In a story totally unrelated with the economy or politics, but having somewhat something to do with being middle classed, Cleveland Indians former pitcher and broadcaster Herb Score past away Tuesday in his home near Cleveland. For those of you not fans of my beloved Tribe, this is sort of a “so what?” type post. But for those that grew up listening to our hapless Indians on many a summer night, this is a huge loss. So bear with me as I indulge myself…
In 1955, the Cleveland Indians brought on a hard-throwing southpaw rookie by the name of Herb Score. Score went on that season to be named the AL Rookie of the Year after winning 16 games and striking out a rookie-record 245 batters (a record that was not surpassed until 1984 by Dwight Gooden). The following season, Score went 20-9.
But on May 7th, 1957, Score’s career took a turn when he faced Yankees Gil McDougald. McDougald sent a hard liner that connected with Herb’s right eye, breaking his nose and many other bones in his face. After that freak incident, Herb changed his pitching motion, and never was the same again. After being traded to the Chicago White Sox in 1960, Herb Score continued his career for three more seasons, retiring with a career record of 55-46, and an ERA of 3.36. He had 837 total strikeouts.
Score’s second career with the Tribe began shortly there after as their television announcer during the ’64 through 1967 seasons. He transitioned in 1968 to the radio booth, and served diligently through the next 30 seasons as THE Voice of the Cleveland Indians. It is here that I met Herb Score while listening to the Tribe with my father on the radio. I fell in love with baseball and the Indians, because of Herb’s low-key, “ah-shucks” style, punctuated with brief bursts of excitement and awe. During much of his 30 year career, there was very little to be excited about as a Tribe fan, and to Herb’s credit, he made the most of those moments (Lenny Barker, any one?).
Herb Score retired from broadcasting after Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, in which the Tribe, true to fashion, blew a 9th-inning lead to lose to the Florida Marlins.
As always, Score’s last call was simple, accurate and to the point.
“Line drive, base hit, the game is over,” Score said, summing up Edgar Renteria’s series-winning hit off Charles Nagy.
Score’s personal sendoff was brief, too.
“And so that is the season for 1997,” he said. “And there’s very little else we can say except to tell you it’s been a pleasure. I would like to thank all the fans for their kindness over the years. You’ve been very good to me. And we hope that whoever sits in this chair next, you’ll be as kind to them as you have been to me.” (TOM WITHERS, AP Sports)
Towards the end of his career, Herb began making mistakes in the booth, but was able to gloss over them with out missing a beat. I remember one time when Charles Nagy was pitching and Herb was calling the game. “Here’s the 2-2… Ball 4 – walked him!” Other times, he would get the players mixed up, calling Manny Ramirez by the name of Albert, or Omar Vizquel Sandy Alomar. But that was Herb Score – and you would not only expect the errors, but embrace them. It wasn’t an Indians game unless one or two faux paxs made it to the airwaves!
In 1998, Herb suffered serious injuries from a car accident while on his way back from being inducted into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame, which confined him to a wheelchair.
During the Indians “Era of Champions” from 1995 to 1997, I was living in Cincinnati. I was able to keep up with my Tribe by listening to 1100 WTAM (formerly WWWE) at night, with Herb Score behind the microphone. Listening to baseball games over the radio just seems right. Listening to Herb Score talkin’ baseball on the radio, well, that was perfection.