Sunday, March 22, 2009

Baseball Place No. 34: jackie Robinson's resting place; and Alternative Place No. 34A: Billy Herman's resting place

The epitaph on Jackie Robinson’s headstone is as eloquent as the man himself: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

It doesn’t speak of Robinson’s heroics in baseball or society. A person seeking the resting place at Cypress Hills Cemetery in Brooklyn already knows those things anyway.

Josh Pahigian takes us there as spot No. 34 in his “101 Baseball Places to See Before You Strike Out.”

Jackie doesn’t need a flashy tomb to be remembered, of course. The Mets are seeing to that with the monument that is the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field.

I’ll get to Citi Field, but I don’t know if I’ll ever make it to Cypress Hills. But I have visited the resting place of one of Jackie’s fellow Brooklyn Dodgers, and also a Hall-of-Famer.

Alternative Baseball Place No. 34A: Billy Herman’s resting place

Herman might be a debatable selection, tapped by the tapped by the Veteran’s Committee in 1975, long after his career ended in 1947.

But he’s an interesting guy.

His full name is William Jennings Bryan Herman, born in Indiana a year after the famed orator was defeated by in his third bid for the presidency.

Herman broke into the majors with the Cubs in 193, and became a regular .300 hitter and a 10-time all-star.

Not a power-hitter by any stretch, he launched only 47 homers in his career. But his Hall of Fame plaque calls him a “master of the hit-and-run” – striking out just 428 times -- and he was famed for his soft hands. He led the league in putouts by a second baseman seven times

Herman was traded to the Dodgers in 1940, and had his best season at the plate in 1943, when he hit 330 and drove in 100 runs.

He lost the 1944 and 1945 seasons fighting in World War II, came back to Brooklyn in 1946 and was traded to the Boston Braves mid-season.

Herman was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1947, playing only 15 games as he was also the team’s manager. He returned to Brooklyn as a coach in 1952, staying through the championship and then the defection to Los Angeles.

Herman later managed the Red Sox for two seasons, and then held a variety of coaching and player development jobs, even taking a spot on Roger Craig’s San Diego Padres’ staff in 1979 at age 70.

He has some spots in the record books, claiming the National League records for most putouts in a season by a second baseman. He also shares the major league record for most hits on Opening Day, with five, in 1936.

And if his full name indicates a parental interest in politics, it was a trait apparently passed down. His granddaughter, Cheri Daniels, is married to Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Herman retired to the West Palm Beach area, and passed away at the age of 83 in 1992. He rests in a mausoleum in Riverside Memorial Park in Tequesta, Fla., not far from Perry Como. Like Robinson’s marker, it’s simple and dignified. His name also is on a bench nearby.

I know this because it’s a special place. My nephew and two of my grandparents rest a shot walk away.

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