Herbie Moran, a late-season acquisition in the Boston Braves’ pennant drive in 1914, acquired for his speed and outfield defense, was one of the heroes of the Braves’ unexpected Series sweep: The winning run in Game Three scored when his bunt with runners on first and second in the 12th inning was fumbled by Philadelphia Athletics pitcher Bullet Joe Bush. It was the first walk-off victory in a World Series game.
John Herbert “Herbie” Moran was born in Costello, Potter County, Pennsylvania, in the north-central part of the state, not far from the New York state line, on February 16, 1884. He was the eldest son of Mary Bailey and James “Jimmy” Moran, both offspring of immigrants from Northern Ireland. A day laborer, Jimmy moved his family to the county seat at Coudersport, which Herbie came to regard as his hometown. By 1910 Jimmy had become a polisher at a machine shop in Coudersport, and Herbie lived next door with his wife, the former Scena Haskins, whom he had married on February 27, 1906, and their two sons, Vincent and James. A third son, William, was born in 1914. Scena died in October 1918, perhaps as a result of the influenza epidemic that took so many lives in the United States and around the world in 1918 and 1919.
Called Little Herbie because of his diminutive stature (5-feet-5, 150 pounds), Moran batted left-handed and threw right-handed. He played baseball at the Peddie Institute, a private boarding school in Hightstown, New Jersey, before starting his professional career in 1905 with the hometown Coudersport Giants in the Class D Interstate League. In 1906 he played for the DuBois Miners in the same league. In 1907 he moved to Trenton of the Class B Tri-State League and began to attract the attention of major-league scouts for his superb fielding and fine baserunning. He was reputed to be a ballhawk with a rifle arm and a ferocious competitive spirit. It was rumored that Fielder Jones recommended Moran to the Chicago White Sox, but he signed with the Philadelphia Athletics and made his major-league debut on April 16, 1908. However, he barely hit his weight in Philadelphia (.153 in 19 games), and he was soon sent back to Trenton, where he hit .295, his career high, and smacked his only minor-league home run. (He hit two homers in the majors, one for Brooklyn in 1912 and one for Cincinnati in 1914.)
The Boston Doves purchased Moran’s contract from Trenton on September 12, 1908, and he enjoyed a second stint in the majors. This time he hit for a .276 average, though in only eight games. Moran went back and forth between the majors and the minors over the next few seasons. In 1909 he was at Providence for 154 games, where he hit a respectable .268, stole 58 bases, and led the Eastern League with 92 runs scored, earning another brief shot at the big leagues. He started the 1910 season in Boston, but collected only eight hits in 67 times at bat, for an atrocious .119 average. On May 12 he was released to the Kansas City Blues of the American Association; less than one month later he was with Rochester in the Eastern League. He hit .291 for the Bronchos in the remainder of the season. In September he was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers, but he spent all of 1911 in Rochester, getting into 152 games and batting .289.
Moran spent the next four seasons in the major leagues. In 1912 he hit .276 in 130 games for the Dodgers, and in 1913 he hit .266 in 132 games. In January 1914 Brooklyn placed him on waivers and he was acquired by the Cincinnati Reds; in 107 games for the Reds he batted .235. On August 23 Moran was sold to the Braves, who wanted him to help in their remarkable run to the pennant. For the Braves he hit .266 in 41 games, driving in only four runs but scoring 24. In the last game he played for the Reds, Moran hit a game-winning ninth-inning double to send the New York Giants down to a 3-2 defeat and into a tie with the surging Braves.
Much has been written about manager George Stallings acquiring Moran in order to be able to platoon his outfielders. The advantage of having a left-handed batter face a right-handed pitcher and vice versa had been recognized long before 1914, but Stallings was said to be the first to play the percentages wholesale.1 Actually, Stallings did not platoon Moran much during the drive. Herbie played in 41 of the 46 games the Braves played after his acquisition. Bill James, who presented a lengthy history of platooning in one of his early books, 2 concluded that 1914 was the first time a National League manager had platooned in a World Series, and quite possibly the first time a National League manager had ever platooned. Stallings certainly did some platooning, but he was not dead-set on it. Moran started all three World Series games against right-handed pitchers and sat out the game started by a lefty. However, when a left-handed reliever entered the fray in Game Four, Stallings left Moran in the game.
In the 1914 Series, Herbie got only one hit, but he played a large part in the Boston sweep. Game Three went into extra innings at Fenway Park, the Braves’ home field for the World Series. Philadelphia took the lead by scoring two in the top of the tenth, but the Braves came back in the bottom of the frame. Hank Gowdy opened the home half by hitting a home run. Moran worked Joe Bush for a walk and sped to third on a single by Johnny Evers. Joe Connolly hit a sacrifice fly and Little Herbie scampered home to tie the game. Neither team scored in the 11th or the top of the 12th.
A New York Times reporter described the scene in the last of the 12th: “The purple haze of eventide was gathering over Fenway Park and the 35,520 persons who had sat for more than three hours were restless and fatigued as they looked down, from all sides of the solid banks of humanity, at the figures which moved about phantomlike in the twilight.”3 Gowdy led off with a double. Leslie Mann came in to run for him. Larry Gilbert was walked intentionally. With two on and nobody out, the situation called for a sacrifice bunt by Moran. Herbie’s bunt went straight to the mound. Bush picked up the ball and fired to third, trying to force Mann at the bag. The throw was wild, and Mann dashed home with the winning tally. Moran had won the World Series for the Braves on a sacrifice bunt that led to the first walk-off error in World Series history. The Times scribe reported: “The crowd went wild. All the feeling and enthusiasm which had been bottled up as the game seesawed one way and then the other, burst forth with unrestrained fury. The mob jammed down to the field and smothered the Boston players in a demonstration of fanatical joy which has rarely been seen at a baseball game.”
Moran played one more year in Boston, hitting exactly .200 in 1915. He played his last major-league game on October 7, the closing day of the season. On the 13th he was traded, along with catcher Bert Whaling to Venice club of the Pacific Coast League for outfielder Joe Wilhoit. Herbie never played in the PCL. Instead, he went to the International League, where he toiled for Montreal in 1916 and 1917. He had two decent years with the Royals, hitting .271 and .284. In 1918 he played for the Little Rock Travelers, hitting .263 in the war-shortened Southern Association season. In compliance with Secretary of War Newton Baker’s work-or-fight order, Moran took a job in September at the Du Pont de Nemours munitions plant in Hopewell, Virginia. In 1919 he was the playing manager of the Sioux City Indians of the Western League.
In the early 1920s Moran played for and managed semipro teams in Pennsylvania and New York. The Olean (New York) Evening Herald reported on a game between the Olean All-Stars and a team from Dansville, managed by Moran, who also played center field and was the leadoff hitter. “A feature of the game was the base running of Herb Moran, ‘the old timer,’ ” the paper wrote. “Herb burned his way over the paths with a speed that would rival the fastest of younger ball players.”4 The “old timer” was 38 years old.
Moran served as a scout later in the 1920s, for Montreal and perhaps other clubs. In 1932 he was named manager of Williamsport of the Class B New York-Penn League, but lasted only one season as the Grays finished in seventh place. Five years later, in 1937, he gave Organized Ball one more try, managing New Waterford (Nova Scotia) in the Cape Breton Colliery League. He had no more success in Canada than he had in the United States as the team finished in the league cellar. After that, Herbie dropped out of the news.
He married a second wife, Mildred Labbe, who bore him a son, Nicholas. Herbert Moran died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease at his home in Clarkson, New York, on September 21, 1954. His funeral was held in Brockport, New York, and he was buried in Coudersport. He was 70 years old and was survived by Mildred and his four sons.
This biography is included in “The Miracle Braves of 1914: Boston’s Original Worst-to-First World Series Champions” (SABR, 2014), edited by Bill Nowlin.
In addition to the references in the text, the writer utilized Herbie Moran’s player file at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and the following sources:
Peter Filichia. Professional Baseball Franchises. New York: Facts on File, 1993.
Lloyd Johnson and Miles Wolff, eds. Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball. Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, Inc., 1993.
1 Tom Meany. Baseball’s Greatest Teams. New York: A.S. Barnes, 1949: 167
2 Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. New York: Villard Books, 1988: 112-23
3 New York Times, October 13, 1914
4 Olean Evening Herald, June 15, 1922