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Quest for attention pays off for Crede

It’s hard to believe that someone with a World Series ring, a Silver Slugger award and an appearance in an All-Star Game once had trouble getting attention.

But that’s how it felt for Joe Crede, who was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday night.

Before his days playing third base for the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, Crede was a star at Fatima High School. Some of the players he played with, and against, during that time helped him reach the heights he did.

“The thing a lot of people never realize is, coming up through high school and playing Legion ball here in Jeff City, I was never the guy that everybody was always talking about,” Crede said. “... There was always somebody else that was better. A Ryan Robertson or Noland Stuecken, to me, those guys always seemed better.

“And then you play Legion ball and it seemed like you had three or four guys who were better. ... Matt Norfleet is one guy that comes to mind. Of all the stories I hear about kids around here nowadays, I still haven’t seen anyone as good as Matt Norfleet was when he was playing around here.”

But watching those players didn’t discourage Crede. It encouraged him.

“It was guys like that who motivated me to want to be better and work harder, and it paid off in the end,” Crede said. “There was really no secret. Everybody always asks me, ‘What was the secret to your success?’ I say, ‘It’s the same old saying — hard work is going to pay off.’”

It paid off in a 2005 World Series title with the White Sox, the team with which he broke into the major leagues in 2000. It paid off when he won a Silver Slugger Award in 2006, as he hit .283 with 30 home runs and 92 RBI. And it paid off when he was named to the 2008 American League All-Star team.

“You’ve got to want to do (the hard work), you’ve got to want to go out there and practice on your own,” Crede said. “For me, that was just a part of my life. I wanted to do it, so I went out there on my own on my farm and worked on hitting and fielding and everything else. It all worked out in the end.”

It also paid off with Sunday’s honor, as Crede was the youngest member of a class that included 10 individuals and two programs. Prior to the ceremony, he said that youth might hurt him later in the evening.

“I don’t think my speech is going to be as good,” he said with a laugh. “But it’s definitely an honor to be with the people who are here. These are guys I looked up to. I remember (fellow inductee) Tony (Galbreath) playing football. I remember getting an autograph from him as a kid and thinking, ‘Wow, this is unbelievable.’”

Crede’s last appearance in the big leagues came in the 2009 season, before back problems eventually forced him to the sidelines. It’s the same problems that often flare up as he works his farm in Osage County.

“Health-wise, the back is still there,” he said with a wry smile. “It reminds me every day when I’m on that tractor and feeding (cows) and stuff.”

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