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Score came up as a rookie in 1955 with the Cleveland Indians. He quickly became one of the top power pitchers in the American League, no small feat on a team that still included Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and other top pitchers, going 16–10 with a 2.85 ERA in his first year. A left-hander, Score struck out 245 batters in his rookie year, a rookie record that stood until 1984, when it was topped by Dwight Gooden (Score, Gooden, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Don Sutton, Gary Nolan, Kerry Wood, Mark Langston and Hideo Nomo were actually the only eight rookie pitchers to top 200 strikeouts in the 20th century). Score actually topped himself in 1956, going 20–9 with a 2.53 ERA and 263 strikeouts, while reducing the number of walks from 154 to 129. He also allowed 5.85 hits/9 innings, which would stand as a franchise record low until it was broken by Luis Tiant's 5.30 in 1968.
On May 7, 1957, against the New York Yankees, Score was struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of Gil McDougald, breaking numerous bones in his face and leaving him quite bloodied. McDougald reportedly vowed to retire if Score was blinded as a result, but Score actually eventually recovered his 20/20 vision, though he missed the rest of the season. Score returned late in the 1958 season.
Though many believe he feared being hit by another batted ball, and thus changed his pitching motion, Score himself rejected that theory. He would tell Cleveland sportswriter Terry Pluto (for The Curse of Rocky Colavito) that, in 1958, after pitching and winning a few games and feeling better than he'd felt in a long time, he tore a tendon in his arm while pitching on a damp night against the Washington Senators. He sat out the rest of the season but, returning for 1959, he'd shifted his pitching motion in a bid to avoid another, similar injury. "The reason my motion changed," he told Pluto, "was because I hurt my elbow, and I overcompensated for it and ended up with some bad habits."
In the book "The Greatest Team Of All Time" (Bob Adams, Inc, publisher. 1994), Mickey Mantle picked Herb Score as the toughest American League left-handed pitcher he faced (before the injury). Yogi Berra picked Herb for his "Greatest Team Of All Time".
His velocity dropped and he became prone to injury as a result of the changed motion. Score pitched the full 1959 season, going 9–11 with a 4.71 ERA and 147 strikeouts. Score was traded to the Chicago White Sox after the season, and pitched parts of the subsequent three seasons before retiring. Score finished with a career record of 55–46 and a 3.36 ERA and 837 strikeouts over 8 seasons, in 858 1/3 innings pitched.
After retiring, Score served as an announcer on the Indians television broadcast from 1964–1967, and joined the radio broadcast, serving from 1968–1997. Score was revered by fans for his announcing style, including a low voice and a low-key style, as well as a habit of occasionally mispronouncing the names of players on opposing teams. Score's final Major League Baseball game as play-by-play announcer was Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. He outlasted all other Indians play-by-play announcers to date.
On October 8, 1998, while driving to Florida after being inducted into the Broadcasters Hall of Fame the night before, Score was severely injured in a traffic accident. Score pulled into the path of a westbound tractor-trailer truck in New Philadelphia, Ohio; and his car was struck in the passenger side. He suffered trauma to his brain, chest and lungs. The orbital bone around one of his eyes was broken as were three ribs and his sternum. He spent over a month in the intensive care unit, and was released from MetroHealth Hospital in mid-December. He was cited for failure to stop at a stop sign.
In 1981, Lawrence Ritter and Donald Honig included him in their book The 100 Greatest Baseball Players of All Time. They explained what they called "the Smoky Joe Wood Syndrome," where a player of truly exceptional talent but a career curtailed by injury should still, in spite of not having had career statistics that would quantitatively rank him with the all-time greats, be included on their list of the 100 greatest players. In the book's introduction, they used this as their reason why Score, with 55 career wins, was on their list, while Early Wynn, who won 300 games, all in the post-1920 Live Ball Era, was not.
Herb Score died on November 11, 2008 at his home in Rocky River, Ohio, after a lengthy illness. The Indians will wear a patch on their sleeve of their uniform during the 2009 season to honor him.
- ↑ Scholz, Karin. 1998. Herb score hospitalized after truck slams auto. Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), October 9, 1998.
- ↑ Score has condition upgraded, stays in intensive care. 1998. Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), October 10, 1998.
- ↑ Hoynes, Paul. 1998. Score moved out of intensive care. Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), November 13, 1998.
- ↑ 1998. Score out of hospital, still doesn't recall crash. Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), December 12, 1998.
- ↑ Associated Press. 1998. Score, in hospital, cited for failure to yield. Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), October 12, 1998.
- ↑ Crump, Sarah. 1999. First pitch score's on opening day. Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio), April 9, 1999.
- ↑ Cleveland Plain Dealer (Cleveland.com), Nov. 11, 2008
- ↑ MLB.com, Nov. 11, 2008
- Career statistics and player information from Baseball-Reference
- Obituary in Cleveland Plain Dealer
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