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Born June 7, 1933 in Rosedale, New York
Major League Debut: April 15, 1955
Final Game: May 4, 1962
When Chris Young was hit in the face by a line drive this week, it reminded me of Gil McDougald hitting Herb Score in the eye with a line drive on May 7, 1957. He was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1955 when he won 16 and lost 10 and struck out 245 batters in 227 innings. He also issued 154 walks that season.
In the 1956 season, he had a 20-9 record, and struck out 263 in 249 innings. He cut his walks down to 129, despite pitching 22 more innings than the 1955 season. In his first two seasons, he had given up a total of 156 less hits than innings pitched. In two seasons, he had a combined 36-19 record with 508 strikeouts in 476 innings.
Score seemed to have a bright future until fate intervened on May 7 of 1957, when Gil McDougald hit a line drive off the eye of Score. The line drive had also broken his nose and several bones in his face. The public address announcer asked if there was a doctor present at the game.
Score regained his vision, but he had altered his pitching motion in a way where he was less likely to get hit in the face again but Score lost some velocity off his fastball and was not as effective as before. He didn't pitch again after that one game in 1957, and finished the season with a 2-1 record. In his five starts that year, he had 10 strikeouts twice and 12 strikeouts in another game.
In the 1958 season, Score was 2-3 and started only 5 games for the second season in a row. He only gave up one homer total in 77 innings over the 1957 and 1958 seasons. He had 87 strikeouts in the two seasons combined. His highlight of the 1958 season was when he struck out 13 White Sox on April 23rd.
The 1959 season would be his last season with the Cleveland Indians, and he started in 25 games and finished with a 9-11 record with a 4.71 ERA. For the first time in his career, he had less strikeouts than innings pitched with 147 strikeouts in 160 innings. His control problems continued, as he walked 115 batters.
He was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Barry Latman on April 18, 1960 and he had a 5-10 record and a 3.72 ERA in 22 starts. For the first time in his career, he had more walks than strikeouts, with 87 walks and 78 strikeouts in 113 innings. In his 1961 season, his control problems became even worse, as he walked 24 in 24 innings and struck out 14, with his ERA ballooning to 6.66.
A career filled with such promise after his first two outstanding seasons finished with him having a 19-27 record in his last six seasons, winning 55 and losing 46 in his career. He struck out 837 in 858 innings while walking 573. He only gave up 609 hits, and never gave up more hits than innings pitched in his career.
Ted Williams was 2 for 15 and hit .133 against Score. We will never know if Score would have went on to become a Hall of Fame pitcher, but we do know that for two seasons he was one of the best strikeout pitchers in baseball history before fate stepped in and threw him a curveball that will leave us all wondering what might have been.
Score became an announcer for the Indians in 1964, and retired from announcing with them in 1997. On April 8, 1998, fate would (again) intervene in his life, when he was driving to Florida and he pulled into the path of a tractor trailer truck in New Philadelphia, Ohio and was hit on the passenger side. He had trauma to his chest, brain, and lungs, and an orbital bone was broken around his eyes.
For the next month he would remain in intensive care before recovering. Here is an article that mentions Score in this story about Chris Young: