Herb Score–A Story of Adversity
Guest post by John Haas, Archivist, Ohio History Connection
Herbert Jude Score was born June 7, 1933 in Rosedale, Queens, New York. He’s best known as a talented Cleveland Indians pitcher and later a broadcaster.
Score overcame adversity and injury from childhood to old age. At age 3 he was run over by a truck that broke his legs below the pelvis. Doctors were afraid he would never walk again, but the bones settled back into place on their own. A few years later he contracted rheumatic fever and was bed ridden for ten months. In high school he fractured his ankle playing basketball and, with cast still on, had an emergency appendectomy.
He started playing baseball at Holy Name of Mary School in Rosedale as an outfielder but the team needed a pitcher and he was it. His mother and father separated and Herb and his mother moved to Lake Worth Florida. He threw six no-hitters for the Lake Worth Community High School baseball team and led the school to its only state baseball championship.
His pitching prowess soon spread far and wide and he was scouted by Cleveland Indians scout Cy Slapnicka. Herb and Cy signed his contract on June 7, 1952 with a $60,000 bonus for signing.
His first professional pitching was with Indianapolis of the American Association where he made 10 starts, with a 2 and 5 won-loss record. He allowed only 37 hits in 62 innings, but walked 62. In 1953 Score was sent to Class A Reading, PA in the Eastern League. There he met his soon to be lifelong friend and roommate Rocky Colavito. At Reading his record was 7 and 3, giving up only 64 hits in 98 innings, but walking 126 batters. But again an injury cut short his year. While shagging fly balls he landed on his pitching shoulder and separated his collar bone from the joint. While off he completed his credits for Lake Worth High School and received his diploma.
In 1954 Herb, Rocky and their Reading manager Kerby Farrell moved up to Triple A Indianapolis. While the parent club in Cleveland won a record 111 games and went to the World Series in ’54, Score set some records himself. He produced a 22 win 5 loss record, gave up 140 hits in 251 innings, had a league low 2.62 Earned Run Average (ERA), set an American Association record 330 strikeouts, and gave up only 140 walks. He was named American Association’s Most Valuable Player, and Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year.
1955 saw Score make the Major League Cleveland Indians roster and was named Sporting News Rookie of the Year in the American League. He led both leagues with 245 strikeouts, breaking the rookie record of 227 set by the Phillies Grover Cleveland Alexander in 1911. He held that record till 1984 when Dwight Gooden of the Mets struck out 276 batters. He finished the season with a 16-10 record and a 2.85 ERA, and was named to the American League All Star Team but did not pitch in the game.
1956 was another stellar year for Score finishing with a 20 win, 9 loss record; led the league with 263 strikeouts, and led the team with a 2.53 ERA. He was the first pitcher in the modern era to strike out over 200 batters in his first two seasons in the league. He made the American League All Star Team again and pitched one scoreless inning. But the team finished second again to the Yankees as they had in 1955.
1957 started as another good year for Score but adversity struck in May of that year. In the off season Boston General Manager Joe Cronin offered Cleveland General Manager Hank Greenberg a Million Dollars for Herb Score but Greenberg refused the offer. On May 7, 1957 Score was struck in the face with a line drive off the bat of Yankee shortstop Gil McDougald. Score suffered a broken nose, lacerated right eyelid, damage to his right cheekbone and right eye. Herb Score was released from the hospital on May 28 but still had vision problems and did not play any further in 1957.
1958 opened with Herb Score attending Spring Training with the Indians in Tucson feeling well and ready to pitch. He pitched well in April but in early May in Washington he tore a tendon in his left elbow and sat idle for over a month. On June 14 he injured the elbow again and made only seven more appearances that year and finished with a 2-3 record.
1959 saw Score back to his old form with a 9-5 mark by mid-season. But the second half of this season he finished 0-6 and the Indians finished second to the White Sox. In 1960 Score was traded to the Chicago White Sox and rejoined his old Cleveland manager Al Lopez and former players Mike Garcia, Early Wynn, Al Smith and Dick Brown who he had played with in high school. Herb finished the year with a 5 and 10 record and a 3.72 ERA. 1961 started with Score back with Chicago but my mid-year he was sent to the minors with the San Diego Padres of the Pacific Coast League. His record with the Padres was 7-6 with a 5.10 ERA.
He returned to the White Sox in 1962, appeared a few times and was sent to the minors in Indianapolis. He was 10 and 7 for Indianapolis with an ERA of 4.82. He returned to Indianapolis in 1963 and retired with a record of 0-6 and a 7.66 ERA.
For his MLB career Herb Score was 55-46 with a 3.36 ERA and 837 strikeouts. Before his major eye injury in 1957, he was 39-20 with an ERA of 2.46, with 547 strikes outs in 512 2/3 innings pitched. After 1957 Score was 17-26 with an ERA of 4.70 in 345 2/3 innings pitched.
In 1964 Cleveland Indians General Manager Gabe Paul hired Score as a TV broadcaster and four years later he went to the radio broadcast booth. He was well respected and loved by Cleveland fans for 33 years of broadcasting with a low key, no frills, non-judgmental style which got him elected to the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame and three Ohio broadcaster halls of fame. He retired from broadcasting in 1997.
His bad luck with injury and adversity did not end with his playing days. In October of 1998 his car was struck and he suffered trauma to his brain, chest and lungs. His orbital bone was fractured as well as three ribs and his sternum. He was in intensive care and had a very difficult recovery but managed to throw out the first pitch at the Indians Home Opener on April 12, 1999. He suffered a stroke in 2002 and died on November 11, 2008.
Herb Score’s sports related achievements include:
1952 Florida State Baseball Championship (Lake Worth Community High School)
1954 American Association MVP and Sporting News Minor League Player of the Year
1955 American League Rookie of the Year
1955 and 1956 American League All Star selection
2006 Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame
Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame, and Cleveland Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, Cleveland Press Club Journalism Hall of Fame, Ohio Broadcasters Hall of Fame.Herb Score’s achievements and accomplishments are outstanding, but even more remarkable considering the injury and adversity he had to overcome to attain those successes.
May 7, 1957: Gil McDougald’s batted ball knocks out Herb Score, by Joseph Wancho, Society for American Baseball Research
Herb Score Baseball Stats by Baseball Almanac
The Private Ordeal of Herb Score, by Jack Olsen, Sports Illustrated Magazine, August 7, 1961
Herb Score, article by Joseph Wancho, Society for American Baseball Research
Cleveland Press Collection, Cleveland State University