Forgotten Player of the Moment – TOM HUME
(by Ed Agner)
Thomas Hubert Hume was – well, I wouldn’t call him the worst closer ever since I’ve seen. Jose Mesa in the post-Cleveland era – but he certainly was…well…the word “fungible” comes to mind. Let’s just say he picked up the nickname “Boom Boom” for a very good reason and that’s apt considering he was supposedly a “premier” member of some very craptastic Reds teams that stunk up the joint in the early-80’s after The Big Red Machine was dispersed.
To be fair, looking over his records, he was pretty decent for a couple of years. In context, the equivalent of his 1979 and 1980 seasons probably would have made the current day Yankees and Red Sox battle to the death over him.
And then the rest of his career happened – those are the years for which those of us forced to watch too many Reds games over the years fondly remember Boom Boom.
My most vivid memory of Hume was a game I attended in, I guess ‘83 – could’ve been ‘82, I reckon; all I’m certain of is that my boyhood idol, Johnny Bench, was still with the team (in that sad-sad-sad-sad-sad 3rd base experiment era, I believe *shudder*), the rest is fuzzy. My sisters used to get free Reds tickets for making the honor role – notice this only happened with my sisters – and the choice of games used to be for all the second tier teams that never drew like the Padres or Giants or Mets or Expos. Mostly the Expos because it always seemed like we’d have to stand through two anthems and I always thought that was really cool.
Anyway, from memory – and of course I can’t find the game at Retrosheet.org and don’t really want to run the risk of ruining my flawed memory with the truth – the Reds were playing the Expos and either Tom Seaver or Mario Soto started for the Reds (it seemed like they were always starting for the Reds when we went to the game which, since they were the only two good starting pitchers the Reds had, fooled me into believing the Reds didn’t suck as much as they did) and whomever it was threw dandy. The Reds were winning, surprisingly, and I think Bench even had a hit and wasn’t embarrassing himself too badly at third. And then the late innings came.
In comes Hume to close. Seems now that it was like a 3 run lead in the 8th and a very young Tim Raines lead off with a walk and stole second. Whoever the next guy was walked. Then Gary Carter walked. Andre Dawson gets plunked to score a run. Then I think Tim Wallach hits a moon shot up in the cheap seats where the Reds stuck the Poindexter kids. I scrambled for the ball, racked myself across a row of seats, puked up my Big Reds Smokey and of course didn’t get near the ball since the Science Fair kids all had figured out the direct angle to the ball from the get-go. I lie there crying for the rest of the inning. Hume then goes on to strike out the side – complete with the craziest Derek Lowe/Dennis Eckersley-esque fist pump ever after blowing a save.
Bottom of the 8th, the Reds rally for 3 runs on, I think, a homer by like Ron Oester of all people.
Back out comes Hume – realize John McNamara was the manager then, I believe – all 1500 in attendance let out a groan. Everyone knows how this will go by now. Bunch of walks and a big dong by, I think, Gary Carter – then Hume strikes out the side complete with the fist pump again. Reds can’t rally and Boom Boom send the fans home.
I guess if it wasn’t for the fact that he was a home town boy, he would’ve been killed by a Reds fan ‘round about ‘83 or ‘84. Of course, the Reds already sucking had a lot to do with Hume’s safety. After a while he became a turd of honor among Reds fans and eventually became a fan favorite of sorts – a fan favorite that no one really ever wanted to see play, but a fan favorite all the same.
Hume’s now a bullpen coach for the Reds, thusly explaining Danny Graves’ career.