Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's in a name?

At the vintage table with binders of old cards, I wanted to grab a REALLY old card.  I wanted a guy I had heard of, but didn't want to spend a ton on a single card.  And that's when I spotted Herb Score.

I don't know exactly why I remember him - perhaps it's simply his name?  Actually, I once played in a Strat-O-Matic Retro League that "began" in 1955 - that was the year of our first draft, and when I looked up Score's stats, it does make sense that he would be sought after.  Score led the league in strikeouts in '55 and '56, compiling a 36-19 record during those 2 campaigns (including 20 wins in '56).  He was named rookie of the year in '55, and made the all-star team in both of those seasons.

But then, what happened?  Score would win just 19 games during the next 6 seasons, and was out of baseball at the age of 29.

And this is what I learned from wikipedia:

>>>On May 7, 1957, against the New York Yankees at Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, 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 bloodied. McDougald reportedly vowed to retire if Score was blinded as a result, but Score 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."

You know, I sort of remember hearing this story - probably told by Keith Hernandez or maybe even Ralph Kiner in the 6th inning of some game that the Mets trailed by 8 runs (yes, Ollie Perez probably started the game...) - but it is a reminder of just how fragile success at this level can be.


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