2011 Buck O'Neil Award Winner Roland Hemond

Part of the BUCK O'NEIL AWARD series

Roland Hemond is the 2011 and second recipient of the John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil Lifetime Achievement Award. Hemond revolutionized front-office management and strategy during a seven-decade career in baseball, while spending his post-general manager days assisting baseball family members in need.

Hemond first rose to prominence in the late 1950s as the assistant scouting director for the Milwaukee Braves. He would become a three-time Executive of the Year recipient and helped to build winning franchises in Chicago, Baltimore and Arizona. Hemond became the scouting director for the Los Angeles Angels in their debut season of 1961, remaining with the franchise until 1970, when he became the Chicago White Sox's general manager and winning the Sporting News MLB Executive of the Year award in 1972. Hemond won his second Executive of the Year honor in 1983.

Hemond took over as the Baltimore Orioles' general manager in 1988, again named the Sporting News MLB Executive of the Year in 1989. He served as the Senior Executive Vice President for the Arizona Diamondbacks from 1996-2000, guiding the franchise through its debut season of 1998. Hemond worked as an executive advisor for the White Sox from 2001-07 before returning to the Diamondbacks as a special assistant to the president in 2007, where he continues to serve Diamondbacks leadership.

The NLBM congratulates Mr. Hemond for this prestigious award. I am sure Mr. O'Neil would be pleased that a fellow "baseball scout" (as Mr. Hemond was for many years) is being honored. We look forward to inviting Mr. Hemond to visit the museum soon to celebrate this honor with him.

Ray Doswell, President of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City

Hemond also serves as the president of the Association of Professional Baseball Players of America, which provides financial assistance and college scholarships to current and former players, scouts and others connected with pro baseball. Hemond also helped found the Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, designed to provide assistance to longtime scouts who are in need of special support.

Hemond was named "King of Baseball" in 2001 by Minor League Baseball and also has baseball awards named in his honor by three organizations, recognizing his service to the game: the Chicago White Sox, "Baseball America" and the Society of American Baseball Research.

Acceptance Speech

To the top

July 23, 2011

Thank you very much. First I want to recognize my family. Without my bride of fifty-two years Margo, also known as mom and gram, and our five children - and I want you to stand as I introduce you. Our youngest Ryan, then Jay with his wife Jen and two sons, Cam and Zane. My son Bob, Holly and Natalie our granddaughter, Shari and our granddaughter Taylor and Susan and Dick Dent. Without them I would not be standing here, especially from the years 1971 thru ’85 I was with the White Sox, and there was some uncertainties on ownership and transfer the franchise and what have you. So I said to Margo this may be a short term. Well I ended up with three different ownerships in 15 years there. The children would come during the season and I would throw batting practice to them at Comiskey Park early in the afternoons and we had great times so we made up for my absence, but they allowed me to do my job to the best of my ability. And ah, you know as I look at them, I used to tell them this, and you deserve it today. “Nice going gang!” Also one of my big slogans through my lifetime has been “enjoy the moment”, well I’m enjoying this one guys, believe me - thank you.

Buck O’Neil, you know it’s very ironic that nine years ago I presented Buck O’Neil with an award – a Baseball America Award – bearing my name and he was the recipient. And it was such a great honor for me to meet this gentleman. His graciousness, his smile, his genuine love for people in our game and the greatest ambassador of our game then, and would be perpetuated with his legacy. Margo loved him also. And here I am today getting his award, and when Jerry Reinsdorf arranged for me to be in an office in our new spring training camp in Salt River Fields in Phoenix for the Diamondbacks, I didn’t know what he had in mind. And he arrived on time and he said he needed to see me at 10 o’clock and Ken Kendrick our general partner of the Diamondbacks and Derrick Hall President and CEO were there and I was still in, you know, uncertain of what was going to transpire. The phone rang, and it was Jane Forbes Clark, and Jerry handed me the phone and when she told me that I was receiving the Buck O’Neil 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award, for one of the few times in my life I was speechless, I - I just couldn’t talk. I handed the phone to Derrick Hall, he handed it to Jerry Reinsdorf and I managed to say “I need to talk to Margo.” but I couldn’t talk to her either I was in such an emotional state. And, when Jerry gave her the news, she was thrilled as well because she had such respect for Buck O’Neil.

I often say I’m the luckiest guy in baseball. You know there is no way as I look back to my youth, that it would lead for me to become a general manager of a Major League club. But on leave in the Coast Guard doing my last spring of four years of service, I decided I would go see spring training camps, I had to save some leaves and I ran into a gentlemen by the name of Sergeant Leo McMann, Leo C. McMann. He had been wounded in First World War, in France and had become blind. And he would travel with his wife to minor league ballparks, sing the National Anthem, wear his Army uniform and he was called the lucky sergeant and he would root for the home team. And he told me that there was a gentleman on Hartford Connecticut who ran the Hartford Connecticut Hartford Chiefs of the Eastern League, a minor league club of the Boston Braves, and I should meet him, that maybe there would be a chance for me to get into baseball. He had
me type my own letter of introduction; I went up to meet Mr. Blashfield and on the day that I was there, Margo’s grandfather, James Aloysius, was there with Margo. And she was eleven years old, I remember her mother telling her and her younger sister: “Don’t run there with some cracks in the cement.” And little did I realize, that some day she’d be my wife. Quite an opportunist, right?

Anyway. Charlie Blashfield said he couldn’t afford me at the end of the season on Labor Day, but he wanted me back the next year, the next spring. Well it wasn’t an enormous salary believe me. However, 10 days later he called me and said that there was an opening in the farm office of the Boston Braves and that he had recommended me to the farming scouting director John Mullen to at least get an interview. Now with just a high school education I wouldn’t be getting that interview today. But anyway I went to see John and he said “can you type?” I said well I learned to type in the Coast Guard fortunately. He said I’ll give you a two-week tryout. Well, here I am, still here, so.

John was a great mentor, as well as John Quinn. I learned a lot from them and from the club then, and you know moved to Milwaukee in 1953 and I was happy to go wherever they went and we had some tremendous years in Milwaukee, and when I see Red Schoendienst I have always reminded him that if John Quinn had not traded for you, at trading deadline, we would not have been playing in the World Series and beat the New York Yankees in seven games, so thank you Red.

I would like to introduce a lot of people that have helped me in the game, but it’s impossible with the allowed time, but I’ll have you (Rolls up long script with names of people)... your name may be on this some of you. However, with great pride today I want to introduce five of, I guess I can call them my protégés who have gone on to become great baseball men. David Dombrowski President, CEO, general manager of the Detroit Tigers, will you stand Dave, wherever you are, thanks for being here. Doug Melvin, General Manager of the Milwaukee Brewers, a great general manager. Walt Jocketty, general manager now of the Cincinnati Reds and formally of the St. Louis Cardinals. Tim Purpura, who was general manager of the Houston Astros in 2005 when the Chicago White Sox and I happened to be with them, played in the World Series and now he’s COO of Minor League Baseball. And Bill Smith Jr., whose father was a shipmate of mine in the Coast Guard, the Andres Cogan. His father was a great sailor and I never learned to swim and I was in the Coast Guard for four years and I figured like I didn’t belong there. I would wear a life jacket in our swimming pool. But anyways Bill Smith Sr. was a great sailor and he became a captain in the Coast Guard, and Bill Smith Jr., general manager of the Twins, the Minnesota Twins.

So that’s very rewarding as you can tell and from my heart I see other fine prospects, not only players, managers, coaches but to be associated with so many great baseball people who have helped me through the years, its incredible. Fred Haney who had been the manager of the Braves in Milwaukee and led them to the championship in 1957, hired me as farm and scouting director of the expansion Angels at the time from 1961. I had been told in Milwaukee that I was too young to be a scouting director and six weeks later I was farm of scouting director with the Angels and I said, “Boy, did I mature in six weeks.”

But anyway, you march on to bigger and better. With John Allyn owner of the White Sox, joined the White Sox along with one of my greatest friends, Chuck Tanner who is not here today. I knew I would have trouble getting through this, but I loved the man and he was such a great manager and made us look better than we could possibly be as a club and wherever he went. And today I believe Al Monchak has arrived on the scene with his daughter, and Al is one of the greatest instructors of defensive play that I have ever encountered. He made non-prospects become Major League players and he made players in the big league changing positions and what have you, become winning players. So Al, wherever you are, I hope you’re in the stands; I want to see you later today.

Johnny Sain came along, one of the great pitching coaches of all-time without question, and we survived and did well enough that when Bill Veeck bought the club, Tony La Russa, no wait a minute, I’m getting my decades mixed up here a little bit. Yes when Bill Veeck bought the ball club he said “I want you to stay.” and what a great five years of adventure with this legendary genius as creative as can be. He taught me about life in general and life experiences and what he had going, he never complained about the injuries he suffered during World War II and the many operations, but he would get you to be better and more creative and more daring so I know he helped my career immensely and I wouldn’t trade those five years will Bill Veeck. I said, the calendar says five years but it was closer to 10 because we didn’t go to bed early and we got up early, and I say to Bill “How come we come up with our best ideas at 2 a.m.?”, he said “Well, that’s the way it goes Roland, a little conversation and a little having fun together, and baseball people together and all a sudden it triggers ideas that can help the game and help your organization.” And with Jerry Reinsdorf and Eddie Einhorn then purchasing the club, I thank them whole-heartedly for again to make the decision to retain me, so those 15 years in Chicago where very precious. Jerry, you run a great organization. You treat your employees as family and Margo and I feel apart of that great family of yours and we love you.

I may skip along a little bit so it’s not to be too long; I know there is limited time. There is one gentleman missing today too who passed on a few years ago, Leo Lambassias Sr. who played a major role in helping me to learn the game, also he is a great coach in the amateur ranks that I played in American Legion ball, high school, and weekend games and what have you. And one of my very best friends, well actually I consider my best friend, Bob Brown, not the one who played for the Yankees or the President of the American League but he was the shortstop when I was the second baseman on many of those teams. He thought he was Johnny Pesky, I thought it was Bobby Doerr but Bobby you didn’t have to worry about losing your job believe me.

And then to go onto the Arizona Diamondbacks with Jerry Colangelo hiring me to be helping Joe Garagiola Jr. who was a new young general manager, and to see that club improve so rapidly and in only four years into playing in the Major Leagues as an organization, to win a World Series against the New York Yankees that’s certainly a great highlight. I may have skipped something’s. I’m doing better than I thought on time, so I may branch out to fabricated stories that I tell once in a while, but anyways. To Derrick Hall and Ken Kendrick and the Diamondbacks, I thank them. They brought a large contingent of my friends and colleagues and our front office and to have them here present today too means a great deal.

I guess I can close it much quicker than I thought I would. I’m doing alright, right Jeff? Okay, I hope so. I have to add, my sister Cecile, better known as “sis”, she was my champion and my best friend. She always said to my kid brother, “Look he’s doing OK in baseball” and she would brag about me time and time again. Her two daughters I believe have arrived in time with their families today and that means so much to me. I love you both Karen and Joyce.

I’ll close then. I have one more story, and this one may be the toughest. Hey, I get a better hand for closing. Frank used to get me off the stage in Baltimore, “C’mon Roland” and then White Sox guys had a sign like this whenever I talked enough, that meant cool it. Well I’m going to cool it and try and cool it. But my mother spoke mainly French and she used to go to rummage sales and I was the best dressed kid in town because she would buy men’s suits with good material and cut them down for me and boy I used to be prancing pretty good. Get a lot of compliments about my attire. But one day she came back with a baseball glove. She had bought a glove at a rummage sale probably for a dollar or two, and she was happy to give it to me because she knew how much engrossed I was a big Red Sox fan, Jimmie Foxx in 1938 and Ted Williams came aboard, and Bobby Doerr and I was you know, one of those die-hard Red Sox fans. But at this I was only about 11, but I was already warmed up to this game that I loved it. And she said to me, and she spoke mainly French “(In French).” That means, “Roland what will this lead you?” I said “Ma, (In French)”, “I do not know but I sure love baseball.” So I would pound that glove and it would remain stiff, the fingers weren’t very long, I’d put oil in it at night, and I’d wrap it up in a rope and tie it as hard as I could and I’d try again the next day and she kept watching me pounding the glove and I think she felt, I don’t know what this is going to lead to for sure and certainly I did not. But Ma, the Buck O’Neil Award.

To the top

More O'Neil Award Winners

To the top

Hall of Fame Awards

To the top

Part of the BUCK O'NEIL AWARD series