Former Major League catcher Ed Herrmann, who played seven of his 11 seasons with the White Sox, died on Sunday morning at age 67 after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer.
Herrmann, known by the nickname "Hoggy," first was diagnosed in 2009, and his condition took a turn for the worse late last year, according to Herrmann's page on the website caringbridge.org, which provided updates on his condition.
"Dear Friends. Ed lost his battle with cancer at 7:33am on December 22 after a very difficult 24 hours," read the latest post on the site. "Letting him go was easier than watching him suffer. We do have peace knowing he won his spiritual battle. This CHRISTmas, he is dancing in heaven with his Lord and Savior. For this we are grateful."
Herrmann's grandfather, Marty Herrmann, pitched one game for the Brooklyn Robins in 1918. But the San Diego native went on to a much longer career after signing with the Milwaukee Braves in 1964. He debuted briefly with the White Sox as a 21-year-old in '67, then stuck with the club from '69-'74 before moving on to the Yankees, Angels, Astros and Expos, retiring after the '78 season.
Herrmann built a reputation for toughness, work ethic and passion throughout his career. His friend and former White Sox teammate Bill Melton told the Chicago Tribune that Herrmann would insist on playing every day, no matter his condition.
"His famous words were, 'I'll be all right,'" Melton told the Tribune. "You never could get him out of the lineup. He never complained. 'They'll be all right.' That's the way he was."
Another former teammate, Dick Allen, wrote about Herrmann's toughness in a post on his personal website back in August, calling him "the very best I ever played with at blocking the plate."
"The most impressive thing about Ed Herrmann ... he loved the game," Allen wrote. "Even when he was given a day off from catching, he would go out to work with the pitchers in the bullpen."
Herrmann was a .240 career hitter, with 80 home runs, 320 RBIs and a .674 OPS, reaching double digits in homers every year from '70-'74. Although the left-handed hitter made the American League All-Star team in '74, his finest year with the bat came in '70, when he hit .283/.356/.505 with 19 homers and 52 RBIs in only 333 plate appearances.
His biggest contributions might have come behind the plate, rather than at it. According to a recent biography on the website hardballtimes.com, some teammates took to calling him "Fort Herrmann" for his prowess at protecting the dish, with The Sporting News once describing him as "a block of granite."
"I played high school football; I was a middle linebacker," Herrmann told the Hardball Times in an earlier interview, in 2011. "A lot of meanness was instilled me in that position. And I transferred that to the catching position."
Herrmann also drew praise as a receiver, particularly when it came to the knuckleball, which was a specialty of a few White Sox catchers of that time, including ace Wilbur Wood. Tigers executive Rick Ferrell, himself a Hall of Fame catcher with knuckleball experience, said Herrmann was the best he ever saw at handling the pitch, according to the Hardball Times piece.
Herrmann also had a hand in history on multiple occasions.
On July 9, 1976, while with the Astros, Herrmann caught Larry Dierker's no-hitter against the Expos at the Astrodome and also went 2-for-3 with a home run in a 6-0 victory. On July 4, 1972, he was involved in turning three double plays against the Orioles, setting a record for the most by a catcher in a single game.
After Herrmann's retirement, he continued to stay involved in baseball, writing on his personal website that he worked as a scout, tutor and coach, as well as a manager of a youth travel team that won four national championships. He also helped Melton during White Sox fantasy camps.
"Really his whole life was about baseball," Melton told the Tribune.