Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Rick Herrscher of the 1962 New York Mets

Rick Herrscher was a member of the 1962 New York Mets.  As a twenty-five year old rookie, Herrscher was a utility man with the Mets, appearing in 35 games during the season, spending time at first base, third base, shortstop, in the outfield, and as a pinch hitter and pinch runner.

 
1983 Fritsch One Year Winner Rick Herrscher Card #69
The Mets, nicknamed those Lovable Losers, were one of the first expansion teams in the National League as they were founded in 1962 and replaced New York's departed teams, the New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.  The Mets were managed by former Yankee skipper Casey Stengel and finished the 1962 season with a record of 40 - 120, the worst regular season record since Major League Baseball expanded to a 162 game scheduled (they had two games that were canceled).

Team members included the club’s MVP Richie Ashburn, former Dodger first baseman Gil Hodges, and pitcher Roger Craig, whose victories and loss totals were tops on the team when he finished the season with a record of 10 wins and 24 losses.  
Herrscher became a part of the Mets organization on May 21, 1962.   Herrscher was the player to be named later in the November 28, 1961 deal made by Mets general manager George Weiss. Weiss arranged a trade where the Mets would receive outfielder-first baseman Frank Thomas and a player to be named later from the Milwaukee Braves for a player to be named later and cash.  Also on May 21, the Mets sent Gus Bell to the Braves to complete the deal.
 
Herrscher had signed with the Braves prior to the 1958 season after attending Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas.  Starting in 1958, he spent part of three seasons playing with the Austin Senators of the Texas League, the Braves AA affiliate.  During the 1960 season, he was promoted to the Braves AAA affiliate, the Louisville Colonels, a member of the American Association.
The 1960 season was Herrscher’s best year as a professional player.


Team

Games

At Bats

Hits

Home Runs

RBI

Batting Ave

Austin

86

314

106

5

57

.338

Louisville

33

95

25

0

9

.263

Season Totals

119

409

131

5

66

.320

In 1961, Herrscher spent time playing for the Braves two AAA teams, part of the season in Louisville, and with the Vancouver Mounties of the Pacific Coast League.   In 1962, prior to the trade to the Mets, Herrscher was playing with the Colonels, and then he joined the Syracuse Chiefs of the International League, a AAA affiliate shared by the Mets and the Washington Senators.  As August started, Herrscher was recalled from Syracuse and reported to play with the Mets. 
Herrscher remembers when he arrived to play with the Mets, “The night before I joined to the Mets, I broke my thumb.  I reported to the Mets and told Johnny Murphy (assistant General Manger) about it, his first words were ‘Oh my God, don’t tell Casey.  Don’t tell him we brought up a guy with a broken thumb’ "
On August 1, Herrscher made his Major League debut in the Mets 11 – 9 loss to the Phillies.  He entered the game in the bottom of the 4th inning as a pinch hitter for catcher Choo-Choo Coleman.  He reached base on Phillies first baseman’s Roy Sievers’ error as Sievers was unable to handle shortstop Ruben Amaro’s throw.
Herrscher remained with the Mets for the remainder of the season.  With the help of the trainer and teammates, Stengel never found out about his broken thumb.  On August 5, during the first game of a doubleheader against the Reds, Herrscher started his second game of the season, at first base, and batted sixth in the lineup.  During this game, Herrscher got his first Major League hit. He stroked a 4th inning three-run home run off Reds starting pitcher Jim O’Toole, in the Mets 5 – 2 victory.
Then on August 20, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Pirates, Herrscher was again in the starting lineup, batting 6th and playing 3rd base.  In the bottom of the second inning, off Pirates starting pitcher Al McBean, Herrscher’s single platted right fielder Gene Woodling with the Mets first run but Pirates Roberto Clemete’s throw from right field nailed Frank Thomas at the plate for the third out of the inning.  As the 2nd inning ended, the Pirates lead  2 - 1.
Later in the game, with one out in the seventh inning, Herrscher single off McBean again and later scored on Felix Mantilla’s single to cut the Pirates lead to 4 – 3.  Then in the bottom in the ninth, facing Pirates reliever Roy Face, Herrscher flied to left field for the final out of the game, as the Pirates won 6 – 3.  This was Herrscher first two-hit game of his career.
On September 26, Herrscher played in his last game of the 1962 season as he started at first base against the Braves.  With two outs in the top of the second inning, Herrscher singled to left field off Braves starting pitcher Denny LeMaster.  Later in the inning, he scored the first run of the game when he was plated on Roger Craig’s RBI single.  In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Craig gave up a three-run home run to Hank Aaron, which gave the Braves a 4 - 1 lead.  Then in the top of the 4th inning, Herrscher faced LeMaster again and doubled to center field.  He and catcher Chris Cannizzaro would later score on Elio Chacon’s single, closing the Braves lead to 4 – 3.  The Mets failed to score any more runs during the game and ended up losing 6 – 3.  This was the second time that Herrscher had record two base hits in a Major League game. 
This would be Herrscher’s last Major League game.
For the 1962 season, Herrscher appeared in 35 games for the Mets.  He batted .220 (11 hits in 50 at bats) with one home run and six RBI.  During the season he played ten games at first base, six games at third base, four games in the outfield, and three games at shortstop.  Of the 35 games that Herrscher appeared in, the Mets won seven of those games.
After the Mets finished the 1962 season, Herrscher went to Stengel before leaving for the winter.  Herrscher assumed he'd be back with the Mets in 1963, but wanted some assurance from Stengel.  In the unlikely event that the Mets weren't planning on having him back, Herrscher planned to go to dental school to become an orthodontist.  Stengel replied "Well Hershner (Stengel never said Herrscher's name right), go back to dental school."  Stengel had also attended dental college during the off season when he first broke into professional baseball, in 1910.
In 1963, Herrscher returned to the minor leagues and played for the Buffalo Bisons of the International League, the Mets AAA affiliate.  In 1964, during his final season as a professional baseball player, Herrscher again played with the Bisons, and for the Williamsport Mets, of the Eastern League, the Mets AA team.  During these two seasons, Herrscher appeared in 139 games, batted .262 (114 hits in 434 at bats) with 9 home runs and 65 RBI.
After finishing his playing days, Herrscher completed dental school and become an orthodontist. Dr. Rick Herrscher graduated from Baylor University Dental School in 1968 and received his MSD in Orthodontics in 1972 and became a successful orthodontist in Athens Texas.
During 1950s, when Herrscher attended SMU, he had received a basketball scholarship.  He grew up in St. Louis Missouri, where a SMU basketball player, who was home for Christmas break, saw Herrscher playing basketball and offered him a scholarship.  Herrscher said that "Back then players could offer kids scholarships because coaches didn't have the money to travel and recruit.  They let their players do it for them."
 
Herrscher became one of the most decorated players in SMU basketball history.  As a sophomore, he came off the bench for the SMU Mustangs 1956 NCAA Final Four team.  That season, SMU went 26 - 4 and won the Southwest Conference (SWC) championship.  They played in the NCAA basketball tournament and beat Texas Tech 68 - 67 in the Mideast Region before victories over Houston and Oklahoma City pushed the Mustangs into the Final Four.  SMU enter the Final Four riding a 20 game winning streak.  But the Mustangs lost 86 - 68, in the semifinals, to Bill Russell's San Francisco Dons. 
 
Herrscher followed up the 1955-56 basketball season, earning All-SWC First Team honors during the 1956-57 and 1957-58 seasons.  Herrscher was also named the SWC Player of the Year in the 1957-58 season, when he averaged 17.5 points and 7.4 rebounds a game.  In 2015, Herrscher was inducted into the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame.
In Appendix of the book, The Amazin’ Mets 1962 – 1969, author William Ryczek quoted Herrscher to say “All things worked out for the best.  Maybe that was the way for me to get into a profession where I’m able to help a lot of kids with their personalities and their smiles.  I’ve enjoyed that tremendously, but I wouldn’t give up my time playing professional baseball.  It was one of the great times of my life.”
1991 Mets Wiz Rick Herrscher Card # 179 
I've found that there are two Rick Herrscher baseball cards.  He didn't did have a card issued by Topps but one of his cards is from the Fritsch One Year Winner set and is shown at the beginning of this post.  His second card was a part of the 1991 Mets WIZ set.

2 comments:

  1. Fascinating story! On a side note, I have a bead on some more of those WIZ cards at a local card shop, is there any you want me to be on the lookout for?

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  2. Hi Jeremy:
    I would pretty much be interested in any of these WIZ cards, especially the Herrscher card. And if you can look for any of the members from the 1969 championship team, too.

    ReplyDelete