Inductee — William Jennings Bryan Herman
Class of 1979
Second and First Baseman, Manager
HERMAN, William Jennings Bryan (“Owl Eyes,” “Old Popeyes”) – born July 7, 1909, New Albany; died Sept. 5, 1992, West Palm Beach, Fla. Chicago (NL) 1931-1941, Brooklyn (NL) 1941-1943, 1946, Boston (NL) 1946, Pittsburgh (NL) 1947. 2B, 3B, 1B. 1,922g, 7,707ab, 47, .304. MGR, Pittsburgh (NL) 1947, Boston (AL) 1964-1966 (189-274). Debuted Aug. 31, 1931. 5-11, 180, BR, TR. Hall of Fame, 1975.
Billy Herman, an adroit defensive player and an excellent hit-and-run man, was the National League’s premier second baseman during the Thirties and early Forties. The Hall of Famer spent 50 years in baseball as a player, manager, coach and scout. Born on a farm, Herman was named for a three-time Democratic presidential candidate. At New Albany High School Herman was a steady, if unspectacular, pitcher-infielder. He developed into a prospect while playing sandlot ball in the Louisville area and signed a contract with the Louisville Colonels (American Association). Herman’s first year in professional baseball was in 1928 with Vicksburg (Cotton States). He hit over .300 for every minor league team he played for.
Despite a .350 season at Louisville in 1931, New York Giants manager John McGraw rejected Herman as “too frail.” The Chicago Cubs acquired Billy as the heir apparent to second baseman Rogers Hornsby, another future Hall of Famer. An ideal number-two hitter, Herman batted over .300 eight times in a 15-year career and helped the Cubs to pennants in 1932, 1935 and 1938. In 1935 his 227 hits and 57 doubles led the National League. Contemporary accounts say that Herman covered second base “like a blanket.” He would eventually tie a record by leading the N.L. in putouts for seven years. In ten All-Star games Herman batted .433.
Traded to Brooklyn in May 1941, he helped the Dodgers to their first pennant in 21 years. Herman spent the next two seasons in the navy. When he returned in 1946 the Dodgers traded him to the Boston Braves, who dealt him to the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 1947 season. His last year as a player was in 1950, when he batted .307 in 71 games for Oakland (Pacific Coast) at age 41.
In his lone season at Pittsburgh, Herman was a player-manager. He had one other major league managerial post, with the Boston Red Sox from 1964 to 1966. He also managed in the minors at Minneapolis (American Association) in 1948, Richmond (Piedmont) in 1951, Bradenton (Gulf Coast Rookie) in 1968 and Tri-City (Northwest) in 1969. Herman coached for six big league teams, including Brooklyn (1952-1957), Milwaukee (1958-1959), Boston (1960-1964), the California Angels (1967), Oakland A’s (1968-1974) and San Diego Padres (1978-1979). He made Florida his home starting in 1968. The legendary Casey Stengel, a shrewd judge of talent, appraised Herman as “one of the two or three smartest players ever to come into the N.L.”
Herman, whose prominent brown eyes led to his nicknames, was also an excellent golfer. A member of the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Class of 1975, he was inducted into the Indiana Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979. Herman’s son, Billy Jr., briefly played in the minor leagues. Cheri Daniels, the wife of Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, is Herman’s granddaughter.
From The Encyclopedia of Indiana-Born Major League Baseball Players, copyright (c) 2007 by Pete Cava. Reproduced with the author’s permission.