After a career of working under deadlines, Hammel eases into writing book about career

Bob Hammel types a story on his typewriter in the summer of 1962 during his time as a reporter for The Herald-Press in Huntington. Hammel eventually departed his hometown and ended up in Bloomington, where he went on to have a long and distinguished career in sports journalism. Hammel wrote about his career in a new memoir, “Last Press Bus Out of Middletown.” He will be discussing the book during two appearances in Huntington on Tuesday, May 14. The second of those appearances will be at the Huntington Branch of the Huntington City-Township Public Library at 6 p.m.
Bob Hammel types a story on his typewriter in the summer of 1962 during his time as a reporter for The Herald-Press in Huntington. Hammel eventually departed his hometown and ended up in Bloomington, where he went on to have a long and distinguished career in sports journalism. Hammel wrote about his career in a new memoir, “Last Press Bus Out of Middletown.” He will be discussing the book during two appearances in Huntington on Tuesday, May 14. The second of those appearances will be at the Huntington Branch of the Huntington City-Township Public Library at 6 p.m. Photo provided.

As a career journalist, Bob Hammel was accustomed to working under the pressure of tight deadlines.

So, ironically, when he sat down to write a book that recounted those years of his life, he did so without a deadline in sight.

“It must’ve taken 10 years,” estimates Hammel of the writing process.

“I was never great on deadlines anyway,” he adds with a laugh.

It was a productive decade, though. Hammel, a Huntington native, chronicled his long career as a sportswriter in Indiana, penning remembrances of numerous experiences and people that were significant to him. The end result was the memoir “Last Press Bus Out of Middletown.”

Now that it’s complete, Hammel, 82, is sharing the book. And he’ll be visiting Huntington on Tuesday, May 14, to do just that. Following a presentation to the Huntington Rotary Club at noon, he’ll be appearing at the Huntington Branch of the Huntington City-Township Public Library at 6 p.m., where he’ll hold a book talk and signing that’s open to the public.

As a journalist, Hammel’s career was dedicated to covering the exploits of others, ranging from Coach Bob Straight’s talented basketball teams at Huntington High School to Coach Bob Knight’s championship-winning squads at Indiana University.

What prompted him to write about his own exploits, though, was a desire to reflect on the role that luck played in his career, which started in his native Huntington and progressed to Bloomington, where he became the sports editor of The Herald-Telephone, which is today The Herald-Times.

“A lot of lucky things happened to me and they started right there in Huntington,” says Hammel. “I wanted to try to express that and to get some mention of people who were just contributory to my career.

“When you look at my qualifications entering it, everything has to go down on the side of luck. I just simply wasn’t qualified when I got the chances.”

Hammel’s career started at The Herald-Press. A freshman at IU with aspirations of becoming a journalist, he was presented with an opportunity to forgo the next three years of school and jump directly into a journalism career.

It proved to be too tempting an offer to decline.

“All of a sudden, I have this job,” says Hammel. “Well, that’s what I was aiming at. So, I was quick to accept it – and then later had to stop and think, ‘Uh, you’re pretty green. You’ve never written a story for anybody.’

“But it worked. That’s the example of the sheer luck. They happened to lose their sports editor at that time.”

Hammel credits the editor of The Herald-Press, Howard Houghton, with smoothing him out, as Houghton essentially became a journalism professor to him.

“He was a great editor to work for because he did have a very solid journalism background,” says Hammel. “He went to IU, graduated in journalism, was editor of the Daily Student here.”

“He did everything the right way,” adds Hammel with a chuckle. “I did everything the wrong way.”

Hammel details his passion for writing, which Houghton fostered, throughout the book. After years of dissecting sports for readers, Hammel says he enjoyed having an opportunity to break down his craft.

“That was kind of a fun part of it,” he says. “I’ve never understood the sheer mechanics of how the brain operates through those fingers so very well. You stop and analyze the writing procedure, it defies explanation how you, in your mind, can compose a thought and it comes out typed perfectly through your fingers.”

In addition to writing, Hammel describes his approach to journalism in the book.

And he confesses that that approach didn’t always adhere to convention.

“I go against the basic journalism tenant that you shouldn’t be close to your sources,” he offers up as an example.

That practice, he says, started in Huntington, where he developed friendships with the coaches of teams he covered. One of those coaches, the aforementioned Bob Straight, became one of Hammel’s lifelong friends. That friendship, along with the others he forged in Huntington, foreshadowed the friendship that he would eventually strike up with Bob Knight during his years covering the IU men’s basketball program in Bloomington.

“Of course, people know that one of my great friendships is with Bob Knight,” says Hammel. “To some, that is journalistically irresponsible to be close to a source like that.

“But, I’m sorry … I don’t regret that. I think that that was a vital part of my own satisfactions from the career I had.”

Although Hammel has resided in Bloomington for over 50 years now, he hopes local readers pick up on his love for Huntington in the book, which is one of its most prominent settings.

“It’s still my town,” says Hammel of Huntington. “I’m blessed with two towns now because Bloomington, obviously, is my home, too, and I’m very identified with it.

“Your birthplace is always going to be special and Huntington is for me.”

Copies of “Last Press Bus Out of Middletown” are available for purchase on the Indiana University Press website, www.iupress.indiana.edu.

Copies will also be available for purchase at the Huntington library during Hammel’s appearance there.
Hammel looks forward to sharing the book with people in Huntington and being back in town.

“It’s always fun,” he says of visiting Huntington. “I very much enjoy coming back.”