Saturday, October 15, 2011

#13 Larry Herndon

Ok hopefully I'm back to posting daily...I've been fighting sickness while working 12 hour days.

Card: This is Herndon's seventh Topps card.  His rookie card is in the '77 set.  He appears on the card with the Topps All Star Rookie trophy in the corner.  As a kid I always  called those "cup" cards. 
This is Herndon's first card as a Tiger.

Picture: Herndon is following through with his long swing. Its kind of a cool shot as it appears he made contact and is starting to run out of the box.

Player: Herndon was a 3rd round pick of the Cardinals in 1971 and made his MLB debut as a September call up in '74.  The speedy Herndon played in eleven games, ten as a pinch runner and singled in his only at bat.
In '75 Herndon was traded mid-season to the Giants but would not see major league action until the following year.  Playing centerfield, Herndon enjoyed a 14 game hitting streak his rookie year and batted .288 with two home runs. Herndon made the team in '77 but only appeared in 49 games and batted .239.  In '78 Herndon regained his starting job, batting .259 but with only one home run and thirteen stolen bases. 
Herndon slowly added a little more power to his game hitting seven, eight, and five homeruns over the next three seasons while batting .257, .258, and .288.
After the '81 season the Giants traded Herndon to the Detroit for Dan Schatzeder. By now Herndon was exclusively a left fielder and Tigers skipper Sparky Anderson must have seen something in Herndon as he often batted him in the middle of the lineup. Herndon responded hitting .292, with 13 triples, 23 HR, and a team high 88 RBI. Herndon followed up his '82 season by hitting .302 with 20 HR and 92 RBI in 1983.
Coming off the two best seasons of his career Herndon saw his playing time cut in '84 as he platooned with Ruppert Jones.  The Tigers ran away with the AL East and Herndon hit a HR in game one vs. the Royals. The Tigers went on to sweep the Royals and faced the Padres in the World Series.  Herndon had the deciding home run in game one and caught the final out in the series as the Tigers prevailed in five games.
Playing semi-regularly over the next two years, Herndon hit .244 and .247 with twelve and eight home runs. In 1987 Herndon had a productive year batting .324 with nine home runs in 225 at bats. The Tigers were chasing the Blue Jays all year and finally passed them with a one game lead with one game left vs. the Blue Jays. Herndon's solo home run was the only run either side allowed as the Tigers won their second division title in four seasons.  The Tigers lost in the ALCS to the Twins despite three hits from Herndon in nine at bats.  Herndon played one more season batting .224 in 1988.

Flipside: As you can see the 23 home runs and 88 RBI were quite a jump from his previous highs. It is quite remarkable, given his previous track record, that he hit long balls in four consecutive at bats.  Before coming to Detroit Herndon had hit a total of 24 HR in 2,129 at bats.  In 2,748 at bats with Detroit Herndon would hit 83 HR.

Oddball: Herndon hit one of the longest home runs in Tiger Stadium when on opening day in 1987 he hit a blast off the facing of the upper deck in center field. Considering the centerfield fence was 440 feet away from home plate, this was quite a blast.
Herndon's minor-league roomate in 1971 was Randy Poffo...better known as wrestling superstar Randy "Macho Man" Savage.

History: Herndon is remembered as part of the World Series winning '84 Tigers and division winning '87 squad. Herndon had an odd career.  He started as a speedster with little power and finished his career with increased but sporadic power.  Herndon didnt walk much and his defense was poor over the last half of his career as his bad knees sapped his range.  Herndon is currently the batting coach for the Tigers single A affiliate in Lakeland.

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