Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Herb Score, 1933-2008. R.I.P.

Former Cleveland Indians pitcher and broadcaster Herb Score has died after a lengthy illness. He was 75.

Having just written about Tim Lincecum, one could state that Score was the Tim Lincecum of 50 years ago.

Score burst onto the scene with the Indians in 1955 winning 16 games and striking out 245 batters with a 2.85 ERA en route to winning the AL Rookie of the Year. The following season, Score was even better with 20 wins, 263 strikeouts and a 2.53 ERA.

Like Lincecum, the sky appeared to be the limit for Score.

He would only win 19 more games in the bigs.

On May 7, 1957 (almost 50 years to the day before Lincecum's big league debut), Score was pitching against the New York Yankees when Gil McDougald hit a line drive that hit him in the face causing several fractures. Neither man was the same player after that incident. Score was nearly blinded and McDougald vowed to retire if that turned out to be Score's fate. It wasn't. Score came back to pitch with the Indians in 1958 but always feared he would be hit again and was plagued with control problems. Score was traded to the Chicago White Sox prior to the 1960 season and would pitch his final big league game in 1962 at the age of 29.

Score rejoined the Cleveland Indians as a TV broadcaster in 1964. He switched over to radio in 1968 and remained there until 1997. The last game he called was Game 7 of the 1997 World Series when his Indians lost a extra inning heartbreaker against the Florida Marlins on a single by Edgar Renteria. The Tribe has not been back to the World Series since.

The following year, Score was severely injured in a car accident the night after being inducted into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Although he did throw out the first pitch at Jacobs Field on Opening Day in 1999, Score has been plagued by health problems since the accident.

When my family moved into our new home in 1984 we uncovered some old newspaper article giving an account of Score being hit by McDougald's line drive.

Herb Score had harder luck than most but no one can take away the fact that for two years he was the best pitcher in baseball. Not many people can say they were the best at something in their chosen profession.

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