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Herb Score: pitcher, broadcaster, neighbor

November 11, 2008 |  2:30 pm

Herb ScoreThe news that Herb Score had died earlier this morning at age 75 in his home in a Cleveland suburb brought back memories of when I was a kid.

There was Herb Score, the hard-throwing left-hander who was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1955, when I was all of four years old.

There was Herb Score, the phenomenal pitcher whose career never was the same after being hit in the right eye in May 1957 by a wicked line drive.

There was Herb Score, the radio voice of the Cleveland Indians, whom I heard during the 1960s and 1970s via a transistor radio held close to my ear. (Click on this link to listen to his style.)

And there was Herb Score, just another customer on my Cleveland Press afternoon paper route. (If memory serves, he demanded that the paper be left inside the storm door, not simply tossed on the front porch.)

Score had a friendly, folksy way of calling a baseball game on the radio. He was known to fumble his share of calls. My older brother used to say that Score's favorite phrase was "check that" -- the words he'd use to notify listeners that a correction was on the way.

Here are a couple of gaffes that the Cleveland Plain Dealer noted in a lengthy, caring obituary now online.

-- "It's a long drive. Is it fair? Is it foul? It is."

-- "Two runs, three hits, one error, and after three we're still scoreless."

-- "Hi, everybody," he said once. "This is Herb Score coming to you from Milwaukee County Stadium." A silence followed, in which it was obvious someone was correcting him.

"What," exclaimed Score, "Oh, Chicago's Comiskey Park. No wait a minute. I'll get this right. Kansas City's Royals Stadium."

Whatever his deficits, Score, who retired from broadcasting in 1997, made you feel comfortable no matter how bad the Indians were playing. His long career behind the microphone suggests that his style fit Cleveland like a glove.

The Plain Dealer obituary includes this line from former Indians infielder Buddy Bell in 1977: "Herb is such a nice guy he probably makes his bed in his hotel room in the morning."

One of the last times I saw Score was on a Saturday afternoon in the late 1960s. I was delivering the afternoon paper during an ice storm. I carefully walked up his driveway and dropped the paper into his outstretched hand.

Loaded down with papers piled into bags slung over each of my shoulders, I started back down the ice-encrusted driveway -- only to slip, land on my bottom and slide almost into the street.

That's when I learned that Herb Score also had a good sense of humor. When I managed to get back on my feet I looked back and Score was laughing at the slapstick comedy that had just played out.

-- Greg Johnson

Photo: A March 1956 photo shows Herb Score in Tucson. Credit: Associated Press