Thursday, September 27, 2012

#438 - Ed Herrmann

This is Ed Herrmann’s first card with what would from this point on in his career be his trademark facial hair. And Ed goes deep with it in his debut, bringing to mind another  - at that time – cultural icon, Grizzly Adams. Here he shows his swing at Yankee Stadium during another fun season. ’73 was the last of three consecutive – and four overall – seasons in which Ed would lead the AL in passed balls. And he was considered an awfully good defensive catcher, so what was going on? In a word, knuckleballs. Between Wilbur Wood starting nearly every third game and Eddie Fisher and the occasional other experimenter Ed caught nearly 500 innings of that pitch in ’73 so passed balls were just a necessary evil. In a later interview he said his goal every season was to go one game without dropping a Wood pitch. He never got there.

Ed Herrmann hailed from San Diego where in high school he was a linebacker and primarily a pitcher – he went 10-1 as a senior - and was signed for that role by the Braves upon graduating in ’64. Part of the reason he opted for the Braves was that his grandfather had played for them in the early part of the century. But by the time he got to Rookie ball he badly hurt his ankle and couldn’t effectively push off the mound. So the righty pitcher was asked to don catching gear and he had a new home as a left-handed hitter. He hit .286 that year and in ’65 around his military hitch hit .250 in A ball. The previous winter he was plucked by the White Sox in the first year draft. The next couple years he moved up the ladder and in ’67 after spending his season in Double A he got a few at bats up top, debuting on his 21st birthday. He returned to Triple A in a ’68 split between a couple teams and then in ’69 after Jerry McNertney went to Seattle in the expansion draft, Ed moved up to Chicago for good.

Herrmann moved pretty much right into the starting role and had a pretty good rookie year. In ’70 he put on his best offensive show with 19 homers 52 RBI’s and a .283 average in just over half a season. Then in ’71 his numbers got much more ChiSox-ish, mostly due to an appendectomy that constricted his swing a bunch. In ’72 he caught every one of Woods’ 49 starts which hadn’t happened for a battery combo since the 1800’s. He continued in that starting role through the ’74 season, a year in which he was an All-Star. That year his numbers were pretty much identical to his ’73 ones, except for a 35 point bump in his average. In ’75 he wasn’t crazy happy with Chicago’s salary offer and so remained unsigned through training camp and right before the season began he was traded to the Yankees for four minor leaguers. In NY he backed up Thurman Munson and did some DH work. He then asked to be traded to somewhere near his San Diego base and the Yankees obliged, selling him to the Angels prior to the ’76 season.  But he only got into a few games for California before that June when he was sent to Houston for Mike Barlow and Terry Humphrey. There he took over the staring role the rest of the year and though he hit only .204 he was a huge defensive improvement over Cliff Johnson. In ’77 the Astros acquired former LA Dodger Joe Ferguson so Ed moved to a back-up role but performed well, hitting .291 with a career-high .352 OBA. After sitting most of the ’78 first half he was sold to Montreal in June of ’78 where he finished things up by spelling Gary Carter. Ed had a .240 average with 80 homers and 320 RBI’s.

Herrmann stayed near his Southern California base after his playing career ended and also stayed very close to baseball, at least after a while. Initially he got into retail ownership, buying gas stations and liquor stores, neither of which went particularly well. He would inherit an under-18 travel baseball team from Mike Epstein that he coached to a few national championships. From ’94 to ’99 and 2004 to ’07 he coached at Poway High School sandwiched around five years in the same role at Mesa Community College. He has also been a partner with sports agency Seminara Sports and has been a long-time scout, principally for the Royals. He has his own website, linked to here.

Ed’s card back focuses on ’72. The intentional walks were because he batted just ahead of Rich Morales and Luis Alvarado, two notoriously poor hitters. The DP’s were from nailing runners after third strikes. He also was big on working on cars.

I’m going to drop the 100 at bat rule since Jim Lyttle rarely got that many up top. That makes this particular exercise a short one:

1. Herrmann and Jim Lyttle ’72 White Sox.

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