Score remains Tribe influence

Score remains Tribe influence

CLEVELAND -- Herb Score, now 72, doesn't make public appearances as often as he used to. And simple tasks, like signing autographs for fans, aren't so simple for him anymore.

That's because Score's health has taken a turn for the worse. A 1998 car crash in New Philadelphia, Ohio, resulting in a collapsed lung, a six-inch laceration on his head and six broken ribs, followed by a stroke in 2002, have exacted their toll on him.

Those misfortunes have weakened Score's voice to a whisper and confined him to a wheelchair. But his influence, which he exerted throughout 34 seasons as an Indians broadcaster, is still felt among those within the organization.

"The words 'Herb Score' and 'the Cleveland Indians' are synonymous," said Bob DiBiasio, the Indians vice president of public relations. "There's only a handful of people that you can truly say that about: Bob Feller, Herb Score, Mel Harder."

Of those icons, Score seems to have had the toughest luck in life, though.

"The unfortunate thing is how he's doing today after he got out of the game -- that accident," said Rick Manning, a former player and now an Indians broadcaster. "It's sad to see it happen, but I don't think you'll hear a bad word about Herb Score."

Not a single one -- especially not from Tribe broadcaster Tom Hamilton. He spent eight seasons in the radio booth with Score.

"Herb was already a legend when I started in 1990," Hamilton said. "And he certainly didn't act like he was a legend, or act like he was superior, even though he was."

Score's legend started on the playing field, where he took Cleveland and the American League by storm, going 16-10 as a 22-year-old rookie in 1955 and then 20-9 in his second year.

Hard luck struck first, and most famously, in 1957 when he was struck in the eye by a line drive off the bat of the Yankees' Gil McDougald. Score never regained the level of success he had in his first two seasons, but he did win 55 Major League games -- all but six of them for the Indians.

As a broadcaster, Score's legend has stretched far beyond each pitching mound he ascended and every home and car in which his melodic voice was heard.

He touched lives -- many of them.

"I had the pleasure, a few times, to work with him on the radio while I was doing television," Manning said. "The one I remember most was Sept. 9, [1995], when we clinched the first title in over 40 years here.

"That's something I'll always remember."

Hamilton said he'll always remember his first few seasons with the Tribe, because he called games with Score.

"He treated me so well from day No. 1," Hamilton said. "This was my Major League debut and my first Major League job. He treated me as a peer when he certainly didn't have to.

"He made it very easy for me, for my first Major League job, to come in and feel comfortable and feel like I belonged. And, so, I'll be eternally grateful for that."

So will DiBiasio. He formed a special bond with Score, who spends half of each year in his Florida home and the other half in Cleveland.

"He took me under his wing and helped me figure out this business at 22 [years old], when I was given the public relations director's job," DiBiasio said. "I had only been with the club for 3 1/2 months, and Herbie was a guy who kept an eye out for me.

"I'm forever indebted. He's a very special man."

As special as Score is to Clevelanders, he's similarly revered in other big league cities, simply because many people consider him a great friend.

"One of his greatest attributes is his friendship and his willingness to help others," DiBiasio said. "You couldn't go anywhere on the road without tons of people knocking on the door to get in to see Herbie."

Some of these people weren't everyday, run-of-the-mill folks.

"These were people who were running the FBI, people who were cardinals and bishops in certain towns," DiBiasio said. "Just very influential people who this man came to have friendships with, and regular Joes, as well.

The regular Joes, the fans, are perhaps the most important to Score, whose baby-blue eyes remain bright and white hair finely combed. Through the ups and downs of the 1960s, '70s, '80s and '90s, the fans identified the team through Score, the voice of the Tribe.

"The one constant -- when we were changing the whole time and players would come and go -- was always Herb," Manning said.

Even though ill health has limited him to making just a couple of appearances at Jacobs Field each season, Score is still giving his best to people. He could have given up those appearances and autograph sessions a long time ago. He could have simply said, "That's enough."

But Herb Score's a giver, despite the curveballs that life has thrown his way.

"Herb has always been very good at what life deals [him]," Hamilton said. "He handles it and there's never any feeling sorry for himself. Herb is just very good at whatever happens. He handles it and moves forward."

Kevin Yanik is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.