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Today’s obscure Cub: Buck Herzog

Most of his career was with the Giants, but he finished up with the Cubs.

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I decided to go rather retro for this version of Obscure Cubs. I picked 1918, and swam around a bit from there. A few players that season were absurdly obscure. I ended up selecting Buck Herzog, who played in four different World Series, though none with the Cubs. Nonetheless, for a few of you, he's entirely an unknown. I'll start with his time with the Cubs, and flow into the more intriguing items.

In 1919 and 1920, Herzog closed out his MLB career with the Cubs. In 1919, the Cubs were a third place finisher at 75-65. They had three primary reserves, each having over 200 at-bats. Herzog was the least used of the three, driving in 17 runs with an OPS+ of 103. Charlie Pick, the starter at second base was better defensively. The next season, Herzog played more, but hit only .193, having hit no homers either Cubs season.

Herzog set two records in his career, one of which is unlikely to be eclipsed. In 1912, he placed 12 hits in the World Series. That has been tied. Four seasons later, he played in 98 home games in a season. He was swapped midway through the season, shifting from a team that played quite a few home games early (Cincinnati) and going to a team with plenty of home games remaining. The Reds traded the Giants their player/manager in Herzog in a trade that was legendarily lopsided.

Herzog had three tours of duty with the Giants. His first time with the Giants saw him traded to the Boston Doves, and he was added back in a few years after the Doves were being called the Rustlers. After the 1913 season, the Reds added Herzog in another non-memorable swap. The July 30, 1916 trade gets its own section.

The Reds added an aging Christy Mathewson from the Giants. Mathewson replaced Herzog at manager. It didn't go especially well for Mathewson, who stayed around as manager for two partial seasons and one full campaign. Cincinnati was better after he left. Mathewson tossed in one game for the Reds, winning a game in which he surrendered eight runs.

Mathewson to the Reds, and Herzog to the Giants. In addition to Herzog, the Giants added Bill Killefer, who would play his last game in MLB less than a month later, against the Cubs.

To expand the trade, now, the Giants added Herzog and a month of Killefer for Christy Mathewson. What else did the Reds receive? Bill McKechnie was the second piece. A rather ordinary player, he would thrive as a manager, bookending his MLB time with the Pie Traynor Pirates, and concluding it with the Reds in the 1930s and 1940s. McKechnie won two World Series titles and was elected to the Hall of Fame as a manager.

The third piece going to Cincinnati was an outfielder who couldn't get any time behind George Burns, Benny Kauff, and Dave Robertson. Sensing that Herzog could put them over the top, they traded a third Hall of Famer to get back Herzog in Edd Roush, who would become a fixture in center for the Reds the next decade.

Herzog isn't as obscure as some in this series, but he has some cool career threads. Speaking of bad Christy Mathewson trades, he was in another doozy, as well. On the other end of his career, Mathewson was traded straight-up for Amos Rusie in December 1900. Mathewson had 373 wins incoming, all but the last with the Giants. Rusie? He had tossed over 3700 innings for the Giants before being sent to the Reds. With Cincinnati, he pitched in three games, starting two and winning none. Over 22 innings, Rusie was touched for 43 hits. And the Giants had Mathewson.