The Obit For Joseph Hamende

City baseball legend Hamende dies at 64

The State Journal-Register

Oct 21, 2008


Joe Hamende, a local pitching legend who was inducted into the Springfield Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, died Monday at his home in Girard. He was 64.

Hamende spent six years in the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league system, including two years at the Class AA level prior to being traded to the Cincinnati Reds, with whom he advanced to Class AAA. He retired from baseball in 1979 without making it to the major leagues after two seasons in the Montreal farm system and a brief stint with the Class AAA Springfield Redbirds.

Hamende, a 1962 Griffin High School graduate, was arguably the best left-handed pitcher in city history. He had 15 no-hitters while he was in high school, and he led the city in strikeouts for three straight seasons. He tossed back-to-back no-hitters in the 1961 City Series; no one had done it before or has done it since.

“The good Lord gave him the arm and I told him to throw a curveball, and he could throw it,” former Griffin baseball coach Bob Astroth told The State Journal-Register’s Don Trello in a 2004 interview. “He was the best (pitcher) I ever saw. His record speaks for itself.”

He pitched the first no-hitter in the Connie Mack World Series in 1962 when he beat Danville, Va., 1-0 at Lanphier Park.

After graduating from Griffin, Hamende attended the University of Illinois on a baseball scholarship for one year before Jim Belz signed him to a Cardinals contract for $20,000. Belz, a coach and administrator at Griffin and Cathedral high schools, was a scout for the Cardinals for 41 years before retiring in 1997. He died in 2000.

Hamende’s managers in the minors included Warren Spahn, Hal Lanier, Vern Rapp and George Kissell. Ironically, the 88-year-old Kissell died Oct. 8 from injuries suffered in an auto accident in Florida.

“He didn’t throw hard, but he turned the ball over,” Kissell told Trello in 2004. “It was his size (5 feet 10) that hurt him, but he was like (former major league pitcher) Harvey Haddix.

“He was a bulldog. He’d throw strikes with the bases loaded. He had a really good side-arm pitch that was tough on left-hand batters. But you could bring him into the game anytime.”

Visitation will be Thursday from 4-8 p.m. at Calvert and Ferry Funeral Home in Girard.