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Herb Hash

Herb Hash

BR Bullpen

Herb Hash Boston Red Sox

Position(s):
P
Born:
February 13, 1911
Bats:
Right
Throws:
Right
Height:
6' 1"
Weight:
180 lbs
Major League Debut:
4-19-1940 with BOS

 

Herb Hash

by Bill Nowlin

After an even 7-7 split in his 14 decisions with the 1940 Boston Red Sox, right-hander Herb Hash needed one more decision to tip the scales one way or the other. Two hitless innings in relief of Lefty Grove in an April 18, 1941, game against Philadelphia, with the Red Sox scoring twice in the top of the ninth, saw Hash tuck away a 3-2 win. It was his only decision in four appearances in 1941, and with his final game coming on the last day of April, left him with a lifetime 8-7 record in the major leagues. 

 

Herbert Howard Hash was his given name, supplied to him by his parents, John and Minnie. The Hashes were a Scotch-Irish farming family from Smith River, Patrick County, Virginia. Herbert was the sixth child of 14 in the family. Even at the age of 8, in the 1920 census (Hash was born on February 13, 1911, in Woolwine, Virginia), Herbert was listed as a farm laborer, as were older siblings John, Velda, Kermit, Hester, and Dexter.[1] The family had moved to Chancellor in Spotsylvania County by 1930.

 

It wasn’t until he was 25 years old that Hash began playing baseball professionally. He seems to have started school late, still playing for Fredericksburg High School in 1932.[2] After graduating with a major in business administration – though his expressed goal in life was always to become a teacher  -- from the University of Richmond in June 1935 (where he was also a star center on the school’s undefeated 1935 basketball team), he was signed by the Boston Red Sox farm system for a reported $3,000 bonus, but finished out the summer playing semipro ball for Wytheville and then for Culpeper in the Valley League, with a 7-1 record.

 

He began pro ball in 1936 with the Canton Terriers in the Class C Middle Atlantic League. He was 9-7 with a 3.84 ERA in 129 innings of work, and even pitched in an in-season exhibition game against the parent club on September 8, Canton beating Boston, 7-4, on the strength of a grand slam off Jimmie Foxx, who pitched the last three innings for the Red Sox.[3] Hash married Ruth Earle Weaver in 1936.

 

He found himself advanced to the Piedmont League’s Rocky Mount Red Sox for the 1937 and 1938 seasons. He was 11-14 and 14-12, respectively, and had another obstacle to overcome, according to Red Sox minor-league director Billy Evans: “The manager down there didn’t like him and kept telling me that he wouldn’t make the Red Sox. Herb, you know, is one of those slow-moving, mild-mannered boys – you might call him a typical Southerner. But I had a hunch on him and moved him to Minneapolis last spring.”[4] It was a move that paid off.

 

Hash put up stats that caught the eye of the Boston team: With Double-A Minneapolis in 1939, he had a 22-6 season with a 3.27 earned-run average, and his 144 strikeouts tied him for the league lead. Evans said, “Dave Sheehan, the manager of the Millers, liked Herb from the beginning. The boy got off to a bad start, walking something like a dozen men in his first game. But Sheehan had patience with him and he eventually won 22 games. Herbie has a peculiar disposition. He’s very serious about his pitching, but at times he gives you the impression he lacks confidence in himself. He has everything a big leaguer needs – size, good control, and something on the ball. You wouldn’t say he is very fast, yet his ball is sneaky. Sometimes he throws it right by the hitter. I’d say that when he learns to believe in himself – know in his own head that he is better than the hitters – he’ll be a ‘whale’ of a pitcher.”[5] Hash was 6-foot-1 with a playing weight of 186 pounds. He was the only pitcher in the American Association to win 20 or more games in 1939. He finished second in the American Association’s MVP voting.

 

The Red Sox didn’t wait until after the season to make their move, finalizing the arrangements in late July by buying both Hash and pitcher Bill Butland from the Millers for a reported $30,000 apiece, but calling for delivery in the spring of 1940. Red Sox manager Joe Cronin was quoted in December as saying of his jump from B ball to Double-A, “That’s a big hop, but our scouts say he can’t miss in the big leagues.”[6] For his part, Hash credited manager Tom Sheehan and coach Ray Kolp: “I used to throw nothing but an overhand fastball and curve. But Sheehan and Kolp taught me to use a change of pace and keep that hitter guessing.” Ed Rumill of the Christian Science Monitor said Hash had a “tendency toward wildness at times, but this was a help and not a handicap. As he is very fast, the batters would not be quite so confident at the plate.”[7]

 

Hash spent the full 1940 season with Boston, but came to the big club by himself, unaccompanied by catcher George Lacy, who had been his batterymate in college, at Rocky Mount, and in Minneapolis. Though they’d both been signed to play at Rocky Mount in 1936, Lacy had been sent to Cleveland, Mississippi, and Hash to Canton.[8]

 

Hash did survive the inevitable jokes made regarding his surname, and promoted headlines such as the Chicago Tribune’s “Hash Slings It Over the Plate and Red Sox Foes Don’t Like It.” When Chicago White Sox manager Jimmy Dykes heckled him using his name, however, umpire Bill Summers reprimanded Dykes, while perhaps inadvertently using a food-related metaphor himself: “You are violating an American League rule by calling a gent’s name while riding him. If you want to insult a guy you’ve gotta keep it impersonal. One more forkful of this Hash business and out you go.”[9] Hash threw the final five innings of that May 1 game, allowing just one hit.

 

Herb himself was said to be “one of the few Boston players who can understand the lingo and erudition of Moe Berg, Red Sox coach, barrister, and radio quiz wizard. Whenever Moe shoots a polysyllable at Herbert, the young man raises him a couple of syllables and shoots it right back in Moe’s teeth.”[10]

 

The first 12 appearances of his career were all in relief, beginning on April 19, the fourth game of the 1940 season. Making a name for himself as a reliever, Hash was 3-2 with two saves. Manager Cronin then gave him his first start, on May 26 in Fenway Park; Hash surrendered only one run to the Yankees until the sixth inning, when he was touched for two more, and bore the final 7-2 loss. He was pitching with a knee he’d injured on May 20 in Detroit; the knee became infected and required a minor operation at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on June 3. His next appearance came on June 15, another complete-game win against the White Sox, in Chicago. And on June 23, he shut out the Cleveland Indians – the first time they’d been shut out that year – on eight hits. From June 26 on, however, Hash never won another game, a circumstance later attributed to his worries regarding his wife’s illness during pregnancy.[11] Nonetheless, Cronin admitted in mid-July to Boston sportswriter John Drohan that Hash had been a nice surprise coming out of spring training. He had ranked below Mickey Harris and Bill Butland in terms of expectations. Hash’s demeanor was so low-key and so steady that he had flown under the radar – but made the cut and stayed the season.

 

Toward the end of the season, Hash welcomed another member to his household; Herb Junior was born on September 3.

 

In 1941 Cronin was hoping Herb could contribute 15 wins. Instead, he appeared in just four games, all in April, for a total of 8 1/3 innings. He was 1-0 and had a save, and hit badly only once (for four earned runs in three innings on April 20, a game the Red Sox still won, 14-8). But the Red Sox didn’t think they needed him, and to get the roster down to the 25-man player limit, on May 13 the team ticketed him to Louisville on option. There, Herb appeared in nine games and was 3-4 with a 4.73 ERA but his season began late (joining the team a month into the season) and ended prematurely; in early July, it was announced that he would miss at least the rest of the 1941 season due to a “general physical breakdown.”[12] He went onto the voluntarily retired list. In fact, he had a serious back injury requiring a spinal fusion and 145 stitches in his lower back. He was discharged from the hospital right around the beginning of 1942. Assured that he was fit to play, he signed a contract for the ’42 season. But right at the end of spring training, the Red Sox cut him loose, selling him outright to Minneapolis, from which he had advanced to the major leagues in 1939.

 

For the Millers, Hash won one more game, but lost three, throwing only 59 innings in nine games, before his career came to what looked to be its conclusion – though there was one spectacular game when he threw 11 2/3 innings of no-hit relief.[13]

 

Hash took a position as high-school principal in Boston, Virginia, and served there in 1943 and 1944. In May 1945 he was named director of athletics and head coach at Hargrave Military Academy, a grade 7-12 preparatory school in Chatham, Virginia, but he kept his arm loose pitching in semipro baseball for Culpeper again. There was an interlude in 1946 when he turned pro again, pitching in the Carolina League for the Danville Leafs. He won 15 games (this was Class C ball, in the New York Giants system) and lost six, throwing 209 innings.

 

By 1948 he was back as a school principal in Culpeper County, and he and a former Red Sox teammate, Stan Spence, joined forces to start a boys camp on the Hazel River, near Culpeper. But Hash’s main job was working in the public schools, and he served as either a teacher or a principal for 33 years.

 

Hash died of a stroke in his hometown of Culpeper on May 20, 2008. He was 97 at the time, and at the time had been second in age among living Red Sox players only to 99-year-old Billy Werber. He is an inductee in the University of Richmond’s Hall of Fame.

 

December 31, 2010

 

Sources

In addition to the sources noted in this biography, the author also accessed Hash’s player file from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the online SABR Encyclopedia, the Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, Retrosheet.org, and Baseball-Reference.com. Some of this material was originally published in the book Red Sox Threads.

[1]  Hash completed two questionnaires for the Hall of Fame. On one he reported being born in 1911 and in the other, 1915. His Heilbroner Baseball Bureau player card has him born in 1914.

[2]  Washington Post, April 3, 1932

[3] Washington Post, September 9, 1936

[4] Christian Science Monitor, May 2, 1940

[5]  Ibid

[6]  Washington Post, December 13, 1939

[7]  Christian Science Monitor, March 14, 1940

[8] A lengthy story by Dick Farrington in the November 16, 1939 issue of The Sporting News follows the careers of both Hash and Lacy.

[9]  Chicago Tribune, May 14, 1940

[10]  Ibid

[11]  Hartford Courant, March 30, 1941

[12]  Washington Post, July 10, 1941

[13]  1982 letter from Herbert Hash, found in his Hall of Fame player file

this biography can also be found at the SABR Bio project

 

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