If you’ve ever seen the movie Major League, there’s a scene when Charlie Sheen’s character is pitching and misses the strike zone by a mile. The announcer drawls “Juuuuuust a bit outside.”
The announcer was played by Bob Uecker, who was a pretty mediocre player, but is one of my favorite announcers. Uecker played ‘Harry Doyle’ who was based on the real Indians announcer at the time, and my actual favorite announcer ever, Herb Score. Uecker’s dry witticism can’t be beat, but if you ask someone from Cleveland who the best announcer is, and we’ll all point to Score.
Herb Score was horribly unlucky. And I say this about a guy who played on the Indians with Bob Feller and Bob Lemon, and was considered to be one of the power pitchers at the time. He was a great pitcher! As a kid, though, Score was hit by a car and also had rheumatic fever (this was the 40s, folks, it was a big deal). Then he got better, played sports, and became a bad ass pitcher.
At the height of his career, he was hit in the eye by a pitch. While he didn’t lose his vision, he lost … something. Score says he later tore a tendon (in The Curse of Rocky Calavito), while fans like to say he was afraid of being hit again and thus changed his pitching motion. My father described it as a wild wind up, with no chance to recover, so the fast hit caught him by surprise. My dad would have been very young to see that live, though, so it’s possible he remembers what he wants to remember.
But what I remember is listening to him announce games. I remember when dad would get excited that we could catch a game with him announcing when we were in Del Mar. Score was the announcer for Indians TV from 1964–1967, and radio from 1968–1997. For me, he was the voice of baseball. When the Tribe last went to the World Series, I heard him. I was tuned in to the radio, watching the TV, while Score announced game 7 of the Series, when the Indians lost. I remember what he sounded like. It was a good amount of why I was sobbing unconsolably that night.
In 1998, Score was in a brutal car accident (see what I mean?) and he survived, but it was rough. He had a stroke in 2002, and after a fight with illness, died in 2008. The Indians wore a patch in his memory in 2009 for the whole season. We loved him.
This baseball season, I got a subscription to MLB.com’s At Bat iOS app, which means I can listen to all the baseball games on my iPad or iPhone. I seriously marvel at that. How much happier would my father have been in the 80s when we lived in Southern California, if he could have always listened to Herb announce games? Maybe it wouldn’t have been as cool, since we’d always hear him, but then again, Herb was the voice of the Indians for two generations. Cleveland never got tired of him.
The future is an amazing place. I can sit on my patio, listen to the radio on my phone, and watch ducks. I love living in the future. I love spring baseball when I can sit in the sun and enjoy it with a drink. There’s something magical and happy about it.
But today I miss Herb Score. So even though I’m just a bit outside of Ohio, I’m listening and thinking of him, my father, my grandmother, and the legacy of baseball.