- 1B, OF
- June 26, 1903
- 6' 4"
- 190 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 4-14-1926 with BRO
"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." - from Babe Herman's obituary in the New York Times
The scout who signed Babe Herman for the Dodgers said of him: "He's kind of funny in the field, but when I see a guy go 6-for-6, I've got to go for him." Herman had his share of big days with the lumber, but he made more headlines with his boneheaded play in the field and on the bases. He wasn't the first player to have a fly ball bounce off his head, but he did it with such silliness that he became famous for it. He frequently drove his managers crazy with his foolish baserunning, and once found himself as one of three runners attemtping to occupy third base for the Dodgers. Despite the zaniness, Herman hit .324 in a 13-year career, finishing among league leaders in extra-base hits on a regular basis
Born in Buffalo, NY, on June 26, 1903. to German immigrant parents, Floyd Caves Herman was carried west with his family to California at an early age. His father went west to seek work, and Herman grew up in southern California, the youngest boy (thus "Babe") in the Herman clan.
Herman excelled at most athetic endeavors as a youth, and signed a professional contract right out of high school to play baseball. He reportedly lost a chance to play college football because he was declared inelgible for having taken money for playing baseball at an Elk's picnic. He played his first pro season in Canada for Edmonton, joining fellow slugger Heinie Manush in their outfield. Both players earned a spring training invite from the Tigers in 1922. Herman walloped a long homer in exhibition play, but didn't impress manager Ty Cobb and was shipped back to the bushes. Manush was farmed out as well, but made the Detroit squad the following spring.
From 1922-1926, Herman, primarily a first baseman at that time, played for six different minor league teams and was transferred no fewer than 12 times. His streaky productivity and unpredictable play in the field kept him in the minors. His shaky defense led to his switch to the outfield. he was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1925, and when Jack Fournier hurt his leg in 1926, Herman was given a chance to play.
With his trademark wad of tobacco puffing out from his cheek, Herman hit major league pitching well immediately. He batted .319 as a rookie, slumped to .272 the next season, but then began a string of five straight .300 seasons. He peaked at .393 in 1930, lashing out 241 hits with 48 doubles, 11 triples, and 35 homers. He was the darling of Ebbets Field.
Following the big 1930 campaign, Herman fell off to .313 in 1931. The Dodgers tried to cut his salary, but Babe held out and was eventually traded to Cincinnati, for whom he hit .300 again. In all, he produced eight seasons above the .300 mark, and drove in at least 100 runs twice.
He was dealt to Chicago in 1933, and split time betweem Pittsburgh and Cincinnati in 1935. He spent a brief stretch witHD etroit in 1937, and was out of the pro ranks, until the Dodgers called him back for some action during the war year of 1945. At the age of 42, Herman hit .265 with a homer and nine RBI in 34 at-bats in his comeback.
He retired to southern California, wher ehe made a living in various businesses, and tried to capitalize on being Babe Herman.
Three on Third
Herman is famous for having hit the ball that resulted in three Brooklyn Dodgers on third base, each claiming rights to the bag. The strange play happended at Ebbets Field. Umpire Beans Reardon, who had to make sense of the mess, recalled his decision-making process:
"Now I got three men standing on third, and every one of them is being tagged. I said, 'Damn it, wait a minute, I got to figure this out.' Finally I said, 'The bag belongs to Vance, so Fewster, you're out, and so are you, Turkey Neck [Herman], for passing a runner on the baselines. That's it. The side's out. Let's play ball, fellas.'"
Thanks to SABR member David Kaiser for this quote.
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- Babe Herman