Thursday, November 18, 2010
William Jennings Bryan Herman was born in New Albany, Indiana in 1909, and broke in with the Chicago Cubs in 1931, where he became a fixture at second base for many years to come. He batted .314 in his first full season as the Cubs won the 1932 pennant. 1934 was the first of 8 seasons that saw Herman selected to the National League All-Star team, and he was one of the most reliable players in the senior circuit. In 1935, he had a league-best 227 hits and 57 doubles as the Cubs rolled to another pennant, but lost the World Series again.
By 1940, Herman's numbers began to wane, and he saw himself traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers for Charlie Gilbert and John Hudson. Aided by a depleted talent pool due to World War 2, Herman rebounded in 1943 to hit .330 (2nd in the NL) but next season, at age 34, he joined the military and missed 1944 and '45.
At 36 years of age, it was unexpected that Herman would return from the war as a player, but he played most of 1946, splitting time between Brooklyn and the Boston Braves, playing second, third and first base. He batted a respectable .298. He was traded to Pittsburgh before the 1947 season, and was named player-manager, although he played in only 15 games hitting a paltry .213. He was also relieved of managerial duties before the end of the season as the Pirates went 61-92 under his leadership. It was not his last day on the bench, but his days at the plater were over. His career totals include a lifetime .304 average and over 2300 hits.
Herman moved on to manage in the minor leagues for a few seasons, until he was brought on by the Dodgers as a coach in 1952, followed by the Milwaukee Braves in 1958. In 1960, he became the third base coach for the Boston Red Sox, and in 1964, was named the Red Sox manager for the last two games of the season as the Sox fired Johnny Pesky. The Red Sox fared no better under Herman in 1965, as they lost 100 games and the Sox finished in 9th. Herman was fired partly through the 1966 season.
Billy Herman was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975 by the Veterans Comittee. He died in 1992 of cancer.
The Autograph: Herman was a regular through-the-mail signer, as well as a frequent signer at Hall of Fame ceremonies, spring training and conventions. His autograph is very common.