Monday, April 16, 2012

#88 Herb Score and #345 Gil McDougald

This is the first time I have 'double dipped' and done one entry on two cards. But it's hard to separate Herb Score and Gil McDougald. The two are forever joined by what happened on May 7, 1957 in a game between Score's Indians and McDougald's Yankees in Cleveland.

At the point in time Herb Score was a hard throwing (seriously hard throwing) lefthander coming off a very impressive two season debut. Signed out of Florida in 1952 by the same scout who signed Bob Feller, Score made his mark in 1954 with the Indians' Indianapolis AAA club by striking out 330 in 251 innings. In 1955 Score broke in to the Indians rotation with a 16 win season in which he led the league in strikeouts and k's per 9 and topped it off with the Rookie of the Year trophy. He came back in '56 and was even better. He was named to the AL All Star squad again and went on to win 20 games and again led the league in whiffs. 

The Red Sox reportedly had offered the Indians a million dollars for Score prior to the '57 season and were turned down by Cleveland’s general manager, Hank Greenberg, saying Score “may become the greatest pitcher in the game’s history.” Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra, among others, praised Score through the years as being one of the toughest pitchers they ever faced. Herb Score was, in May of 1957, a phenomenon.

Gil McDougald was signed by the Yankees out of the University of San Francisco in 1948 and, after three successful minor league seasons (he hit over .330 each year) broke in with the big league club in 1951 and went on to play as a steady if not spectacular infielder for the entire decade through the 1960 season. 

Like Score, McDougald had a Rookie of the Year trophy and All Star credentials. He finished as high as fifth in the MVP voting in 1957. He was an excellent fielder wherever the Yanks used him around the infield. He spent seasons as their regular third baseman, shortstop and second baseman.

In that May 7 game in 1957 facing Score, McDougald was the game's second batter and he stroked a liner that hit the pitcher in the face breaking numerous bones. While Score was treated and carried off the field McDougald reportedly had to be talked into remaining in the game by Yankee manager Casey Stengel. The shaken McDougald vowed to quit if Score was blinded.

Score overcame his injuries, regained 20/20 vision and returned to baseball during the 1958 season but hurt his arm while changing his pitching motion and never regained the form that had led Bob Feller to compare him favorably with another 1955 rookie, Sandy Koufax. He was traded to the White Sox in April of 1960 and spent three seasons splitting time between them and their farm team. He continued in the game as a long time broadcaster for the Indians.

McDougald, by some accounts, never was the same aggressive player he had been prior to the Score incident and he retired after the 1960 season. 

There is much more to read about these two stars of the 50's whose lives became intertwined that May day in Cleveland. A good Hall of Fame website article on Score can be found here.

The obits for Score who died in 2008, and McDougald, who died in 2010, add details about both players. This article on a Yankee fan site has quite a bit about McDougald and his reasons for retiring. 

The Herb Score card shows off his youthful appearance as well as my favorite Indians style uni. The Yankee Stadium facade gets one of it's better treatments in the background as well. My copy is miscut but has sharp corners. Pretty nice. 

My McDougald, though, is a candidate for upgrading. Soft corners and scuffing will do that. I noticed as I was checking the card back that it lists his home as Nutley, New Jersey. I pretty much grew up there, having lived in that great little Essex County town from second through ninth grade (Martha Stewart's mom was my 6th grade teacher). McDougald was living in Wall Township when he passed away. That's very close to where I spent my last two years of high school. Not that that all means anything.

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