Frank Herrera Philadelphia Phillies
Career: Frank Herrera (aka Pancho) began playing pro baseball in Cuba in 1950 as a teenager. He came stateside and began in the Phils organization in 1955 and slugged his way to cameos in 1958. He stuck for good in 1960 and earned enough Rookie of the Year votes to finish second to Frank Howard of the Dodgers. Truth be told his numbers were better than Hondo's. His hitting fell off in 1961 (but his strikeouts didn't) and he found himself back in the minors where he played through 1969. He continued playing in the Mexican Leagues, played winter ball, and managed in Mexico as well. He even made an occasional pitching appearance and got some at-bats as a player-manager as late as 1974. He never lost his ability to hit the long ball or miss a lot of pitches.
In 1960: Coming off the 'triple crown' year in AAA Herrera grabbed the Phils' first base job and held it all year. He slashed 17/71/.286/.348 but led the league in strikeouts.
Off The Charts: From my 1959 Topps blog post that featured his prior rookie special card...
Herrera is one very interesting guy. When he debuted for the Phils at the age of 23 he had already been in organized ball for about 8 years. He began at 15 or so around Havana as a member of a group of youngsters called gitanillos, or little gypsies. These players worked with Cuban pro teams during practices but sat in the stands with the other fans during games. Occasionally they were called on to actually fill-in for a regular.Herrera's SABR bio is an entertaining one. Well worth the read.
He was also boxing (until him mother saw him KO'd and made him quit) and an agricultural student around that time. But baseball called and he signed to play pro ball in Cuba in 1950. He was obtained by the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League in 1952. His contract was purchased by the Phillies and he began in their organization in 1955.
The Card: More interesting than the card up top is the fact that Herrera was one of those players who had received a 'regular' Topps card before being featured on a 'rookie' one. In fact, his 1958 Topps card is one of the more valuable 'error' cards of the late '50s. A printing defect caused the final letter of his name to be mostly obscured on some that were issued in packs.
He. like a couple others in the Sport Magazine subset, had another rookie card in 1959.
And his 1960 Leaf card is kind of fun. He looks pretty happy to be in the bigs!