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Wally Hebert

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Wallace Andrew Hebert (Preacher)

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[edit] Biographical Information

Wally Hebert pitched four seasons in the majors and ten in the minor leagues, three times winning 20 or more games.

Hebert got his nickname of "Preacher" in first grade when he wore a hat to school that his classmates thought was a preacher's hat. Hebert had been pitching for a Gulf Coast Utility team when he was sighted by a St. Louis Browns scout named Cahill and signed. Wally debuted with the 1930 Springfield Midgets, going 15-16 with 265 hits allowed and 154 strikeouts in 251 innings.

He went to spring training with the 1931 Browns to pitch batting practice, but the team was desperate for left-handed pitching as Lefty Stewart was their lone southpaw. Hebert did a good job and the Browns kept him around. In retrospect 64 years later, he said "I would have been better if I'd gone to Wichita Falls...I'd have gotten to work regular there." Hebert was not used in a game until May but saw increased work as the year progressed and finished 6-7, 5.07 on a 63-91 team.

Hebert battled an arm injury that caused him to lose some control over the next couple seasons. He was only 1-12 with a 6.48 ERA for the 1932 Browns and had a 4-6, 5.30 record in 1933. That winter, he was dealt with Smead Jolley and Jim Levey to the Hollywood Stars for Alan Strange. It would be 10 years until Hebert returned to The Show.

Hebert debuted in Hollywood with a 11-11, 4.23 season in 1934, followed by a 10-17, 4.94 year the next season. The team became the San Diego Padres in 1936 and Hebert improved to 18-12, 3.03. He tied Sam Gibson and Boom-Boom Beck for 7th in the Pacific Coast League in wins. The next year, he posted 17-14, 3.02 record. He was 6th in the PCL in ERA, between Tony Freitas and Ad Liska.

In 1938, Hebert was 12-16 with a 3.11 ERA (he topped 100 strikeouts for the first time since 1930) followed by a 20-10, 3.13 campaign. He tied four others for 6th in the 1939 PCL in victories. In 1940, Wally fell to 15-18, 3.91 and set a career high in losses. Four PCL hurlers, including Freitas, lost more.

In 1941, Hebert had a 22-10, 3.00 record for the Padres. He finished second in the Coast League in wins, trailing only Yank Terry. He again won 22 in 1942, though he dropped 15 and allowed 324 hits - albeit in 319 innings. His 2.37 ERA was his career-best mark. He tied Bob Joyce for fifth in the PCL in wins and was third in ERA behind Bill Garland and Hal Turpin.

Hebert returned to the major leagues with the 1943 Pirates. He was 10-11 with a 2.98 ERA, good for a 116 ERA+. He completed 12 of 23 starts and was 6th in the 1943 NL in fewest walks per nine innings. Hebert complained about his usage, as Frankie Frisch did not let him pitch as much to right-handed batters, using him sometimes as a left-handed specialist, when Wally was effective against right-handed hitters.

Hebert turned down a deal to return to Pittsburgh in 1944 and retired from baseball as it was difficult to travel with two kids and his wife. Pittsburgh held his contract for five more years. Hebert worked for Firestone after baseball. At age 91, a year before his death, he was still fishing and hunting regularly.

Sources: Baseball's Forgotten Heroes by Tony Salin, Pat Doyle's Professional Baseball Player Database

[edit] Further Reading

  • Tony Salin: Baseball's Forgotten Heroes, Masters Press, Chicago, 1999, pp. 147-158.

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