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Bob Hammel returns home

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SIGN: Bob Hammel signs a book after he gave a speech at the Rotary Club meeting Tuesday.
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SMILEText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/SolidText ColorSwatch/NoneStrokeStyle/$ID/Solid$ID/NothingText ColorText Color$ID/NothingText ColorText Color: Hammel smiles after he made a joke about getting nineof the tenquiz questions based on his career correct.

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

As Bob Hammel made his way through school, he focused on trying to look older than he was.

Interestingly enough, Hammel said his obsession paid off when he landed his first job out of high school. Hammel said had his editor known how young he truly was, he wouldn’t have gotten his first job – the first of many in a lengthy writing career.

When Bob Hammel left the Huntington Herald-Press in 1963, after beginning at the paper in 1954, he began building his legacy.

During his 60-year career, Hammel was named Indiana Sportswriter of the Year sixteen times and was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame, U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame and Indiana Sportwriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame. He was named to the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame, National Basketball Hall of Fame, Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, and College Football Hall of Fame.

Hammel covered more than 1,000 Indiana University football and basketball games, including three of IU’s NCAA men’s basketball championships and first eight bowl appearances, and he was awarded the Curt Gowdy award by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

“Bob Hammel is the only person to have been the president of United States Basketball Writers Association, (U.S.) Football Writers Association and the National Sportswriters and Sports Broadcasters Associations,” Mayor Brooks Fetters said, as he proclaimed May 14 as Bob Hammel Day.

Former Herald-Press editor Mike Perkins, who worked in the same building at different times, said Hammel defined the term legend, even though he said it was cliche.

“He went on to have a career that is the envy of everyone who’s worked in sports journalism anywhere,” Perkins said. “I guarantee it. For all of us who followed you at the Herald-Press, Bob, you were an example and an inspiration and the personification of what it means to be a great writer.”

Although Hammel shared stories of the memories he captured during his career that remain vivid in his mind today, like the sectional game between Monument City and Huntington high schools, he wanted to share two things.

His primary message was about how proud he is to call Huntington home.

Every Saturday he said he looks scans the score list to stay up on how his teams are doing here.

As he spoke at the Rotary luncheon, he told them about how honored he felt to be invited to a similar event as a student at Huntington High School, which led into the second message he hoped to share.

When he saw the Dalai Lama speak in Bloomington more than a decade ago, he said the great spiritual leader summarized how all nine faiths represented at the event fit together with a single word: compassion, which he said is embodied by service clubs like the Rotary Club.

“I was very touched when I heard him say that,” Hammel recounted. “It’s a significant thing. We all do have one common bond, and that should never be forgotten.”

He thanked them for their devotion to the community during a time where not everyone is afforded the same lifestyle that Huntington residents are used to.

“Not enough of us actually spend time trying to serve our community, serve the people of our community,” Hammel said. “It’s no less important now than it’s ever been, if anything, more so because in a land of plenty there is so much missing.”

Later that day, Hammel signed copies of his new memoir “Last Press Bus out of Middletown,” at Huntington City-Township Library, but even though he plans to leave Huntington, he’ll be taking a copy of the proclamation with him to remember the place he remembers “dearly.”

“I will hang it on my wall at home,” he said with a smile.