosky autographs a Cardinals baseball cap for Cory Hogan, 11, at the Joe Uhls Golf Tournament dinner at the Elks Lodge where Hrabosky was a guest. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

The Mad Hungarian was the guest of honor at the Joe Uhls Memorial Golf Tournament and Dinner.

Al Hrabosky said it didn't take long for him to agree to lend a helping hand to Southeast Missouri State baseball, which is why he was in Cape Girardeau on Monday night.

Hrabosky, a former standout relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals who now serves as one of the team's broadcasters, helped spice up the third annual Joe Uhls Memorial Golf Tournament and Dinner, which serves as a major fund raiser for the Redhawks' program.

"First of all, I think it's a responsibility for ballplayers to do these things, and I enjoy them," Hrabosky said. "But more importantly, anybody who saw Jack Buck and how open he was with his time in the community, that just set a great example.

"It comes with the territory and I'm glad to be here."

Although recent shoulder surgery kept Hrabosky from participating in the golf tournament at Bent Creek Golf Course in Jackson, he was the featured speaker for the event's dinner and silent auction at the Cape Girardeau Elks Lodge.

Hrabosky said he became familiar with Southeast baseball coach Mark Hogan in recent years as Hogan and several other Cape Girardeau residents have attended a Cardinals Legends Camp in Florida.

"I've known him over the years from the camp and he asked me to come down here for this," said Hrabosky, who added with a laugh, "I originally thought I was coming down here to play golf, not speak. I wanted to play golf, but my shoulder's not quite ready yet."

Prior to addressing the gathering at the Elks Lodge, Hrabosky took a few minutes to discuss several topics regarding the Cardinals and the current state of baseball.

About the Cardinals

The Cardinals appear headed toward another National League Central Division title, but Hrabosky is not sure they have the kind of club necessary to bring a World Series crown back to St. Louis for the first time since 1982.

"They have the team to win the Central Division and probably the National League," Hrabosky said. "But there's always the question of whether they have enough power pitching and enough hitting to hit power pitching. That's kind of derailed them the last two years."

As long as star slugger Albert Pujols avoids serious health issues -- which he has pretty much done so far, save for his current bout with a strained oblique -- Hrabosky expects the young phenom to wind up with one of the best careers in baseball history.

"The whole thing is longevity. He's had a remarkable start to a remarkable career, but if something would happen, he'd only be a footnote," Hrabosky said. "But if he doesn't get hurt, there's no telling what his numbers will be when he's done playing."

As far as Jason Isringhausen being a lightning rod for the wrath of Cardinals' fans because he sometimes makes saves a bit too adventurous for their liking, Hrabosky said that's the nature of the closer's role, which he handled for a good part of his 13-year major league career.

"It comes with the territory, but he is the Cardinals' all-time saves leader," Hrabosky said. "Now, every time he gets a guy on base, they boo him. The fans have gotten short-sighted about just how good he has been for a long time."

The steroids issue

Hrabosky believes baseball will ultimately survive its current bout with the issue of performance enhancing drugs -- not that he likes what is happening.

"It's another black eye with the steroid part, but at the same token, the game is bigger than any one person," Hrabosky said. "Let's just take care of it and get it resolved."

Not that Hrabosky condones players who have benefited from performance enhancing drugs, but he can also somewhat understand their mindset.

"As a former athlete, I can understand the philosophy of getting involved. You think you're bullet proof and you don't think about the long term effects," Hrabosky said. "The big thing is the example it sets. You have got to convince young athletes that it's not the way to go."

Added Hrabosky, "Baseball should have had suspicions and done something about it 10, 15 years ago. Bodies were changing. Everybody could see that."

Show me the money

Asked about the biggest change in the game since he retired following the 1982 season, Hrabosky didn't hesitate.

"Money. Pure and simple. It's totally changed the game," he said.

Hrabosky -- known as the "Mad Hungarian" for his wild antics on the mound -- had an impressive major league career, going 64-35 with 97 saves and a 3.10 earned-run average. He spent his first eight seasons with the Cardinals, followed by two seasons with the Royals and three years with the Braves.

In 1975, Hrabosky was named The Sporting News' National League Fireman of the Year as he went 13-3 with 22 saves and a 1.66 ERA for the Cardinals. The following season, according to The Baseball Almanac, his St. Louis salary was $100,000.

Hrabosky, who will turn 57 next month, was asked if he regrets having missed out on the ridiculous salaries players make these days.

"Nah. You have too many tax problems making that much," he said with a smile.

Added Hrabosky, "I really don't think about it because you can only frustrate yourself. Plus, I'm making more money now as a broadcaster than I ever thought I would as a player. It's all relative."

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