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Herb Washington

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1975 Topps #407 Herb Washington

Herbert Lee Washington

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[edit] Biographical Information

A world-class sprinter, Herb Washington was signed by the Oakland Athletics strictly to be a pinch runner on March 16, 1974. Prior to signing with Oakland, he had no professional or college baseball experience. He attended Michigan State University where he played sparingly on the football team - he was a wide receiver - and starred in track and field - he had set the world record in both the 50-yard and 60-yard dash. Athletics manager Alvin Dark saw him compete in a track meet on television after the 1973 World Series and decided to sign him at that point; Dark would always be Washington's biggest supporter, repeatedly talking about his value to the team to reporters.

In spite of his lack of playing experience, Herb Washington made the team in spring training in 1974, taking the roster spot of pinch running specialist previously held by Allan Lewis. There was no question that Washington was fast, but his baseball instincts were lacking: there is a story in Bruce Markusen's book about the Athletics of the early 1970s that he once asked Alvin Dark whether he should try to steal second base, only to have it pointed out to him that the base was already occupied. While he did steal 29 bases, good for 8th in the American League, and scored 29 runs in 1974, he was caught stealing 14 times and picked off a few more times as well. In the 1974 World Series, he was famously picked off by Los Angeles Dodgers relief ace Mike Marshall in the 9th inning of Game 2, sealing the Dodgers' only win in the Series. He was released early in 1975, after the Athletics signed Don Hopkins to be their main pinch runner; Hopkins was a real baseball player, even though he would never have reached the major leagues based on his skills other than running. For his part, Washington never batted in a game and never took a defensive position. He is in fact the only non-pitcher to have played in over 100 games without recording a single plate appearance.

Washington was also drafted by the Baltimore Colts in the 1972 NFL draft as well as by the Toronto Northmen of the short-lived World Football League. His cousin George Hoey was a defensive back with the San Diego Chargers. After his short baseball career, he became a successful businessman, owning and operating a number of fast food restaurants and holding positions with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

[edit] Notable Achievement

[edit] Further Reading

  • Scott Schleifstein: "Herb Washington's Value to the 1974 A's", in The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 38, Number 1 (Summer 2009), pp. 82-87.
  • Peter Warren: "Designated Runner: Herb Washington", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 40, Number 2 (Fall 2011), pp. 51-52.

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