Sunday, November 16, 2008

RIP Gene Hickerson and Herb Score

By Rick Morris

Two sports legends passed from the scene in the past few weeks, both of whom were best known in the Cleveland market, but both of whom made impacts worthy of national note.

Gene Hickerson was one of the greatest offensive guards of all time, blocking for three Hall of Fame running backs, including the incomparable Jim Brown. Shamefully, he was not inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame until 2007, when health problems had robbed him of his cognitive abilities. Without the capacity to actually enjoy the honor when it was bestowed upon him, the injustice was about on a par with the Baseball Hall of Fame’s shunning of Negro League legend Buck O’Neil – who at least deserved to be inducted for his contributions to the game if not for his performance on the field. Hickerson was an athletic player of uncommon ability whose quiet success never got him the acclaim he truly earned. Here’s a tribute from longtime Cleveland broadcaster Les Levine:

Herb Score was the voice of the Cleveland Indians through many bad times and, happily, at the end of his career, some good times. As the voice of the team through the bad 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, it was a sad irony that the putrid state of affairs that he was subjected to on a daily basis got its start with the beginning of the end of his own career. For Herb Score was, at age 23, a dominant young starter on his way to greatness, the Tim Lincecum of his day. Then he got beaned by a line drive and everything unraveled. After returning to the mound, he ended up altering his mechanics, suffering arm troubles and prematurely completing a career that has to go down as one of the biggest disappointments in the history of the game in terms of the level of talent being derailed by injury. Had the pre-injury Score been around when Sudden Sam McDowell hit town in the Sixties … well, who’s to say how the history of the franchise might have been altered with a 1-2 punch like that one? Instead, Herb settled into a role as voice of the franchise, one of the most comfortable radio voices the lineage of the game. Les Levine pays tribute to Herb Score as well:

Both of these men knew adversity, Hickerson from a world that failed to give him sufficient credit for his accomplishments and Score from the trauma he must have suffered (but never showed publicly) over the loss of what seemed certain to be a first-ballot Hall of Fame career. But both men, born and bred in a time when men did not whine openly as easily as they do now, were the epitome of grace and dignity and numerous accounts confirm both were beloved by those around them. The world is always poorer for the loss of such quality people. RIP, Gene Hickerson and Herb Score.

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