Since it’s always good to start with The Bambino, today was the day in 1927 that number 60 was hit, cementing the legend and a establishing record that while broken still stands the test of time as the original home run record.
In 1972, the Mets were in the Pittsburgh and more than happy to oblique the future Hall of Famer, Roberto Clement. He hit his last and 3000th hit of his immortal career on this day. There is quite the story about the bat used: I believe at one time four bats were given that honor. Thankfully You Tube has his last at bat for all to witness.
With yesterday being the anniversary of The Catch by the greatest Giant of all baseball, Willie Mays, it seems only fair, so today is Brooklyn’s turn at bat.
Brooklyn’s hitting heroes are George “Shotgun” Shuba and Floyd “Babe” Herman.
Shuba played his entire career in Flatbush, as a part-time outfielder and pinch hitter. As a lefty bat he played an important role against right handed pitchers in a time when situational hitting was in its infancy. He career lasted just seven years from 1948 to 1955, saw action in just 354 games, had 949 plate appearances and hit a respectable .259, with 24 home runs and 45 doubles and a more than respectable 104 OPS+. His nickname Shotgun was earned by his ability to hit line drives to all fields with regularity during batting practice.
His claim to baseball fame was in the 6th inning of game one of the 1953 World Series. He stepped to the plate as a pinch hitter for Dodger pitcher Jim Hughes who was rather ineffective that afternoon giving up 5 runs in 5 innings. With one on and one out, Shuba does the impossible to the rapturous joy of the now long silent in Brooklyn; he hits a two-run home run into the friendly confines of the Yankee Stadium’s right field bleachers. It cut the lead down from 2-5 to 4-5. It was the second home run of the inning given up by Allie Reynolds, and he was done for the day. The Dodgers of course went on lose the game 5-9 and the series to the Yanks in typical Brooklyn fashion two games to four. This at bat was Shuba’s only at bat in the 1953 Fall Classic, and his only World Series home run.
He did play in the ‘52 and ‘55 series as well. But on this day he achieved baseball fame, being the first person to hit a pinch hit World Series Home Run. While Kirk Gibson’s made for TV moment is more popular; both pinch hit homers were witnessed by Vin Scully. Putting the Gibson moment in context, the Dodger’s legendary announcer had to wait some 37 years to see a pinch-hit game, winning home run. In 1955 he pinch hit for Don Zimmer also against the righty Reynolds. This time he it was a ground out to second base.
Shuba’s pinch hitting heroics reminder that baseball is a team game, and when it matters most in the playoffs the least become first.
Yet we know that this was no fluke, Shuba was a professional through and through, and noted for his work effort and attention to detail in his preparations. Roger Kahn in his heroic tome of the baseball’s most beloved losers in The Boys of Summer described Shuba’s success as the result of a dedication to his craft with his response to his ‘natural’ swing:
“You call that (diligent preparation) natural? I swung a 44-ounce bat 600 times a night, 4,200 times a week, 47,200 swings every winter. Wrist. The fastball’s by you. You gotta wrist it out. Forty-seven thousand two hundred times.”
George Shuba was a better man than player. He played in the minors with Jackie Robinson and is noted for giving the first home run hand shake to the Hall of Famer in Jersey City. On April 18, 1946 against the old Jersey City Giants, in the top of the 3rd inning Jackie hit a two run homer, scoring Shuba. It was Shuba who greeted Jackie at home with the friendly right hand from a grateful teammate.
As an honor of his dignity and integrity, Youngstown, Ohio dedicated a ball field to their hometown baseball hero, George Shotgun Shuba on September 18, 2007.
Today we also celebrate the “Pride of Flatbush,” Floyd “Babe” Herman. While not the home run king, this Babe was the king of the triple, ace of hitting for the cycle, and patron saint for non-fielding outfielders and bad base running.
Babe Herman is one of only three ball players to have hit for the cycle three times. John Reilly of the 19th Century Reds, a former batter of the day from September 19th , and Yankees sun fielder Bob Meusel (either left or right as a means of protecting the Babe) are the others to achieve this rarest of rare hitting masterpiece.
Babe Herman’s base running and fielding eccentricities earned him the nickname of “The Headless Horseman of Brooklyn.” Baseball-reference notes that in his New York Times obit, Herman was described as:
“Though he was an outstanding hitter, he was perhaps best remembered for what were viewed as his misadventures in the field and on the basepaths.”
His absent mindedness on the base paths resulted in a unique double play where three Dodgers found themselves all at third base. On that fateful play Herman tried to stretch a double hit off the wall into a triple, the runner on second Dazzy Vance, misread the 3rd base coaches instructions to Herman as being for himself and returned to third. By the time the dust had settled three Dodgers were at Third (Dazzy Vance, Chick Fewster and Herman); Babe was officially credited with a double and being thrown out at third. The punch line of the story goes as the following:
- “The Dodgers have three men on base!”
- “Oh, yeh? Which base?”
The rest of the story is: the game was played on Sunday August 15, 1926 in Brooklyn in front of 15,000 witnesses. The bases were loaded with one out. The runner at third became the eventual game winning run, and Dazzy Vance who started the group meeting at third picked up the win. No real harm done was with this base running escapade, and Herman escaped the wrath of the times and eternal infamy bestowed on Fred Merkle. In the roaring twenties, with the Giants roaming the Polo Grounds and the Yankees sultans of baseball, these Robins were channeling their inner-Mr. Met. From 1921 to 1939 the team never finished above third place. In 1926, they finished 71-82, some 17.5 games out. Their opponents that fateful day were the Braves who finished 7th that year some 4.5 games worse.
Herman was also accused of getting himself hit in the head with a batted ball while fielding, but, in a manner that would make Jose Canseco jealous; Herman did it twice! With no irrefutable video evidence and with great pride Herman refuted this claim. (But then again if you get hit on the head with a hardball and get a concussion, how can you remember?)
“Never once did I get hit on the head by a fly ball. Once or twice on the shoulder maybe, but never on the head.”
There were no jokes associated with Babe’s hitting. Herman was a masterful hitter. He played 13 MLB seasons, the first twelve were from 1926 to 1937, and his last year a swan song return in 1945 after not playing for some eight seasons. With six clubs, primarily with Brooklyn, he took some 6228 plate appearances accumulated 1818 hits, (399 doubles, 110 triples, 181 home runs) which resulted in a very healthy career average of .324 and a superior OPS+ of 141.
As the cartoon shows, 1930 was his best year. Although a great season, it was disappointing. As stellar as these numbers were, none led the league. Three Hall of Famers, the Giants’ Bill Terry hit .401, with 254 hits and more triples (15), the Cub’s Hack Wilson clouted 56 HR’s with 191 RBI’s, and the Phil’s Chuck Klein scored 158 runs and socked 59 doubles. (Adam Comorosky of the Pirates led the NL with triples with 23.) Both Terry and Wilson had higher WAR too: 7.6 and 7.4 to Herman’s 7.0. To add insult to injury was no MVP award given in 1930.
He hit for the cycle twice in 1931 (May 18 and July 24) for the old Brooklyn Robins. The game of May 18 was in Brooklyn against John Reilly’s former team and led the way to a 14-4 blue bird’s victory. In July, the results were reversed in an 8-9 loss at Forbes Field.
On this day, in 1933, Babe Herman hit for the Cycle—for the Third Time. This time he was done wearing the red, white, and Cubbie blue of the National Leagues’ founding team. Herman accomplished this feat against the Chicago’s most disliked rival at their old decrepit home of Sportsman’s Park III. The Cubs won that day 14-2!
You Tube for Clemente’s 3000 hit
Herman Cartoon http://www.bobsbaseballmuseum.com/photos
http://www.nsnn.com/The%20Brooklyn%20Dodgers.htm colorized photo.