- 2B, 1B, 3B
- July 7, 1909
- 5' 11"
- 180 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 8-29-1931 with CHN
- Hall of Fame:
Kirby Higbe, a teammate in Chicago and Brooklyn, said that Herman "stood out at second base over any other second baseman I ever saw... he was the greatest hit-and-run man in baseball then or now." Leo Durocher agreed, saying Herman was "... universally accepted as the classic number-two hitter...an absolute master at hitting behind the runner."
Billy Herman was the finest National League second baseman of the 1930s and early 1940s. He batted more than .300 eight times in his 15-year career, and scored at least 100 runs five times. His top years came as a Cub. In 1935 he led the NL with 227 hits and 57 doubles, and reached career highs with a .341 average and 113 runs scored. His 18 triples in 1939 led the league.
A starter at 2B from 1932 to 1943, in several seasons he played in every one of his team's games. He tied the NL record at 2B for most years leading in putouts (seven). He led the NL in 2B assists three times, errors four times, and fielding average three times. On June 28, 1933 he tied the ML record for most 2B putouts in a doubleheader (16), and tied the NL record for most 2B putouts in a game (11); an acknowledged master at playing the hitters, that season he set the NL season record for putouts (466). He appeared in 10 All-Star games, batting .433 (13-for-30). A member of three Cubs pennant-winners, he led all participants in the 1935 World Series with six RBI. After a slow start in 1941, he was traded to the Dodgers for two mediocrities and $65,000, supposedly because Cub manager Jimmie Wilson saw Herman as a threat to his job.
Herman missed the 1944 and 1945 seasons to serve in World War II, but returned to play in 1946 with the Dodgers and Boston Braves (after being traded mid-season). At 37, he was considered prime managerial material by the new owners of the Pittsburgh Pirates. On September 30, 1946, Herman was traded to Pittsburgh with three marginal players (outfielder Stan Wentzel, pitcher Elmer Singleton and infielder Whitey Wietelmann) for third baseman Bob Elliott and catcher Hank Camelli. Herman was promptly named playing manager of the 1947 Pirates, but he was aghast at the cost — Elliott — the Pirates had paid for him. "Why, they've gone and traded the whole team on me," he said. Elliott would win the 1947 National League Most Valuable Player award and lead Boston to the 1948 National League pennant. Herman's 1947 Pirates lost 92 games and finished tied for seventh in the NL, and he resigned before the season's final game.
Herman then managed in the minor leagues and became a major league coach with the Dodgers (1952–57) and Braves (now based in Milwaukee) (1958–59) — serving on five National League pennant winners in eight seasons. Then he moved to the American League as the third-base coach of the Boston Red Sox for five years (1960–64), before managing the Red Sox to lackluster records in 1965 and 1966; his 1965 Boston club lost 100 games. After his firing by the Red Sox in September 1966, he coached for the California Angels (1967) and San Diego Padres (1978–79) and served in player development roles with the Oakland Athletics and the Padres.
Herman finished his career with a .304 batting average, 1163 runs scored, 47 home runs, 839 RBI, and a minuscule 428 strikeouts. He won four National League pennants (in 1932, 1935, 1938, and 1941) but no World Series championships as a player (although he was a coach on the 1955 World Series champion Brooklyn Dodgers). His record as a major league manager was 189-274 (.408).
Herman holds the National League records for most putouts in a season by a second baseman and led the league in putouts seven times. He also shares the major league record for most hits on opening day, with five, set April 14, 1936.
Herman was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975.
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