Herb Score

With a catapulting delivery that left him in an awkward fielding position, Score simply overpowered American League hitters for the first two years of his career. In that short time, he joined Whitey Ford and Billy Pierce as the league’s dominant lefthanded pitchers. One can only speculate about the kind of career he might have put together had his fortunes not been irreversibly altered on May 7, 1957.

As AL champions in 1954, the Indians used a starting rotation comprised exclusively of righthanders, three of whom, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, and Early Wynn, would become Hall of Famers. Because the three were also in their mid-thirties, Score’s debut in 1955 was propitiously timed. He was the first and best of a young crop of Cleveland pitchers that included Gary Bell, Mudcat Grant, and Jim Perry, and he was expected to lead the new staff in replacing the old.

Score astonished. He won 16 games, fanned a league-leading, rookie-record 245 batters, and was named AL Rookie of the Year. His 1956 seaon was more than an encore. He upped his strikeouts to 263 while taming some of the wildness he had shown in his rookie season. He posted 20 wins, pitched a league-leading five shutouts, and held opposition batters to a minuscule .186 average. Teammate Hal Newhouser, who was at the end of a career that saw him lead the AL in victories four times and in ERA and strikeouts twice, said he would trade his past for Score’s future in a minute.

On May 7, 1957 at Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, Gil McDougald hit a line drive that struck Score in the eye and ended his season. Questions were raised in the aftermath of the bloody scene as to whether Score would ever see properly again. He made a partial comeback in 1958, and pitched a full season in 1959. Perhaps it was the layoff or fear or loss of vision; whatever the reason, he was no longer unhittable, despite retaining a fine ratio of strikeouts to innings pitched.

As the Indians’ young staff of the late 1950s came into its own, Score became expendable. He was traded to the White Sox for Barry Latman after the 1959 season. He pitched for Chicago in 1960 and for fragments of 1961 and 1962 before retiring. In 1988, Score celebrated his 25th anniversary as a play-by-play announcer for the Indians.