Happy Birthday…

Gene Hermanski!

Gene turns 89 today, and he’s still around, according to everything I can find. He apparently claims to be the last living player from the starting lineup of Jackie Robinson’s first game (and–how morbid is this?–the people at the linked-to message board seemed to debunk that, but three years after that was written, I suppose he could be).

Hermanski got into 18 games with the Dodgers in 1943, and then didn’t show up again until ’46. The meta-reason for that is pretty obvious, but the details are hard to pin down; BBREF’s Bullpen page suggests the time was spent in the Coast Guard (I mean, Ted Williams went over there and all, and all you can manage to do is bravely defend our homeland from the very real danger of attack? Lame), and his Wikipedia page says that he was released from the Coast Guard to join the Navy in 1943 (playing those 18 games in the interim).

A big lefty with moderate power and an excellent eye who played left and right field about equally over the course of his career, Hermanski had one year as a full-time regular, 1948, in which he played 133 games, got up to the plate 470 times, and hit .290/.391/.493, good for a 135 OPS+, with 15 home runs. Three of those home runs came in consecutive at-bats in one nine-inning game on August 5.

Outside that, Hermanski was a solid-hitting half-time (platoon?) player, a fact that everything I can find attributes to his fielding difficulties. That’s surprising, though–his fielding percentage was almost exactly average (.977, league average was .979), and that’s pretty much all anybody has ever looked at. Maybe he just didn’t look right out there? Anyway, he ended his career a .272/.372/.404 hitter in 2295 career plate appearances coming in parts of nine seasons spent with the Dodgers, Cubs and Pirates. He played in two World Series — both Dodger losses to the Yankees, naturally — and, oddly, hit a triple in both.

It’s also Charlie Gehringer’s birthday today, but it’s no fun to pick on the best player in the group every time.

Why did they always strike these poses standing somewhere that was obviously nowhere near and pointing in a different direction than home plate?

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4 Responses to “Happy Birthday…”

  1. The Common Man Says:

    C’mon, Bill. It was wartime. Plus, there were legitimate concerns about German U-boats and Japanese subs attacking the mainland. The West Coast was attacked several times by random Japanese subs. I mean, it’s not all sexy like Ted Williams becoming a fighter pilot, but someone’s got to protect Lake Superior and Chesapeake Bay. Who’s going to defend Martha’s Vineyard? You?

  2. Bill Says:

    Yeah…I was just trying to make a joke, but it did some off kind of disrespectfully. Hopefully my immense respect for just about everyone that was an adult human being during those years comes through post-edit. 🙂

  3. Ron Rollins Says:

    During wartime, the Coast Guard becomes part of the Navy.

    They participated in many combat actions, to inlcude the invasion of Normandy.

  4. Bill Says:

    That has the ring of something I should know, and probably did know once. Thanks, Ron!

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