"He instinctively can find the shining greatness of our American culture and does a good job of highlighting it (although he also does have those rare lapses when he writes about hockey, but that is something caused by impurities in the Eastern waters or something)." Erik Keilholtz
Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
He was a brilliant Indians pitcher whose baseball career was virtually ended at age 23 when he was hit in the right eye by a line drive off the bat of Gil McDougald of the New York Yankees on May 7, 1957.
Then he became a Cleveland sportscasting institution, calling Indians games on radio and television for 34 years, longer than anybody else in the city's baseball history.
[T]o those who had seen his talent on the mound, it was comparable to Napoleon becoming a war correspondent.
"Ted Williams said he had the best fastball of any left-hander he ever faced," the late Ken Coleman, onetime Indians sportscaster, once said.
Some observers said his fastball was the equal of Hall of Famer Bob Feller, the Clevelander who was considered the hardest thrower of his time. He also had a fine curve.
"They didn't have a radar gun then to measure speed," [Rocky] Colavito said. "But I think he threw 100 miles an hour."
Colavito compared Score with Sandy Koufax, considered by many to be the best lefty in modern baseball history.
"If nothing happens to this kid, he's going to be one of the best who ever pitched," said former Indians hero Tris Speaker.
Herb was ours, and he forever will be the voice of summer for me. He gave us everything, he gave us the weather (“It’s a beautiful day for baseball”), he gave us the news (“Don’t forget Sunday is youth jacket day!”) and he gave us a feeling of what it was like to be at the ballgame even that meant (as it often did) being in a cavernous 80,000 person stadium with 2,400 people freezing their butts off while Don Hood gave up the lead in the seventh.
I don’t remember the precise time when I heard Herb Score’s sad story, but I’m sure it was not from him. Herb in my memory never talked about the old days on the air. I mean NEVER. I’m almost certain it was my father who one day said, “You know that Herb got hit in the face with a line drive. It ended his career.” I did not know that, in fact. I was still at that age I just assumed that everything was as it had always been — Herb Score had ALWAYS been the Indians announcer, the Indians had ALWAYS stunk, my father had ALWAYS worked in a factory and so on…
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[T]he fateful day: May 7, 1957. The Indians faced the Yankees. Hank Bauer led off with a groundout to third. Up stepped Gil McDougald, a good player who would finish fifth in the MVP voting that year. The count worked to 2-2, and that’s when McDougald hit the line drive that would forever haunt him … he blasted the ball right back at Score, who did not have time to get his glove up. The ball smashed into Score’s right eye. Most people don’t know that McDougald was thrown out on the play … third baseman Al Smith took the rebound and threw out McDougald, who would say he wasn’t really running. He was scared. Everyone in the house — about 18,000 people — was scared. Witnesses would say you could hear the ball hit Score’s eye echo all over the gigantic ballpark.
Everyone rushed to the mound to help — Indians, Yankees, trainers of all kinds. The public address announcer said: “If there is a doctor in the stands, will he please report to the playing field.” Score’s memory of all these things was always sketchy when I talked to him … either it was sketchy or he had already told the story so many times that he simply did not have anything left to say about it…
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I just think that whatever happened to Herb Score happened because, at the height of his power, a line drive came back too fast. I think it’s just like I heard it when I was 9 or 10. The young Herb Score pitched just about as well as any young pitcher who ever played this crazy game. Then he got hit in the face with a line drive. And he never pitched great again. And it’s the saddest kind of sports story, that story of what Roger Kahn called unmade music.