Countdown To Pitchers And Catchers: #27 Herb Score
Today continues our countdown to the start of Indians pitchers and catchers reporting to Goodyear, Arizona on February 20. We’ll count down the days, profiling a former Indian who wore the corresponding number. Some players will be memorable, others just our favorites and some, the only one we could find who wore that number. Today, we chronicle the career of Herb Score.
By Kevin Schnieder
Herb Score’s career ended before it had a chance to blossom on the field. But he stuck in Tribe fan’s hearts for decades as a radio announcer.
At just 22, the lefty score scorched his fastball in the upper 90s when he debuted with the Indians in the 1955 season and won the American League Rookie of the Year award. Score, who wore number 27 for the Indians, flung that fastball for an A.L.-high 245 strikeouts in 1955 and again led the league with 263 in 1956.
The great Ted Williams called Score the fastest lefty he faced. And longtime friend Bob Feller asserted that Score might’ve been the best pitcher he’d ever seen, if not for Score’s 1957 injury. On May 7 that year, Gill McDougald of the Yankees drilled a bill that struck Score’s right eye and ended the pitcher’s season. It broke his nose and facial bones and kept him in the hospital for three weeks. Most say Score never was the same after that.
Of course, adding to Score’s intimidation on the mound were his also league-high in wild pitches, with 12 in 1955, 11 in 1956, and 14 in 1959, his final year with the Tribe. The Indians traded him to the White Sox in 1960 for hurler Barry Latman. Overall, Score tallied a respectable 49-34 record and 3.17 ERA in his five seasons with the Tribe.
The end of his Indians announcing days ended with a line drive up the middle, too. That one, though, breezed over Charles Nagy’s head to seal the Tribe’s defeat to the Florida Marlins in the 1997 World Series.
Score simply said, in his trademark deep tone, “Line drive, base hit; the game is over.” Ouch. His simple call captured that painful wound and captured the closest Cleveland has come to any professional championship in my lifetime. He seemed to understand us and reacted quickly, like removing a Band-Aid quickly to inflict less pain.
Score’s an Indians Hall of Famer more for his work in the booth than on the mound. He worked for the TV team until he switched to the radio booth in 1968 and retired after that magical 1997 season ended without the championship send off Score deserved.
Growing up in Columbus and unable to watch the Indians on TV, especially in their lowly days, I cherish those days of doing homework as Score’s New York voice rattled off game details, even if he called the city, team, or runner by the wrong name here and there. Score, 75, died in 2008.
One can’t remember Score’s announcing without longtime radio partner Tom Hamilton, who politely overlooked and rolled with his partner’s sometimes off-the-wall comments that likely sprung from that line drive to the head. Hamilton, who still shares stories about his mentor Score during Tribe radio broadcasts, told The Columbus Dispatch, in 2008, “He will always be the broadcaster of the Cleveland Indians.”
Photo: Plain Dealer Photo File