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Lee Herring

Image Herbert Lee Herring , born July 22nd, 1891 in Danville, AR, was a professional baseball player from 1912-1915. He pitched one inning of one major league game with the Washington Senators in 1912.

Early Life

Lee Herring1 was the son of farmer Jordan P. Herring and Cynthia A. Davidson2. He grew up in a rural valley between ridges of the Ouachita Mountains in Yell County, AR. The area was known as Shark or Herring, and is now part of the Ouachita National Forrest.

Baseball Career

As a young man, Herring developed into a respectable baseball player and pitched for local Danville teams3. He achieved the rare distinction of being able to throw a "double-spitter", a spitball that could break either to the left or the right4. He often, however, lacked the necessary control to use the pitch effectively5. Nevertheless, in 1912, he earned a spot on the Cherokee Indians, a barnstorming team assembled by H.C. Spencer. The team was billed as a aggregation of Native Americans from the Oklahoma region6, but the actual Native American heritage of some of the players, including Herring, is questionable7.

Herring with Washington, 1912.
Herring with Washington, 1912.
Herring and the Cherokee Indians toured the East in the summer of 1912. In July and August, the team barnstormed around the Washington D.C. area, playing against semiprofessional, Negro League and city league teams. On Sunday, August 11th, the Cherokee Indians played a double-header at Union League Park in Washington against the Washington Giants, a local Negro League club, and the Columbias, another local team8. Herring started on the mound for the Cherokee Indians against the Giants in the first game and defeated them by a score of 8-19. In the second game, Herring played first base against the Columbias, and did well at the plate, going to 2-4.

Herring's strong performance during the double-header caught the attention of Mike Kahoe, a scout for the Washington Senators10. Kahoe was in attendance and was impressed enough by Herring and his double-spitter to secure him for a trial with Washington11. Herring was signed the next day, Monday, August 12th, and by Tuesday, was in uniform practicing along side the regular Senators players12. He worked out at Griffith Stadium every morning and pitched batting practice, giving manager Clark Griffith a chance to review his new talent10. Griffith soon developed high hopes for Herring, and decided to bring him with the Senators on a road trip to Boston in early September to allow Herring to earn some experience5. Herring was youthful and untested, however, and his trial with Washington did not guarantee actually playing.

On September 4th, Herring was granted his first and only chance to play with Washington. In the afternoon game at Boston's brand new Fenway Park, manager Griffith used Herring and three other rookie pitchers in the Senators 2-6 loss to the Red Sox. Rookies Joe Engel, Bert Gallia and Paul Musser pitched the first 7 innings of the game for Washington, and when Musser was replaced by a pinch hitter, Griffith saw fit the continue the pattern and allow Herring to make his debut. Herring took the mound in the 8th inning with the Senators down by four runs. The first two batters he faced when down in order, though he next allowed a single and issued a walk, putting two Red Sox on base13. He regained form, however, and recorded the third out without allowing a run, ending both the inning and his major league career.

Herring with Atlanta, 1913.
Herring with Atlanta, 1913.
As Washington continued on the road trip, Herring traveled with the team. When asked why he hung onto Herring, Griffith told the newspapers, "There may come time when he will be of use to me."5 However, that time didn't come, and Herring was not used again in a game. The remainder of the season, nevertheless, was not entirely uneventful for Herring. As a new rookie, Herring was subjected to a fair amount good-natured joking from his teammates14. Local papers got in on the fun too, highlighting Herring's "unsophisticated" and "guile" personality. The press also couldn't help having fun with Herring's name, inevitably nicknaming him "Red"15. Yet, hopes that Herring would develop into a regular starter by next season remained high16.

As part of the plan to develop Herring, Washington management decided after the season to send Herring to play with the Atlanta Crackers of the Southern Association. Washington ensured the option of retaining Herring in case he proved himself worthy of returning to the major leagues15. The Chicago Eagle reported that Herring was being sent to Atlanta "for a little pickling."17 In any case, Herring reported to Atlanta manager Billy Smith in early 1913 for spring training. Herring expressed desire to be a regular player for Atlanta, and stated that if only given a chance, he would "show them all something."6 In the early goings of spring training, however, he showed little that impressed the locals4. By April, it was clear to Billy Smith that Herring was not going to fulfill the hopes that he created while with Washington18. As a result, Atlanta decide to cut Herring from the team. Clark Griffith was notified of the decision, and he requested that Herring be sent to another team in the South. When a place for Herring was not found, Washington decided to give him his outright release19.

It's unclear whether Herring returned to the semiprofessional ranks during the years of 1913-1914. He saw action in 1915 when he earned a spot with the Fort Smith Twins of the Western Association20. He signed in May, and played with the team for two months before he was released on July 21st21 because he "found the pace too fast."22 This was perhaps his last appearance in professional baseball.

Post-Baseball Life

By 1917, Herring was living in Bauxite, AR and working as a mechanistic for the American Bauxite Company23. He was soon drafted into World War I and served as a Corporal with the 13th Engineers24. Afterward, he worked for the Bauxite and Northern Railway as a brakeman25 and as a conductor26.

Herring married and later divorced before moving to Arizona. He lived in Tuscon and died there on April 22nd, 196427. Burial was at Holy Hope Cemetery in Tucson.

Excerpts

For contemporary newspaper excerpts, see Lee Herring Excerpts.

Stats


1. Though he is listed in the baseball records as "Herb Herring", he went by Lee.
2. 1900 U.S. Census
3. Arkansas Gazette, 7/26/1911
4. Atlanta Constitution, 3/17/1913
5. Washington Herald, 9/15/1912
6. Atlanta Constitution, 2/12/1913
7. Herring had no known immediate Native American ancestors.
8. Washington Times, 8/10/1912
9. Washington Post, 8/12/1912
10. Washington Herald, 8/18/1912
11. Washington Herald, 8/13/1912
12. Washington Post, 8/14/1912
13. Washington Post, 9/5/1912
14. Washington Herald, 9/17/1912
15. Washington Times, 11/12/1912
16. Washington Herald, 10/27/1912
17. Chicago Eagle, 11/23/1912
18. Atlanta Constitution, 4/1/1913
19. Atlanta Constitution, 4/6/1913
20. The Sporting News, 5/27/1915
21. Dallas Morning News, 7/22/1915
22. The Sporting News, 7/29/1915
23. Herring's WWI Draft Card
25. 1920 U.S. Census
26. 1930 U.S. Census
27. Tucson Daily Citizen, 4/24/1964