WPCNR VIEW FROM THE UPPER DECK. By “Bull Allen” . May 8, 2022:
It was 65 years ago when it happened.
It can happen to any of us any time in our lives.
I heard it happen to Herb Score.
On the radio with Mel Allen doing the broadcast from Cleveland on WINS 1010.
It was the first inning at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland and the best lefthander in the American League at the time, 1955 Rookie of the Year,1956 strikeout leader, 20 game winner was on the mound for “The Tribe.”
There were 18,000 fans in the old double-decked Wigwam on the lake built the year Herb Score was born.
Tom Sturdivant was pitching for the Yankees, another rookie phenom.
The crowd came to see a pitching duel.
What they saw they would never forget.
“The Tribe,” for years a class contending team in the American League, perennial challengers to the 1950s New York Yankees was finally poised to overtake the dominance of the Bronx Bombers, the 1956 World Champions.
The Tribe had Score and Lemon and Wynn and Garcia their four starters, and power hitter Rocky Colavito, Bobby Avila, Roger Maris, Gene Woodling, Al Smith, Vic Wertz in the lineup. Score was the new Tribe, the hope of the fans.
Score in his big long stride over-the-top southpaw delivery was a strikeout King at only 23 years of age.
He retired the first batter, Hank Bauer in the Lake Erie twilight
Then Gil McDougald, Yankee shortstop, second batter stood in the batter’s box.
I was 12 years old, and Mel Allen was on the play-by-play, describing in his tense mellow style that sounded like this what I remember he said or would have voiced,
“Score into the windup down comes the left arm and the pitch….McDougald swings a line drive a bullet…it hits Score ….bounds to Smith at third. Score is down, he’s hurt. McDougald is stopped, walking to the mound Smith at third throws to first for the out Score is curled up motionless….(the crowd was hushed in silence).
I turned the radio off. I was in tears.
I think of this sobering incident every year on May 7. It happened 65 years ago tonight.
Herb Score the strikeout leader in his rookie year 1955 with 245 strikeouts and 16 win, 10 losses 11 complete games in his first year in the real big leagues. Amazing debut. Talk of the league. He filled Muncipal Stadium (Cleveland Stadium) every time he pitched.
Herb Score held the Major league record for most strikeouts by a rookie pitcher, 245 before Dwight Gooden of the Mets broke it 1984 with 276 (at the age of 19).
Then in 1956, Score the strickeout leader struck out more than 245, with 263 K’s in his second season, 1956, winning 20 games and losing nine, with Hall of Fame stuff. Big Train fastball and sweeping curve.
At 6 foot 2 inches and 185 pounds he was the second of the bigger, stronger pitchers (the other was Big Newk, Don Newcombe) to come in the 1960s when pitching by taller, “power” pitchers Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Denny McLain, Frank Lary, Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, began to dominate the hitters with dominating stuff, and quite frankly, intimidation. Finesse pitchers like Whitey Ford and Billy Pierce began to become less effective and pitched lesser innings giving way to the birth of the closer. But that is another story.
They did not televise Yankee roadgames in those days. There is no televised replay of this incident that I could locate to show this incident.
Score was never quite the same, but Mr. Score pitched for the Indians through 1959, but was not as effective. Herb said it was not the eye-injury that affected his pitching, but rather his arm experienced troubles. He said, “I just wasn’t pitching as well.”
Score was a lesson for us fans of the game at the time.
Whenever he pitched in subsequent years, and I saw his name as starting pitcher, I always checked on the box score of his game. I admired him trying to comeback. I rooted for him. Every fan did. Like we rooted for Tony Conigliaro struck in the eye by a pitch.
When he did retire just six years later, he became an Indians broadcaster for decades. The Voice of the Indians.
The fans loved Herb Score. He never complained or looked back and cursed his luck. He said you cannot look back.
He represents more than any other ballplayer how fleeting is success, how fragile happiness is, how a misstep, an accident, a false word, a loss of temper, a loss of wariness and being careful or doing something stupid, can turn around your life, your career, in an instant.
Waite Hoyt the old Yankee pitcher of the 1920s said “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
Score was a great pitcher, a natural.
But he was not lucky.
He was not bitter.
He had courage.
An athlete to remember.
He was from Rosedale, Queens. He was no stranger to illness and misfortune when he was a child. He made to the major leagues despite a serious auto accident injuring his legs, and overcoming illnesses. A real New Yorker, son of a New York City policeman.
The legacy of Herb Score is to keep looking to the future.
Forget about the past and keep moving on as best you can.
Even when a line drive shatters your dreams, you can still make them come true and do the best with what you have.
You’ve still got it.
Your heart is always with you.
It takes heart.
I remember Cleveland Stadium and Herb Score