July 23, 2010

Talkin' Hall of Fame Baseball with George Castle

Earlier in the season, I had the opportunity to talk baseball with baseball writer and "Diamond Gems" host George Castle and given we're both passionate about the Hall of Fame...some of our conversion had to do with just that.

This past week, I caught back up with Castle and got him to share with me his favorite Andre Dawson story.

CASTLE: My favorite Dawson story was from the end of the '85 season...September 24th to be exact. Anyway, I'm doing work for Larry King's segment on NBC's pro football pre-game show. Mostly football, but some other sports news where warranted. I approach Dawson after Expos batting practice. I ask if he'd ever want to play for the Cubs. He said in fact he did if he became a free agent (which he did a year later), and that bleacher fans were constantly encouraging hm to come to the Cubs. That day, as if to emphasize his desire to play in Wrigley, Dawson slugged three homers and drove in eight runs. His best day in the majors. I had a nice scoop on Larry King's segment, as Dawson was famed for stalking the Cubs in spring training 1987 to sign that blank contract.

HOVG: How do you feel about Dawson going in as an Expo rather than a Cub?

CASTLE: It’s no big deal. He’s in the Hall, period, after waiting a bit too long. Any way you get in, in any hat, is fine. But he ID’s as a Cub, those were the best years of his life. The Hall probably played a little politics, yet recognizing a dead franchise is a little strange.

HOVG: Baseball’s former all-time saves leader and the all-time leader in saves for the Cubs, Lee Smith.

CASTLE: Lee Arthur deserves enshrinement due to durability and production. I think he lost out not appearing in a World Series and starring for the New York teams, where there is a big concentration of Hall voters.

HOVG: White Sox legend and one of the game’s best designated hitters, Harold Baines.

CASTLE: Hall of the Very Good indeed with Harold. Consistent hitter, but not a superstar.

HOVG: Current Cubs broadcaster Ron Santo.

CASTLE: Flat-out deserves enshrinement. Better hitter than Brooks Robinson and 90 percent of the fielder. Some petty politics involved in not getting Ronnie the 75 percent of the vote, which is a tough threshold to reach.

HOVG: In 2005, Ryne Sandberg made his way through the doors of the Hall of Fame. However, he doesn’t seem to get the respect that he probably deserves. Where do you think he ranks all-time among Cubs greats?

CASTLE: Probably in the Top Five or Six. Great all-around player, fundamentally sound and totally dedicated.

George Castle is a lifelong Chicagoan and has been following the Cubs since he began drawing breath. Since 1980, he’s been covering baseball for a variety of newspapers and magazines. In 1994, Castle began “Diamond Gems” and four years later, he penned his first book.

Castle lives in the northern Chicago suburbs with wife, Nina, their two dogs and an African grey parrot that mimics him perfectly.



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