ST. LOUIS — Jon Hamm perfected his acting chops on the MU stage long before the character Don Draper hit television waves in AMC's award-winning drama "Mad Men."
The St. Louis Cardinals honored the actor and St. Louis native at Jon Hamm night at Busch Stadium on Monday, and fans who purchased a special ticket received a bobblehead of his likeness.
Professor Jim Miller, a teacher in the MU Theatre Department for 35 years, mentored Hamm while he was a student at MU. Miller said Hamm, an English major, was a constant stage presence in his and other director's shows, even though he was not a theater major.
Hamm acted in MU's 1992 Summer Repertory Theatre production of "Cabaret" and later in the 1993 production of "Assassins," a Stephen Sondheim musical that features interactions between infamous assassins. Miller described Hamm as an outstanding talent in a group of talented students.
"He's handsome in the way leading men used to be handsome," Miller said. "He's like Gary Cooper."
Hamm received his bachelor's degree in English in 1993. After graduation, he took a teaching position at John Burroughs High School in St. Louis. Hamm taught there until 1995 when he left for Los Angeles and a shot at stardom.
After years of waiting for his break, Hamm won the role of Don Draper, a suave and mysterious advertising executive who spends most of his day in a haze of cigarette smoke and alcohol.
Since then, Hamm has gone on to star in big screen hits such as "The Town," "Bridesmaids" and "The Million Dollar Arm." After stints hosting "Saturday Night Live," audiences learned even the actor who played Don Draper could crack jokes.
"He can write, he can direct, he can do anything," Miller said. "He's going to be one of the greats."
Hamm threw out the first pitch before the game against the Cincinnati Reds.
Before the pitch, he spoke to the media about his Cardinals fandom, the current issues in nearby Ferguson, and of course, his bobblehead
"It's great, it's fantastic. It's amazing how many people I've had ask me to get them one," Hamm said in an article from the Associated Press. "That was the weird thing — aunts and uncles and friends of all stripes, so I'll probably need about 40 of them.