Negro Leaguer of the Month
“Big” Bob Herron
Position: outfield, pitcher
Bats: Right, Throws: Right
Height: 6' 2 ", Weight: 230 lb.
Born: March 13, 1924 in McKinney, TX
Died: January 17, 1994 in Wichita Falls, TX
Teams: Houston/New Orleans Eagles, Kansas City Monarchs, Saskatoon 55’s, Carlyle Shamrocks, North Battleford Beavers. Artesia Numexers (Minors)
Bob Herron took an odd road to baseball stardom, starting out in semipro ball, moving onto the Negro Leagues, playing some of his prime years in Canada, then Minor League ball, and back to the Negro Leagues right before they folded.
After a few years of sandlot ball, Herron, a slugging pitcher, played with the Carlyle Shamrocks of the Saskatchewan League. In a game against the Saskatoon Legion team, Herron showed off his versatility by blasting a double off the right field wall to drive in the winning run while also throwing a complete game, 10 inning win.
Herron was back in the Negro Leagues in 1950 with the Houston Eagles of the Negro American League in their final year as a team; the Eagles had started in Brooklyn in 1935, but were located in Newark from '36-'48 when they featured Hall of Famers Leon Day, Ray Dandridge, Larry Doby, Biz Mackey and Monte Irvin.
Herron moved to the Northern Saskatchewan League in with the Saskatchewan 55’s. Herron, who had a tremendous arm to go with this powerful bat, was used as a pitcher and outfielder in ’51, batting .375 with a 2-1 mound league record. Herron’s most memorable pitching stint was a one-hitter with 16 strikeouts against the traveling California Mohawks. Herron’s most famous teammate was a future Hall of Famer, though not for baseball—Gordie Howe! Howe, a future Detroit Red Wings star, was a fine first baseman who could hit, and hit for power! During the season he belted a 450-foot homer!
Herron's teammate on the 55's, Charlie Beene, an American college player, rememberd Herron as "a super guy" and "great hitter" who hit timely homers. Another teammate, Len Breckner, said Herron "hit some bombs!"
In ’52 and ’53, Herron played with the North Battleford Beavers of the Saskatchewan League, where he blossomed into a star. In ’52, Herron won three and lost three as a pitcher, but he dominated at the plate, batting .295 while leading the league in HRs (12) and RBIs (46) in just 48 games; he added eight stolen bases to boot. For context to his stats, in a full Major League season he would have hit more than 30 homers with 140 or so RBIs! Herron, six-foot and two-inches and over 200 pounds, took a huge cut at the plate and struck out a lot, but when he made contact—LOOK OUT!
In ’53, Herron became solely an outfielder, and he responded by leading the league in almost every offensive category; he led in total bases (139), doubles (17), RBIs (60) and homers (12), while placing second in batting average at .340; the batting title winner had 104 less at bats on the season!
In 1954 and ’55 Herron played minor league ball in the Class C Longhorn League, batting .346 and .309 with 33 combined homers with the Artesia (Texas) Numexers. In '54, Joe Bauman of the Roswell Rockets, also in the Longhorn League, hit 72 homers, the professional record until Barry Bonds hit 72 in 2001.
Herron returned to North Battleford in ’56 and ’57. In ’56 Herron batted .306 while leading the league in doubles and RBIs, and finished second in homers with 11, only one dinger behind the leader. In ’57, Herron again dominated at the plate, batting .324 with 14 homers, five triples, 21 doubles and 64 RBIs in 67 games.
In ’58, Herron came back south of the border and played with the Kansas City Monarchs and in 1959 he was selected for the East-West All-Star Game at Comiskey Park where he went two for three while playing third base and left field. On the season, Herron batted .343 with 24 homers, 12 triples, 22 doubles and 106 RBIs, and he went 4-1 as a pitcher.
Herron’s career after 1960 is somewhat of a mystery, but he probably continued to play semipro ball as he was in his early 30s when he last played in the Negro Leagues.