Indians History: Herb Score Hit in Face with Line Drive

Herb Score appeared to be on his way to becoming the next dominant pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. That hope seemingly ended on this day in 1957, when Score was hit in the face with a line drive, ending his season.

Known for his blazing fastball and a complete lack of command, Herb Score appeared destined for stardom. The Cleveland Indians phenom made the All Star Game in each of his first two seasons, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1955. Score led the American League in strikeouts each of those years, averaging over a strikeout per inning while walking 5.3 batters per nine. However, he was virtually impossible to hit, allowing him to minimize those free passes.

It appeared as though the youngster was starting to get his command under control. In 1956, Score improved his walk rate to 4.7 walks per nine innings, the only time in his career that mark would end up below 6.0. However, as he was just 24 years old heading into the 1957 campaign, there was hope that Score could become another Bob Feller, a pitcher the Indians could build around for the next decade.

However, on this day in 1957, it is believed that Score’s career came to an end. He was hit in the face by a line drive off the bat of Gil McDougald, ending his season. At that point, Score, in his five outings, had posted a 2-1 record with a 2.00 ERA and three complete games, striking out 39 batters, against 26 walks, in 36 innings.

At least, as Score struggled when he came back, it is believed that the line drive ended his career. Instead, Score himself said that his arm was beginning to hurt at that time, likely the result of his heavy workload. While his 512.2 innings of work in 73 games was not atypical, Score used quite a lot of pitches to get there. Arm issues were likely going to come in the near future.

Likewise, in 1959, he showed some of his previous form. Although he had a 9-11 record with a 4.71 ERA, Score still led the American League with 8.2 strikeouts per nine, and allowed just 6.9 hits per nine. Of course, he led the league with 14 wild pitches and had 115 walks in his 160.2 innings.

That would be the last time that Score would pitch more than 115 innings in a season. He was sent to the White Sox the following year, and appeared in just 35 games over his three seasons in Chicago. Score was sent down to the minors, where he continued to struggle, finally retiring in 1963. That season, he was 0-6 with a 7.66 ERA, issuing 64 walks with just 46 strikeouts in 67 innings. He hung up his cleats afterwards, and spent the next 33 years broadcasting for the Indians.

Herb Score looked like he was on pace for a great career until he was hit in the face with a line drive on this day in 1957. Instead, as the Cleveland Indians pitcher himself admitted, the end may have come anyway.

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