“Baseball was always kind of a struggle for me,” Billy Herman said. “I guess maybe I was doing all right and didn’t realize it.”
Any evidence of Herman’s struggles as a player is difficult to find. From the time he spent his first full season in the big league as a 22-year-old in 1932, Herman was one of the best players in baseball.
A 10-time All-Star, Herman finished his career with a .304 batting average and 2,345 hits despite serving in the Navy for two years during World War II.
In Herman’s first full season in the big leagues, he led the National League in games played with 154 as he helped the Chicago Cubs to the World Series. He finished ninth in MVP balloting after hitting .314. Though Herman missed the inaugural All-Star Game in 1933, he was named to the next 10 in a row.
Herman’s best season came in 1935 when he helped lead the Cubs to the National League pennant. He led baseball with 227 hits and 57 doubles and hit a career-high .341. It was one of three seasons when Herman had more than 200 hits and earned him a fourth place finish in the MVP voting, which was won by his teammate Gabby Hartnett.
Herman’s tenure in Chicago ended in 1941 when he was traded to the Brooklyn Dodgers early in the season. He helped the Dodgers reach the World Series that year, the last of his four trips of the Fall Classic as a player.
World War II interrupted Herman’s career, and his swing never regained its previous form after he returned to baseball from the Navy. In his final two years, Herman hit .290 in just 137 games for the Dodgers, the Boston Braves and the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Herman retired in 1947 after playing just 15 games as Pittsburgh’s player-manager. He holds the single-season N.L. record for putouts by a second baseman (466 in 1933), one of seven times he led the league in putouts along with the three times he led the league in assists.
He coached in the big leagues until 1964, when he began a three-year stint as the manager of the Red Sox.
Herman was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975. He passed away on Sept. 5, 1992.