In Baseball Anecdotes, where admittedly a lot of these stories are based from, the preface begins with an explanation of anecdotal lore:
A baseball reporter once asked a coach of long and varied experience what were his fondest memories of a lifetime in the game…the entire history of baseball seemed to reside in the gray stubble on his face, the wrinkles in his neck, the dry flesh on his arms and legs. “Which stories do you want?” he asked the reporter. “The true ones or the other ones?”
“It’s less important that Babe Ruth called his shot in Wrigley Field in 1932 than it is that millions believe he did” [Ahh, the infamous called shot. I plan on having a future writing to be about the classic stories we all know (the called shot, the Giants win the pennant, etc) but with another twist and plethora of information about it most casual fans don’t know.]
There’s a famous line from the classical western, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” That moniker alone could be the anthem for all baseball stories. For, like stated above, it is more important that we believe it happened than it is that it actually happened.
This brings us to Babe Herman, the infamous Brooklyn Dodger who famously “tripled into a triple play.”
The Dodgers have three men on base! “Which one?”
As Jim Murray describes in his essay Did Babe Herman Really Triple into a Triple Play?, Babe Herman’s career was a “series of fly balls bouncing off his cap, sliding into occupied bases, passing base runners with his head down, starting to trot in from the outfield with only the second out with the bases loaded…”
“Floyd Caves Herman never tripled into a triple play, but he once doubled into a double play, which is the next best thing.” – John Lardner
In 1926, with the Dodgers facing the Braves, back-up catcher Mickey O’Neil played the role of the 3rd base coach for the only time in his career. After complaining that he never saw any action on the field, Otto Miller (the usual 3rd base coach) humored him, inserting him into his own spot for a day.
With the bases loaded, Herman hit a one-out drive to deep center field. After bouncing off the wall, Hank DeBerry scored from third base. Chick Fewster, who started the play on first base, rounded second base heading for third. However, Dazzy Vance, a pitcher who’s ineptitude on the base paths shined bright in this infamous play, found himself locked between third base and home. O’Neil, coaching from third, saw that Herman was rounding second base as well as Fewster headed towards third, and suspecting that Babe might pass him resulting in an out, shouted “Back! Back!”
Vance, more suited behind the pitcher’s mound, mistook O’Neil’s screams to be directed at him rather than Herman, and thus hesitated between the bags, before retreating back to third. Fewster, who at this point stood on third legitimately looked around in confusion – both Vance and Herman slid into the bag from opposite base paths.
Herman, however, tells the story differently – “Now, I got the throw beat, and I slide into second. Safe, right? So, now, somebody hollers to Jimmy Cooney, the [Braves’] shortstop, and he throws home. Al Spohrer chases Vance back to third. Now, I go to third on the rundown and, naturally, I slide into third. Safe, right? Now, I was called out for passing Fewster, but Vance is on third and it’s his bag by the rules. Spohrer begins tagging everybody, but I’m already out. It’s like sentencing a dead man. Now, there are only two out, but Fewster wanders out to right field to get his glove and Doc Gautreau, the Braves’ second baseman, chases him and tags him out.”
What is largely forgotten in the legacy of the play (and, for some imaginable reason, forgotten by everyone in the stadium during it), DeBerry’s run from third before the madness that ensued after had been the game winning run.
During the argument which occurred after the play, Vance, still on the ground after his slide, rose, and according to Rube Bressler, stated, “Mr. Umpire, fellow teammates, and members of the opposition: If you carefully peruse the rules of our national pastime, you will find that there is one and only one protagonist in rightful occupancy of this hassock–namely yours truly, Arthur C. Vance.”
“Eight years after Herman left the majors, the Dodgers were desperate for wartime help, and Herman was brought back as a pinch-hitter, aged forty-one. In his first appearance at the plate, he singled to right, rounded first, and fell flat on his face.”