This date is a memorable date for a couple of reasons. It marked a date which saw power pitchers reach a cornerstone in their lives.
When fans watch baseball today, it is very different from years ago. Nobody has to face ‘The Big Train’ or Herb Score, Bob Feller, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan or a Randy Johnson. When you went to a game featuring those power starting pitchers, there was a chance you could see a no-hitter. Yet the one thing you could count on was that batters were just a bit on their toes when facing the heat of these power pitchers.
On this date, in 1917, Babe Ruth of the Boston Red Sox allowed only two hits as he out pitched Walter Johnson of the Washington Senators, 1-0. Can you imagine being there for that game? Oh, by the way, Ruth knocked in the winning run with a sacrifice fly. In that year, he would go on to start 38 games and win 24 against 13 losses. He had an ERA of 2.01. In Babe Ruth’s 1916 season as a pitcher, his record was 23 Wins and 170 Strikeouts, with a 1.75 ERA, 9 Shutouts and 23 Complete Games, as he was at the time, one of the best pitchers in baseball. He was undefeated as a pitcher in postseason play. In 1916, he had a 1-0 record with an ERA of 0.64 against the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1918, he went 2-0 against Chicago Cubs with a 1.06 ERA. The last time he ever pitched, was in the 1933 All-Star game, when he started and won. Thus what began in 1914 as a pitcher, ended up on the mound 20 years later…a winner. Overall, he won 94 games pitching, losing 46 with a 2.28 ERA lifetime.
Jumping ahead to 1957 on this date, it was another sort of a day in Cleveland as the Indians were facing the New York Yankees in a night game. Herb Score, the fireballing left hander was coming off of a 20 win season the year before where he finished with a 20-9 record with 5 shutouts, an ERA of 2.53 with 263 strikeouts. In his first two years, he was an All-Star and was already 2-1 in the ’57 season. Facing Gil McDougald, as the second batter in the inning, the count was 2 and 2. He shook off the both the curve and slider because he felt he lacked command of his breaking stuff. On his 12th pitch of the night, he fired a fastball that had helped him earn 508 strikeouts over his first two season.
The pitch was low and inside and McDougald lined it up the middle. This is what Herb Score said about the rest. ‘I heard the crack of the bat while my head was down in my follow-through. All I ever saw as my head came up was a white blur. I snapped up my glove, but the white blur blasted through the fingertips and into my right eye. I clutched at my face, staggered and fell. Then I thought, ‘My God, the eye has popped right out of my head!’. Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium was hushed as the career of one of baseball’s best young pitchers and a sure Hall of Famers was finished.
Laying near the mound, bloody and battered, he called on his patron saint for help. He left the field cracking jokes, ‘They can’t say I didn’t keep my eye on that one’, he told teammate Mike Garcia on the field.
In the Yankee clubhouse after the game, McDougald was disconsolate. The seven year veteran and as the American League rookie of the year, told his teammate Hank Bauer, ‘If he loses his sight, I’ll quit baseball. The game’s not that important when it comes to this.”
Talking to Jimmy Cannon the following year he was asked if he felt like giving up. Score said, ‘Give up? I never gave up. When I was first hit, they bandaged both eyes. I could hear people walking. I thought we never appreciated what God does for us. We never think what it is to see. I can see very well. My ankle has been a little sore. But the eye, the only problem I have now is to get the fellows out.’
This date in baseball history is powerful. First we see what a phenomenal player the mighty Babe Ruth was. Secondly, we see what a real man Herbert Jude Score was.