Top 100 Indians: #63 Herb Score

This May 1, 1955, file photo shows Herb score enroute to striking out 16 Boston Red Sox batters in Cleveland. - ASSOCIATED PRESS

Manning leads from second, Kuiper on first, Thornton takes a ball in the dirt. The Tribe looking to cut into the the 5-2 deficit here in Municipal stadium....

Herbert Jude Score

Starting Pitcher, 1955-1959

Height: 6'2" Weight: 185 lbs

Throws: Left; Bats: Left

How Acquired: Amateur Free Agent, June 7, 1952

Left Via: Trade, April 18, 1960: Traded to the Chicago White Sox for Barry Latman

Many a Clevelander grew up to the great Herb Score, announcing game after game. But Score got his beginning in Cleveland as a fireballer who was the heir apparent to Bob Feller as a member of the Big 4. Originally from Rosedale, New York (a neighborhood in Queens), Score was the son of a Manhattan officer, Herbert A., and Ann. He did not seem to be destined for MLB stardom as his childhood was fraught with various maladies. Both of his legs were crushed just below the pelvis as a 3 year old by a truck. Luckily the bones healed normally and he was able to walk again. He had rheumatic fever and was bedridden for 10 months in elementary school. He fractured his ankle playing basketball as a freshman in high school and also had an emergency appendectomy that same year.

Heck, Score wasn't even a pitcher growing up. Playing outfield for the Holy Name of Mary School, he volunteered to pitch one game when his team ran out of pitchers. His coach moved him to the rotation full time after that one dazzling relief appearance. However, his mother relocated to Lake Worth, Florida shortly after that, which would prove fortuitous for the Indians. Because lo and behold, Cy Slapnicka also happened to live in Lake Worth. The man who had signed Rapid Robert back in 1935, now had the inside track to another phenom. Score averaged two strikeouts per inning pitched and hurled six no-hitters in high school. But as dominant as his fastball was, he was just as wild. In one of his no-hitters he struck out 14 but walked nine.

But the days of signing teenagers was long gone and Slapnicka and the Tribe had to wait to sign Score until he turned the age of 19 because the myriad health ailments did not allow Score to graduate with the rest of his senior class. And indeed, on his 19th birthday, Score got a $60k gift in the form of a signing bonus from the Indians. He started his minor league somewhat inauspiciously, heading to the Indianapolis Indians (AAA-American Association). He struck out 61 in 62 innings with only 37 hits but had a whopping 62 walks as well. As a 20 year old, the Indians decided to move him down to the Reading Indians (A-Eastern) to get him back on track, but he struggled once again walking 126 in 98 innings. His season was cut short due to a separated shoulder, perhaps a portend of things to come.

Even though his numbers were not eye popping for Reading, he was promoted back to Indianapolis in 1954 along with his roommate Rocky Colavito, Something clicked that year as he was the league MVP, a 22-5 record with a 2.62 ERA in 32 games with 21 complete games, 5 shutouts and only 140 hits in 251 innings. He cut his walks down to 140 and struck out a whopping 330. He would be named Minor League Player of the Year by The Sporting News.

Score would make the Tribe squad in the spring of 1955, basically becoming the "fifth" starter of the Big 4. He threw a complete game in his debut, 7-3 over the Tigers, a no decision in his second start, 8-7 to the Athletics and lost his rematch to the Tigers 6-4. His ERA was 5.48 and although he had 24 K in 23 IP, he had walked 18 as well. His next scheduled start was the second half a double header against the Red Sox. Feller had thrown his twelfth career one hitter in the opener, winning 2-0 and was quoted "It's going to be a tough act for the kid to follow." Score would show the mettle of a future Cy Young candidate by hurling a 2-1 complete game with 4 hits, 4 walks and a whopping 16 Ks, only two shy of Feller's MLB record.

Score would go on to win Rookie of the Year in 1955 with a 16-10 record, a 2.65 ERA, 131 ERA+, a league leading 245 K in 227.1 IP and 154 BB. His sophomore season was even better, 20-9 2.53 ERA, a league leading 166 ERA+ and a league leading 263 K in 249.1 IP with, you guessed it, a league leading 5 shutouts. Two of the most dominant back to back seasons was very impressive, especially for a 22/23 year old. He was so dominant that Boston GM Joe Cronin supposedly offered the Tribe $1 million straight up before the 1957 campaign. After Indians GM Hank Greenberg refused the offer, Score was off to another fantastic start, 2-1 in 5 starts, 2.00 ERA, 190 ERA+ 39 K in 36 IP before that fateful line drive from Gil McDougald would essentially end his career.

Score never saw the line drive that caught him flush in the face, breaking a nose, lacerating his right eyelid, and damage to both the right eye and cheekbone. He spent three weeks in the hospital recovering, and although gave encouraging words to McDougald, Gil retired after the 1960 season, never the same player he had been. He got married that July, and was able to resume some baseball activities like shagging flies and batting practice, but was not allowed to pitch.

Although most believe the line drive cost Score his career, his spring training 1958 looked very similar to his previous seasons. His fastball hadn't lost any zip and his other pitches looked about the same. He had a rough first start but pitched a 3 hit shutout and 13 strikeouts in his third start. But the fourth start against the Senators proved to be the actual beginning of the end for Score. His arm felt sore in the fourth inning, and by the seventh was bouncing pitches. He had a torn tendon, but only sat out a month before trying the arm out in a relief outing. It popped again, sidelining him for another month. He sat again until September and made four relief appearances.

He rested that winter and again seemed alright in spring training, even Ted Williams felt he was back. Through Independence Day, Score was 9-5 with 8 complete games and 3 double digit strikeout games. But he wouldn't win another game, and finished with a 6.13 ERA in 47 IP. After the Indians broke spring camp in 1960, Trader Lane shocked the Cleveland community by dealing Rocky Colavito to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. Score left town the next day, heading to the White Sox for Barry Latman, reuniting him with former Tribe manager Al Lopez.

Herb did okay that first year in Chicago, a 3.72 ERA (103 ERA+) in 22 starts but had 87walks and only 78 strikeouts in 113.2 innings. After a few appearances with the White Sox, he spent most of 1961 with the San Diego Padres, their AAA affiliate. 1962 was the same, four early appearances with the White Sox, but spent the rest of the year in AAA, this time with the Indianapolis Indians. After 20 non-productive outings in Indianapolis in 1963, he hung them up at the age of 30.

After gutting the Indians with a multitude of bad deals and four managers in three long seasons, Frank Lane resigned after the 1960 season. This ushered in the Gabe Paul era. One of Paul's better moves, was to hire Herb to be the color man on the TV broadcasts. After four seasons on TV, he landed in the radio booth in 1968 and would become the most treasured Indians announcer. He was rarely critical in the booth, sometimes misspoke about the venue, and neglected to state the score or inning often, but to fans in 38 states, Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean islands, he was their guy. One of the more famous quotes, stated by Joe Tait, "Herb Score has probably watched more bad baseball than anyone in the history of the game."

Luckily, Score's broadcast career ended on with the powerful 90s teams. His final game was the Game 7 loss to the Marlins in 1997. He was inducted into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame the following October, but was seriously injured in an auto accident returning to Florida after the ceremony. He recovered enough to throw the opening pitch in 1999 and made some public appearances, but suffered a stroke in 2002. He also contracted a staph infection and pneumonia before passing away at 75 on November 11, 2008.

Even with a short, meteoric career, Score still earns a place atop some Indian lists. He is first in H/IP (6.174), first in K/9 (9.349) and tied for seventh in ERA+ (126).

Sources

Wikipedia, SABR Biography Project - Joseph Wancho

Indians Career Stats

Year Age Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO HBP BK WP BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB Awards
1955 22 CLE 16 10 .615 2.85 33 32 0 11 2 0 227.1 158 85 72 18 154 1 245 1 0 12 978 141 1.372 6.3 0.7 6.1 9.7 1.59 AS,RoY-1
1956 23 CLE 20 9 .690 2.53 35 33 1 16 5 0 249.1 162 82 70 18 129 2 263 2 0 11 1022 166 1.167 5.8 0.6 4.7 9.5 2.04 AS,MVP-19
1957 24 CLE 2 1 .667 2.00 5 5 0 3 1 0 36.0 18 9 8 0 26 2 39 1 0 5 150 190 1.222 4.5 0.0 6.5 9.8 1.50
1958 25 CLE 2 3 .400 3.95 12 5 4 2 1 3 41.0 29 19 18 1 34 1 48 0 0 1 182 94 1.537 6.4 0.2 7.5 10.5 1.41
1959 26 CLE 9 11 .450 4.71 30 25 2 9 1 0 160.2 123 93 84 28 115 0 147 1 1 14 712 79 1.481 6.9 1.6 6.4 8.2 1.28
CLE (5 yrs) 49 34 .590 3.17 115 100 7 41 10 3 714.1 490 288 252 65 458 6 742 5 1 43 3044 126 1.327 6.2 0.8 5.8 9.3 1.62
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 2/5/2013.

Selected Awards/Leaders

AL All-Star: 1955, 1956

AL Rookie of the Year: 1955

AL MVP: 19th, 1955

AL WAR: 3rd, 1956-7.2; 7th, 1955-5.1

AL WAR Pitchers: 2nd, 1956-7.0; 3rd, 1955-5.4

AL ERA: 2nd, 1956-2.53; 4th, 1955-2.85

AL Wins: 2nd, 1956-20; 6th, 1955-16

AL W/L Percentage: 2nd, 1956-.690; 8th, 1955-.615

AL WHIP: 1st, 1956-1.167

AL Hits/9 IP: 1st, 1956-5.848; 1st, 1959-6.890; 2nd, 1955-6.255

AL Strikeouts/9 IP: 1st, 1955-9.699; 1st, 1956-9.493; 1st, 1959-8.234

AL Innings: 7th, 1956-249.1; 8th, 1955-227.1

AL Strikeouts: 1st, 1955-245; 1st, 1956-263; 4th, 1959-147

AL Games Started: 4th, 1955-32; 46h, 1956-33

AL Complete Games: 7th, 1956-16; 10th, 1955-11

AL Shutouts: 1st, 1956-5

AL Home Runs: 4th, 1959-28

AL Bases on Balls: 2nd, 1955-154; 2nd, 1956-129; 2nd, 1959-115

AL Strikeouts/Bases on Balls: 2nd, 1956-2.039; 6th, 1955-1.591

AL Home Runs/9 IP: 9th, 1956-0.650

AL Wild Pitches: 1st, 1955-12; 1st, 1956-11; 1st, 1959-14; 8th, 1957-5

AL Adjusted Era+: 1st, 1956-166; 5th, 1956-141

AL Win Probability Added: 1st, 1956-5.3; 10th, 1955-2.4

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • 28th WAR Pitchers (12.9)
  • t-23rd ERA (3.17)
  • 48th Wins (49)
  • 20th W/L Percentage (.590)
  • 40th WHIP (1.327)
  • 1st Hits/9 IP (6.174)
  • 1st Strikeouts/9 IP (9.349)
  • 21st Strikeouts (742)
  • t-50th Games Started (100)
  • t-42nd Complete Games (41)
  • t-24th Shutouts (10)
  • 33rd Home Runs (65)
  • 19th Bases on Balls (458)
  • 33rd Strikeouts/Bases on Balls (1.620)
  • 11th Wild Pitches (43)
  • t-6th ERA+ (126)
  • 16th WPA (7.4)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • t-21st Pitching WAR (7.0, 1956)
  • t-39th Wins (20, 1956)
  • 2nd Hits/9 IP (5.848, 1956)
  • 8th Hits/9 IP (6.255, 1955)
  • 29th Hits/9 IP (6.890, 1959)
  • 4th Strikeouts/9 IP (9.699, 1955)
  • 5th Strikeouts/9 IP (9.493, 1956)
  • 25th Strikeouts/9 IP (8.234, 1959)
  • 7th Strikeouts (263, 1956)
  • 11th Strikeouts (245, 1955)
  • t-22nd Shutouts (5, 1956)
  • t-20th Home Runs (28, 1959)
  • 3rd Bases on Balls (154, 1955)
  • t-16th Bases on Balls (129, 1956)
  • t-30th Bases on Balls (115, 1959)
  • t-8th Wild Pitches (14, 1959)
  • t-24th Wild Pitches (12, 1955)
  • t-11th Wild Pitches (11, 1956)
  • t-17th ERA+ (166, 1956)
  • t-9th WPA (5.3, 1956)
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