The Top 100 Cubs Of All Time - #10 Billy Herman

The much-anticipated and discussed top ten all-time Cub profiles begin today. I don't think any of you are too surprised to find out who #10 is.

Profile by BCB reader Ihatethecards (with additions by Al)

William Jennings Bryan Herman was born in New Albany, Indiana, right across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky, on July 7, 1909. As we have seen in some other top 100 profiles of players born in that era, he was named after a popular politician of his day. During his playing career he was known for his stellar defense and consistent batting; in fact, he still holds many National League defensive records for second basemen.

He attended New Albany High School, and began playing in the minor leagues in 1927, right out of high school. He broke into the majors in 1931 when the Chicago Cubs purchased his contract from Louisville for $50,000. He asserted himself as a star the following season, starting all 154 games in 1932 and had 206 hits, scored 102 runs and had a .314 batting average.

A fixture in the Chicago lineup over the next decade, Herman was a consistent hitter and solid producer. He regularly hit .300 or higher (high of .341 in 1935) and drove in a high of 93 runs in 1936.

After a sub-standard offensive year in 1940, Herman was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers early in their pennant winning 1941 season for Johnny Hudson, Charlie Gilbert, and $65,000. Along with the earlier trade of Augie Galan, this was one of the deals which started the Cubs on their decline of the 1940's, stemmed only by the 1945 pennant. Meantime, Herman had one of his finest offensive season with the 1943 Dodgers, when he batted .330 with 100 RBI's. 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 (where he was traded midseason for Stew Hofferth). He was traded again prior to the 1947 season to the Pittsburgh Pirates in one of those multi-player deals so popular in those days, along with Elmer Singleton, Stan Wentzel and Whitey Wietelmann, in exchange for Bob Elliott and Hank Camelli. Herman assumed managerial duties (managing, among others, Hank Greenberg in his final major league season), and finished his playing career; that deal worked out better for the Braves and Elliott. Elliott won the 1947 NL MVP, and the Braves won the pennant in 1948.

Herman then managed in the minor leagues, beginning in June 1948 with the American Association's Minneapolis Millers, then became a major league coach with the Dodgers (1952-57), Braves (now in Milwaukee) (1958-59) and Boston Red Sox (1960-64), before managing the Red Sox to mediocre records in 1965 and 1966; his 1965 Boston club lost 100 games. He coached for the California Angels (1967) and late in his career served in player development roles with the Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres. His final record as a major league manager was 189-274 (.408).

Herman finished his career with a .304 batting average, 1163 runs, 47 home runs, 839 RBI and a minuscule 428 strikeouts. He played on four National League pennant winners (in 1932, 1935, and 1938 with the Cubs, and 1941 as a Dodger), but never on a World Champion. As a Cub he hit .309 (tied for 9th on the all-time team list); his 5532 Cub at-bats are 15th; and his 1712 Cub hits rank 12th all-time for the team. He hit 346 doubles as a Cub, 10th all-time.

Herman still holds the National League record 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. His 666 at-bats in 1935 set the Cubs' club record for a season; it stood for 71 years until Juan Pierre broke it in 2006.

During Herman's time with the Dodgers, he befriended writer Ernest Hemingway, as Hemingway lived in Cuba, where the Dodgers trained in the 1940's. In Herman's words:

"Hemingway was a baseball fan. He used to come out to the park every day to watch us train. We got friendly and he invited us out to a gun club to shoot with him. They had live pigeons and clay pigeons. It was one of the few places where they had traps under ground.

"He was a good shot, better than any of us. We shot with him every day for a week or 10 days until we had this safari to his house. We had dinner and we sat around and talked. He wanted to talk baseball. We were more interested in hunting. Larry French was an avid game hunter. He was interested in seeing pictures of a lion hunt--there were about a thousand of them--that Hemingway had been on.

"He was one of the most interesting men I ever talked to," Herman said. "This was in March, 1942, when the war was in Burma. He had covered that whole area as a newspaperman once, he said, and he told us what would happen. He said how far the Japanese would go and where they could be stopped. He was pretty much right as I recall."

At the time Hemingway had recently written "For Whom the Bell Tolls." Herman said, "It had just come out. He gave us each an autographed copy of the book. I guess I've lost it with all the moving around I've done since then."

Herman was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975 by the old Veterans Committee. He died in West Palm Beach, Florida, on September 5, 1992. He is buried in Riverside Memorial Park in Tequesta, Florida. In 2005, the park district in his hometown of New Albany, Indiana renamed the playing fields of Falling Run Park in his honor. Recently, another graduate of New Albany High School, Steve Stemle, made the major leagues with the Kansas City Royals.

Billy Herman's career stats at baseball-reference.com

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