Baseball’s Other “Babe” – Babe Herman — the Only Major Leaguer To Double Into a Double Play!

Baseball’s Other “Babe” – Babe Herman — the Only Major Leaguer To Double Into a Double Play!

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 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. So read on…

My post the other day about “The Most Unusual Home Run Ever!” got me to thinking about other hitting oddities. So let’s take a moment to remember “Baseball’s Other Babe,” Babe Herman, who is 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?”

 Dubbed “The Headless Horseman of Ebbets Field” by Dazzy Vance for his various base running misadventures, Herman was one of the great power hitters of the 1930s. The 6’4”, 190-lb. first baseman/outfielder was a quintessential good-hit, no-field ball player. Like “Bonehead” Merkle, Babe Herman was defined by a single bizarre incident. Here’s what happened:

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. Braves’ third baseman Eddie Taylor tagged out all three. Vance was the lead runner and not forced to advance, so he was entitled to third base. Umpire Beans Reardon called Herman and Fewster out.

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 that play!”

A case can be made that Babe Herman belongs in the Hall of Fame. Over his 13-season major league career (1926-’37, 1945), Babe  hit for a .324 career average, with 1818 hits, 181 home runs, 997 RBIs, a .383 on-base percentage, and a .532 slugging average (fourth in the National League when he retired). His career 141 OPS+ placed him well above average among his contemporaries (100 being the major league average).

His best year was 1930, baseball’s greatest offensive year, 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).  On July 10, 1935, Herman hit the first home run in a major league night game.

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

-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.”

-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.

-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!

-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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