With All the Humility Going On Now My Thoughts Recall Bob Tewksbury
By Tom Anselm
I am thoroughly enjoying seeing people with humility populating the headlines these days. When I read about the St. Louis University Billiken basketball team and their current success, or listen to one of many young Cardinals who are taking over the team, I am encouraged by what I see. And how about this new Pope? He is supposed to be the poster-child for humble, having lived in a small apartment and taken the bus to work as the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, eschewing the Papal limousine to ride with the guys after he was chosen Pontiff.
It all brings to mind another guy we knew in St. Louis who went about his daily walk with quiet humility. His name is Bob Tewksbury.
It was the early summer of 1993, and the Cardinals were firmly planted in the middle of the pack. They were an average bunch then, not the contenders to which we have become accustomed. One of the top pitchers on the staff had just given a sports page interview where he talked about changing economic face of baseball.
Tewksbury, a 33-year-old right-hander then, born in New Hampshire and come to the home town team by way of the Cubs, was at that point in a baseball player’s career where he could command some real money. He was poised to cash in with a big payday, getting into the millions for a contract. But he was frank in his assessment as to what incomes like his might do to the affordability of the game for the average fan.
Well, this average fan was indeed feeling the pinch. Back in the good old days of ’93, we had six kids all living at home. There was a greater possibility of a snowball fight in July than being able to afford trucking the family to a ball game. Figuring tickets, parking, a couple of Cokes and hot dogs, not to mention the obligatory peanuts and cotton candy, we would have had to refinance the house to find the cash.
So I wrote a note to “Tewks”, as he was known, thanking him for bringing to light the plight of the average family man.
You can imagine how surprised I was when a few weeks later, a Cardinal logo envelope showed up in the mailbox. It held a handwritten note from Bob Tewksbury himself, and a signed baseball card for each kid as well. My surprise turned to astonishment as, in the course of his response, he offered to treat my entire gang to a game at our convenience.
So here was the soon-to-be millionaire ace of the team, fresh off his best season with a 16-5 record, 2.16 earned run average, and a start in the 1992 All-Star game, for gosh sakes, taking the time to not only personally answer his mail, but spring for a game. Yeah, I know the players get complimentary tickets, but still, what a generous gesture.
Well, we went to one game on Tewks, and then another that year. “Any time,” he said. He went 17-10 that year with only 20 walks in 213 innings. Another solid season. We kept up the correspondence in the off-season. He always wrote back, and went so far as to invite us to Opening Day, 1994. We saw a couple of games that season as well, thanks to “Tewks” That ’94 season would be his last as a Redbird, moving his career to the Rangers, Padres and Twins. He never again reached the level of success he enjoyed in St. Louis. But he did hold the distinction in ‘97of tossing two “Eephus” pitches (similar to looping lobs) to Mark McGwire, getting him to ground out both times. Cool!
Today, he is a commentator on the New England Sports Network and a sports psychologist for the Boston Red Sox. He does charity work in local hospitals and for the Boys and Girls Clubs of America in his native New Hampshire, where he lives with wife Laura and kids Griffin and Jenna Rose.
Will Bob Tewksbury be remembered as a great pitcher? Probably not, as this self-effacing guy (who, when we met him after a game, was simply wearing gym shorts, a tee shirt and flip-flops) would most likely agree.
But greatness can be measured in various ways. One thing is certain: the name “Tewks” will always hold “hero” status in the Anselm family legend.
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