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Bob Hammel to make local appearances

MEMOIR: Bob Hammel’s memoir, Last Press Bus Out of Middletown, highlights many experiences from his iconic sports writing career.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

Huntington native Bob Hammel, an iconic Indiana sports writer, will be in town on Wednesday for a pair of appearances.

Hammel will first be honored by Huntington Mayor Brooks Fetters at the Rotary meeting at noon, where Hammel will then address the Rotary. At 6 p.m., Hammel will conduct a book signing at the Huntington City-Township Public Library.

Hammel’s memoir, Last Press Bus Out of Middletown, takes an inside look at his 52-year sports writing career, highlighting various stories and experiences from Hammel’s tenure in the journalism world.

Hammel began his sports writing career as the Sports Editor for The Herald-Press in 1954 following a disappointing freshman year in the Indiana University journalism program.

“I was elated to get that chance,” Hammel said. “At that point, I had never taken a journalism class or written a newspaper story. We didn’t have a school paper or anything at Huntington High then. (But), that didn’t seem to bother me. I thought I felt I could do it and I took the job. I just kind of dived in the pool and started swimming. That’s what it boiled down to.”

Among his many highlights during his time with The Herald-Press, Hammel said the historic Bob Straight-led Viking basketball teams and hugely successful Viking football teams particularly stood out.

After spending nine years with The Herald-Press, Hammel spent the next three years with local newspapers in Peru, Ft. Wayne, Kokomo and Indianapolis before taking his talents back to Bloomington, Indiana, where he was hired to join The Herald-Times in October of 1966.

It was during Hammel’s time with The Herald-Times that his sports writing career truly took off, as he piled up remarkable experience after remarkable experience.

“They had a very ambitious editor and publisher named Perry Stewart,” Hammel said. “When he was interviewing me, he mentioned they would be going to the Final Four every year (and) we’d be going to the Olympic Games. I’d never even thought in those terms. And it all worked out. We were the smallest paper in America that went to both places on a regular basis.”

Hammel listed his biggest highlights with The Herald-Times as covering the Olympics five times, the Indiana University men’s basketball’s final undefeated season in 1976, Mark Spitz’s illustrious swimming career, the Hoosiers’ lone appearance in the Rose Bowl and Bob Knight’s iconic coaching career.

Hammel’s motivation for writing the memoir was to share how lucky he was during his career to have the experiences he did. After drafting and tinkering with the memoir for roughly a decade, Hammel finally completed the memoir in November. After the editing and publishing stages, the Indiana University Press released the memoir in March.

Joe Santa, owner of TrophyCenter Plus in Huntington, is honored to be the exclusive seller of Hammel’s memoir in Huntington.

“Bob is a treasure,” Santa said. “He’s a Huntington native who has gone on to do amazing things in the world of sports writing. Whether it’s IU sports, the Olympics, Final Fours, World Series, etc., he has covered it all from his small-town newspaper. It’s (no) surprise that he’s been recognized as a Hall of Famer by his national peers. I’ve been fortunate to call Bob a friend. He has helped me tremendously in our Huntington County Honors organization plus he’s been a great resource for all things sports. I’m excited that he has (released) his memoirs and that I have the opportunity to be able to distribute them in his hometown. I’ve read the book and it’s amazing what he’s covered in his career.”

Last Press Bus Out of Middletown can be purchased in town at TrophyCenter Plus as well as at Hammel’s book signing on Wednesday night.