Double The Fun: Herb Score Wraps Up His Outstanding Rookie of the Year Season

By the time Herb Score took the mound on September 24, 1955 to face the Tigers in the night cap of a doubleheader in Detroit, the Cleveland Indians season was over. The defending American League champions finished second, 3 games behind the hated New York Yankees. But Rookie of the Year Score, who along with the Yankees “Bullet” Bob Turley was one of the eras great power pitchers, dominated the Tigers. That afternoon, Score notched his 16th victory with a masterful 8-2 victory. Score’s pitching line: 9 IP, 7H, 0 ER, 2 BB and 9Ks.  The Indians swept the doubleheader by taking the night cap, 7-0 Score finished his year with a 16-10 record, a 2.85 ERA and 245 strike outs. The following year Score was even better: 20-9, 2.53 with 263 strike outs. To the delight of manager and former catcher Al Lopez, Score reduced his walks from 154 to 129 and his hits per nine-inning ratio to 5.85.

When Score was at the peak of his too brief career, Boston Red Sox  owner Tom Yawkey offered the Indians $1 million cash for the fire balling lefty. At the time, that was an unheard of sum to be paid to a baseball player—or for that matter, anyone else. The Indians turned Yawkey down cold.

After Score’s sensational 1955 season his career took a bad turn. In an infamous incident, a line drive off the Yankees’ Gil McDougald’s bat struck Score’s eye. Then during Score’s comeback effort, he injured his arm. During the next five seasons with the Indians and the Chicago White Sox, Score won only 19 games.

In an interview years after he retired, Score said:

The last couple of years I pitched, I was terrible. I just couldn’t put it all together anymore. I went back to the minor leagues for a while and tried it there. Some people asked me why I went back to the minor leagues; they felt I was humiliating myself. But I never felt humiliated. There was no disgrace in what I was doing. The disgrace would have been in not trying.

After retiring Score became an Indians’ broadcaster and announced Cleveland’s radio and television games for nearly 30 years. In 1998, while driving to Florida after being inducted into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame, Score was severely injured in a head on collision with a tractor trailer and spent more than a month in intensive care. But Score recovered in time to throw out the Indians’ Opening Day pitch in 1999.

In 2008 Score, after a long illness, died at his home in Rocky River, Ohio.This Sports Illustrated cover is how I remember him.
“Double the fun” is a Friday feature here that looks at one notable doubleheader in baseball history each week.

4 Replies to “Double The Fun: Herb Score Wraps Up His Outstanding Rookie of the Year Season”

  1. Joe, great info. Its interesting to hear of a pitcher from that era struggle after injury. We see pitchers today who need surgery and we question if they will be able to pitch. Score couldn’t pull it together by his own admission, which shows tremendous character. Reminds me of players like Rick Ankiel, who was able to go to the outfield, and that pesky Chuck Knoblauch.

  2. It is ironic that the man who almost half blinded Score was not only a fine gentleman, devout Christian and a “pride of the Yankees,” but one whose entire life was also altered by that collision of Herb Score’s orbital eye socket with a baseball traveling at warp speed. When Gilbert James MacDougal (#12) was notified that Score could lose the eye, he said that if that happened, he would leave the game, and he meant it. And when MacDougal, whose Yankees won 8 pennants and five World Championships during his decade tenure in the Yankee infield, thought he had passed his peak, he walked away knowing that he could not give it his best shot. Later, deafness would seek to bring MacDougal down, but that, too failed, for he was very determined never to let injury or physical difficulties get in the way of living his life. He then coached college baseball before retiring. Score and MacDougal two wonderful baseball players in what our host calls, “the Golden Age” of Major League Baseball.

  3. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea massima culpa:
    I made the late Gibert James McDougal a Scot by adding an “a” to the first part of his name. Further inquiry informed me that it should read Gilbert James McDougal. The funny thing is that I thought McDougal was a Scot.

    With or without the “a,” McDougal, whose batting stance was unusual, to put it mildly, was a fine gentleman and a good, solid ballplayer, and this from an inveterate Dodger fan.
    Requiescat in pace.

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