Baseball Flakes, Eccentrics, and Odd-Ball Personalities – Babe Herman!

Baseball Flakes, Eccentrics, and Odd-Ball Personalities – Babe Herman!

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 Another Edition of: Baseball Flakes, Eccentrics, and Odd-Ball Personalities!

Let’s Remember “Baseball’s Other Babe” – Babe Herman — the only major leaguer to “double into a double play.” As a matter of fact, he came very close to tripling into a triple play! I’ll explain all this later. In so doing, he became responsible for one of baseball’s oldest jokes:

  • First Dodger fan: “The Dodgers have three men on base!
  • Second Dodger fan: “Oh yeah?…Which base?”

Floyd Caves “Babe” Herman was one of the great power hitters of baseball’s offensive era in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The 6’4”, 190-pound Herman was a very good-hit, virtually no-field first baseman/outfielder who is remembered for his numerous misadventures in the field and on the basepaths. Like “Bonehead” Merkle, Babe Herman was defined by a single bizarre incident. Read on to find out what it was…

Over his 13-season major league career (1926-’37, 1945), Babe played for the Dodgers, Reds, Cubs, Pirates, and Tigers.  He hit for a .324 career average, with 1818 hits, 181 home runs, 997 RBIs, 882 runs, 399 doubles, 110 triples, 2980 total bases, a .383 on-base percentage, and a .532 slugging average. His career 141 OPS+ places him well above average among his contemporaries (100 being the major league average).

Babe Herman made his major league debut with the Brooklyn Robins in 1926, hitting .319 with 35 doubles, 11 home runs, and a .500 slugging average. His best years was 1930 when he posted a .393 batting average, with 241 hits, 143 runs, .678 slugging average, and 416 total bases. These marks all remain Dodgers franchise records. He also set team records (since broken) that year with 35 home runs and 130 RBIs.

Other career highlights include: hitting for the cycle three times (one of only three players to do so); and a .532 career slugging average, which ranked fourth in the National League when he retired. On July 10, 1935, Herman hit the first home run ever in a major league night game. A markedly below-average fielder, he led the National League in errors in 1927 as a first baseman and in each of the next two years playing in right field.

Here’s a few tidbits and anecdotes about Babe Herman:

  • Not known for his brain-power, he once told the Brooklyn writers he was smarter than they thought, and liked to read books about great generals. The skeptical writers asked him what he thought about the Napoleonic “era.” He replied: “I thought it should have been scored a hit.”
  • With a remark that encapsulated his later career, the scout who signed him said: “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.”
  • Fresco Thompson, a 1931 teammate, made this observation about Herman’s iron hands: “He wore a glove for only one reason: because it was a league custom.”
  • When informed by a local bank that someone had been impersonating him and cashing bad checks, Herman said, “Hit him a few fly balls. If he catches any, it ain’t me.”
  • His style of play, along with that of the entire team, led to Brooklyn being dubbed “The Daffiness Boys.” Brooklyn teammate Dazzy Vance once dubbed him “The Headless Horseman of Ebbets Field” for his various base running mistakes.
  • On two occasions in 1930 Herman stopped to watch a home run while running the bases and was passed by the hitter, in each case causing the home run to count only as a single.
  • In 1930, he was once thrown out trying to steal against the Cardinals’ 48-year old catcher Gabby Street, who was an emergency substitute, appearing in his first game since 1912.
  • In 1945, he was re-signed by Brooklyn at age 42 and received a strong ovation from the Ebbets Field crowd in his first at-bat. Unfortunately, he proceeded to trip over first base after hitting a single.
  • Once when told by a teammate that a mutual friend had lost everything during the war, Babe asked him: “What did he do, bet on the Germans?”
  • Once to the shock of writer Frank Graham, Herman pulled a half-smoked cigar out of his pocket. What shocked Graham was that the cigar in his pocket was already lit!

How Babe Herman “Doubled into a Double Play!”

In the seventh inning of a game on August 15, 1926 against the Boston Braves at Ebbets Field, Herman tried to stretch a double off the right field wall into a triple with one out and the bases loaded. Chick Fewster, who had been on first base, advanced to third base – which was already occupied by Dazzy Vance, who had started on second base but became caught in a rundown between third and home and was dashing back to third. All three men ended up on third base, with Herman not having watched the play in front of him. The Braves’ third baseman, Eddie Taylor, tagged all three just to be sure of getting as many outs as possible. The slow-footed Vance had been a major contributor to the situation, but according to the rules, because he was the lead runner and not forced to advance, he was entitled to third base, so umpire Beans Reardon called Herman and Fewster out.

Herman had “doubled into a double play,” and came very close to tripling into a triple play. Hank DeBerry, who started on third, scored the game’s winning run, and so Herman later complained: “No one remembers that I drove in the winning run on the play!”

-Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the Babe Herman Wikipedia page; and from book: “Baseball’s Eccentrics,” by Bill Lee and Jim Prime.

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I'm a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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