MZ: What were you thinking when you first saw him play?
HM: When I first saw him play, I thought, 'You know, this guy can really hit.' He didn't have much speed. He probably could've hit about twenty points higher on his career if he could have run. But he just hit line drives all over the place. I thought, 'This guy's gonna be a star.' And then when I talked to him for the first time, I thought, 'This guy can't be real. This guy can't be for real. Nobody can be this nice.' And it turned out that he was.
I don't know if you know or not, I'm legally blind. And when that happened, he was one of the first players to come up to me and say, 'Don't retire, Hal. We'll help you; we'll help you any way we can.' Every day that spring after it happened, he came up to me and said, 'Hal, you OK? Are you OK? Is everything OK? Can I help you?' He was just very concerned. And that also led to him being one of my all-time favorite people.
MZ: So, you have a very unique perspective. First of all, you know a lot more than most people because you're a writer and you've seen so much more, but also, you got to meet him and talk to him on, I'm sure, numerous occasions.
HM: This is my 40th year of covering the team, and all eight years he was here, I got to see him play. He just never ceased to amaze me with his enthusiasm and his genuine personality. And plus his ability: nobody wanted to win more than he did. He would do anything he could possibly do to win, and he had fun doing it. So that was always something that impressed me.
MZ: Would you say "The Mayor" [of Cincinnati] is a pretty accurate nickname for him?
HM: Absolutely. I don't know who put that on him, but that's very, very [appropriate], 'cause he knows everybody. The other amazing thing about him was, if you met him one time, he remembered your name. I saw it happen time and again. He would be introduced to somebody from the other team, like another writer -- someone, at the time, that he did not know -- and the next time they would come into town, he would look at them and say, 'Hi, Bill!' 'Hi, Bob! How ya doing?' I can't do that -- I forget somebody's name a minute after I meet them. [Laughs] But he remembers everybody. That's a great trait, so that's the kind of why he would earn the nickname 'The Mayor.' He knows everybody, and everybody knows him.
He's probably the only baseball player I've known in my life who I've never, ever, heard anybody say one bad word about him.
MZ: That does not surprise me.
HM: It's tough to write anything bad about him, that's for sure.