I have a new favorite former Brewer. It had been a Robin Yount/Paul Molitor combo until last week. My new favorite former Brewer is Larry Hisle. Larry Hisle calls his life "nothing special" but he is making new fans every day in the Milwaukee area, even though it has been 25 years since he played his last game in the Big Leagues. That was 1982…as a member of the most beloved Brewers team in franchise history. He played in only nine games that year and didn’t contribute much (2 HR, 5 RBI). But only five years prior to ’82, he was one of the most productive players in the big leagues. During Larry’s two All-Star years, (’77 in Minnesota, ’78 in Milwaukee) he drove in a combined 234 runs and hit 62 long balls. Those are the stats. For me, the most important production came after his time as a player when he began his work in the Brewers Community Relations Department.
Larry speaks at numerous schools every week and last Friday, I heard Larry’s story for the first time during a school visit at the Business and Economics Academy of Milwaukee. It was an appearance arranged by Brewers Community Relations Director, Leonard Peace (who has quite a story of his own). We made the stop at the central-city charter school to promote the MLB S.C.O.R.E. program. School, Community, Opportunity, Role Models, and Excellence are the words that make up the acronym. Leonard and I gave out T shirts, baseballs and bookmarks…Larry Hisle delivered the message.
Sixth, seventh and eighth graders filled the cafeteria, "ooh-ing" and "awe-ing" as Larry spoke about his playing days and the rewards that go with a 14 year career in the Major Leagues. But all were quiet and attentive when Larry spoke of his childhood. How he made himself into "something" after starting out with more of "nothing" than anyone else in the room.
When Larry was about the same age as the students in the audience, he was an orphan. Both of his parents died, one year apart, before his twelfth birthday. His entire upbringing was spent enduring the sting of extreme poverty. There was violence on every corner. But he spoke of his late mother’s message of hope that stayed with him. He made it out of an unhealthy environment because he chose to listen to his conscience, choosing "right" instead of "easy."
That was the message that Larry delivered to the children at the Academy. He asked them to make a choice to overcome, every day, over and over and over, just like he did. He did not grow up hoping to play professional sports. His hope was to be a teacher and a coach so he could make an impact on others…even though he grew up in a world where most "others" were not offering the same service in return.
Larry gave these students a message of "can" because he DID. No matter the environment an individual is born into, we are all born special. With unique gifts and talents. Then, by our own choosing, we become SOMETHING or NOTHING…or somewhere in between. Larry calls his career "nothing special." He says what he does now is "nothing special." I disagree. Larry’s childhood and his terrific Major League career are only part of the "something" that he has become. His message to thousands of school kids every year is the REAL "something" that makes him truly "special."
Larry Hisle…my new favorite former Brewer.
Have a great week.
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