Savage brings change to St. Louis inner cities
Hall of Famers Brock, Ozzie and Herzog participate in golf tournament
ST. LOUIS -- What bothers Ted Savage isn't what he sees, but rather what he doesn't. When he goes past his old childhood park in East St. Louis, it sits nearly empty, the kids are nowhere to be found.
A lot has changed since a young Savage ran on that very field in Lincoln Park, playing catch and hitting baseballs with Major League dreams. The empty fields motivate the 78-year-old former Major League player. He has a new dream, one that has those fields filled again just the way he remembers.
"The park is basically empty," Savage said with disappointment. "In my day that's all people would be able to see is the kids playing baseball, even the adults playing baseball. They're not doing it en masse like they used to do when I was coming up."
It is Savage's dream that brought Cardinals Hall of Famers and alumni out for a golf tournament named in his honor. The 25th Ted Savage RBI Golf Classic hosted by Cardinals Care was held in St. Louis on Tuesday, with proceeds benefitting the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) Program -- an MLB initiative to get inner-city kids involved in baseball.
Following Savage's nine-year career in the Majors, in which he spent parts of three seasons with the Cardinals, he joined the organization as an assistant director of community relations and a Minor League instructor in 1987. He was part of the Cardinals' community effort until he retired in 2012 after 25 years.
His work is far from complete.
The golf tournament was renamed after Savage last year, and it is the former ballplayer that helps attract the names. It was Savage and his cause that brought back Hall of Famers Lou Brock, Ozzie Smith and Whitey Herzog along with dozens of other former players yet again this year.
"Everybody loves Teddy, everybody respects Teddy," said Michael Hall, the vice president of community relations and executive director of Cardinals Care. "They recognize what this tournament means not only to the kids in the community, but to Ted himself. Having him be a part of it is a huge boost."
The St. Louis RBI program is managed by the Mathews-Dickey Boys' & Girls' Club with sponsorship coming primarily from Major League Baseball and Cardinals Care.
Raising both awareness and money for the inner-city programs around the country is reason enough for Brock to participate. The Hall of Fame outfielder left his mark with 19 seasons in the Majors and two World Series titles with the Cardinals. But Brock knows his legacy can be used elsewhere.
"We have something we can do for the kids in a small way," Brock said. "This is only touching the surface, and hopefully others can catch the issue, and duplicate this, and it can become a cookie-cutter not only in St. Louis but around the country. There's nothing to say there should be just one tournament to make a dent into inner-city baseball.
"It's going to require more, and we're just at the forefront of it."
Since the RBI program was started in 1989 by Major League Baseball, it has served more than one million kids. Savage has seen the number of teams in St. Louis jump from eight to nearly 100.
Still, there isn't complete satisfaction. Inner-city baseball is not lost on players like Savage and Brock, who know well what it is like to move through those ranks to the Majors. That's why Brock was at the golf course Tuesday with nearly 125 other participants.
"Basically it's to keep the dream alive, simply meaning baseball in the city which seems to be in a downward spin," Brock said. "Anything to come about, that can shed light on that, I'm a supporter of it."
Savage's face lights up when he talks about that dream, the one with Lincoln Park filled with kids and bats and baseballs. He remembers those days at Lincoln Park well, and he still finds himself going past that park now and again.
Of course, he will need help. There is a reminder of that when Brock steps over and extends his hand. He looked up and smiled.
"For this young man here to come and help," Savage said, pausing to hold the Hall of Famer's hand, "we've got the same goal -- to get these kids to play the game again and hopefully get them on the right track and keep them from going astray."
Alex Halsted is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.