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Robin Yount grew up a hero -- State Journal editorial from 25 years ago

February 16, 2019

This State Journal editorial ran on Feb. 14, 1994:

As the memorials for Robin Yount’s baseball playing career were written last week, one phrase was repeated: Yount, who grew up with the Brewers ...

It’s true that when Yount first played for the Milwaukee Brewers in 1974, he was just a year out of high school. When he retired last week, he was a 38-year-old man who had played major league baseball for 20 years, won two Most Valuable Player awards, played in one World Series and earned several million dollars, including $3.5 million last year.

But it’s also true that the Brewers and a generation of Brewers fans grew up with Yount. ... And while Yount would be the first to say he was richer for the experience, the Brewers and the fans may well have gained the most.

Yount fit the Brewers and their fans. Or perhaps it was the Brewers and fans who fit Yount. Since they all grew up together, it’s difficult to determine who was hand and who was glove. But this much is clear: Yount was a hero—not a celebrity—on a team and in a state that still appreciate heroes—not celebrities.

The distinction is important because too many of today’s idols are celebrities — not heroes. They know how to attract attention and how to capitalize on it. But they haven’t a clue how to be a hero, how to leave a lasting impact that will make the world — even a tiny portion of it — better.

To skeptics, it might appear absurd to call a simple ball player a hero. But Yount’s performance in a game last spring will illustrate. The Brewers were playing the San Diego Padres in Yuma, Ariz. The field was muddy from rain, and because the game was for practice only, the day appeared ripe for mediocre play.

In the third inning, a Padre hitter knocked a line drive into left-centerfield. As the fans and sportswriters keeping score started to pencil in a hit, they noticed that Yount had broken swiftly for the ball. As they watched, agape, Yount hurtled and caught the ball in flight for an out.

The play was a lesson. Later in the same game, each of Yount’s outfield mates, Darryl Hamilton and Kevin Reimer, watched hits driven to what should have been beyond their reach. But each gave remarkable chase and hurtled after the ball. Hamilton made his catch. Reimer just missed.

It wasn’t only Hamilton and Reimer who learned from Yount that day. Anyone who saw the game understood Yount’s point.

So it has been throughout Yount’s career. He has played a game, and in the process he has made the Hamiltons, the Reimers and millions of fans better for the experience.

That’s what heroes do.