This post first appeared on BaseballDigest.com
The 1954 season did not start out well for the Boston Red Sox, as they were 11-21 on May 31st, on their way to an 85 loss season. In general, the 50’s was not a bright decade for the Red Sox, finishing above third place only three times.
However, for at least a day in 1954, the Red Sox had an offensive output that rivaled any other day in the season. The Red Sox swept a doubleheader with the Philadelphia Athletics, outscoring the opponent by a combined 29-10 score by winning 20-10 and 9-0 in the two games. While this was impressive, there was a hidden ‘career day’ in the midst of the piling on of runs by the Red Sox.
What exactly is a ‘career day’? It’s the type of day a player has that is never duplicated again by that player. Whereas Ted Williams would smash the ball around and win games with great regularity, men like Tom Herrin had only one shining day to hold onto.
Entering May 31st, Herrin had pitched in 7 games with marginal success as a rookie reliever. He had only 1 at bat to that point, and had not yet earned a victory with the team.
Red Sox starter Tom Brewer began the doubleheader with horrendous results; Brewer gave up 5 runs in only an inning and a third of work. In his first inning, he allowed a single run. The Red Sox offense responded with three of their own in the bottom half of the inning to give Brewer a 2 run lead to work with. In the top of the 2nd inning, Brewer quickly gave the 2 runs back, plus allowed 2 more. With the Sox in a 5-3 hole in the top of the 2nd inning, the Sox manager went to rookie Tom Herrin to stop the bleeding. Herrin came into the game with a man on third and got Philadelphia left fielder Gus Zernial to pop out and first baseman Vic Power to ground out and end the threat of more runs.
In the bottom of the second inning, Herrin was on deck when Red Sox shortstop Milt Bolling started a rally with a single. Herrin came to the plate for only the second time in his major league career. In the minors, Herrin carried a .163 batting average through 5 Triple A seasons. Despite the numbers, Herrin stroked a single to continue the rally where the Red Sox scored 4 runs and took a 7-5 lead after 2 innings. The single by Herrin was his only hit in the game, and would be his only hit in the major leagues!
The Red Sox offense exploded for 7 runs in the 4th to provide sufficient protection for Herrin to pitch into the 6th inning. Herrin allowed just 4 runs in his four and two thirds innings. With his performance, he was able to secure the first(and only) victory of his career.
Tom Herrin appeared in 6 more games during the 1954 season, but did not duplicate the kind of day that he had on May 31st. In fact, he would never play in another major league game after the 1954 season. If he were alive today(he passed away in 1999), Herrin would celebrate his 80th birthday.
For having a ‘career day’ of having his first and only hit and career victory in the same game, Happy 80th Birthday, Tom Herrin!