Herm Starrette, who was named after George Herman (Babe) Ruth and went on to have a long and productive career in baseball, passed away on Friday in his native North Carolina at the age of 80.After a nine-year playing career with the Orioles -- including parts of three seasons in
Herm Starrette, who was named after George Herman (Babe) Ruth and went on to have a long and productive career in baseball, passed away on Friday in his native North Carolina at the age of 80.
After a nine-year playing career with the Orioles -- including parts of three seasons in the Major Leagues (1963-65) -- Starrette left his mark on countless players as a Minor League pitching coach, roving instructor, field coordinator and farm director as well as a big league pitching and bullpen coach for the Braves, Orioles, Giants, Phillies, Brewers, Cubs, Expos and Red Sox.
He was the Phillies' pitching coach in 1980, when the team won the World Series for the first time in franchise history.
"Herman was the great gentleman of baseball," said Orioles general manager Dan Duquette, who worked with Starrette in Milwaukee, Montreal and Boston. "He was well liked by everybody. He had a good word to say about all the people he worked with, but especially the pitchers he was working with at the time he was working with them. He was a very, very positive pitching coach and a real psychologist. He would give the pitchers a lot of confidence in themselves by focusing on the things they were doing well and improving on.
"Herm loved the Orioles, and he was very proud of the World Series championship he contributed to with the Phillies."
Left-hander Larry Christenson, a member of that Phillies team, got a phone call from Starrette last November, the night before his 80th birthday.
"It was very late," Christenson said. "He was in a really good mood. He said, 'I just wanted to call my great players and my pitchers. I have great memories of you. I just talked to Steve Carlton, and we had a really nice talk. And he was with [former Phillies hitting coach] Billy DeMars down in Clearwater.
"I kind of got a chuckle out of all of us back in 1980 savoring the world championship. Herm was a really nice man. I remember him as a nice, friendly Southern guy who was a real gentleman. A good man and a good person. He was just there for you when he was needed. He loved baseball. He loved the Phillies and the players."
Starrette retired after Duquette left the Red Sox in February 2002, but the two remained close. A few years ago, they spent a night together watching top prospect right-hander Hunter Harvey, son of former big leaguer Bryan Harvey, pitch in a high school game.
"He talked with great pride about the great young pitching they have in North Carolina," Duquette said. "We went to see a game, and we saw Hunter Harvey strike out, I think, 17 that night. And Herm said, 'You're not going to see much better than that. He could have pitched for any team in the big leagues tonight.'"
The Orioles drafted Harvey in the first round in June 2013.
Starrette was the youngest of nine children and, according to the Statesville (N.C.) Record & Landmark, became interested in baseball because of his older brothers, throwing rocks at trees and pretending he was pitching in Yankee Stadium. He was said to have walked out of an English exam at Lenoir Rhyne College, telling the professor he was going to play baseball because he thought he'd be better at that than the test.
After signing with the Orioles, Starrette became a disciple of legendary pitching coach George Bamberger as he progressed through the system. He made 27 relief appearances in the big leagues, going 1-1 with a 2.54 ERA.
Starrette's real impact began after his playing career ended in 1966. The following season he was named pitching coach of the Orioles' Triple-A Rochester Red Wings affiliate. In 1968 he succeeded Bamberger as the Orioles' roving pitching instructor.
In 1974, Starrette became the Braves' pitching coach and was part of the celebration when Hank Aaron broke Ruth's record with his 715th career home run. Then he earned a ring with the Phillies in 1980.
"He had a nice career," Duquette said. "Herman and I worked closely together in Montreal, where he worked in the Minor League operation. He was the field coordinator, with Kent Qualls as the farm director, and I was the general manager.
"Herman always looked out for the young players. He was a great mentor to young coaches and young people, because he was so positive. He believed in young people, and the young people around him loved him. That was a great trait that he had. Player development is all about players believing in themselves and knowing that someone in your organization believes in them. And Herm was really good at that."
Former Phillies GM Lee Thomas got to know Starrette when both worked for Duquette with the Red Sox.
"He was a tremendous baseball guy," Thomas recalled. "Everyone who knew him liked him."
Paul Hagen is a national columnist for MLB.com.