From the moment he could wrap his hands around a baseball bat, P. Robert “Bob” Herr — “PR” to his students at McCaskey — was destined for a life in baseball.
Now Herr is calling it a career, stepping down after 20 years of service as an LNP Tournament commissioner.
Herr sat down recently and talked about a baseball career that spanned nearly 70 years.
LNP: You recently retired as an LNP Tournament commissioner?
Herr: I thought it was time for me to get out. I’d been at it long enough.
I thought they ought to have more younger people, people more active in the sport.
LNP: What do you remember of playing in what was then the New Era Tournament?
Herr: I first played in the tournament in 1947, for a team in Millersville, a bunch of kids from the neighborhood.
We didn’t have a sponsor or anything. We went to Mr. (Landis) Brackbill, who was the principal at the high school, and he said he’d try to get the Lions Club to sponsor us.
And they did. We wore blue denims (pants) and white T-shirts, and we played baseball!
I kind of think that year we won maybe one game. Then, in ’48, we got to the semifinals, lost to Leola in a game played at F&M.
A first baseman, Herr went on to play high school ball at Penn Manor and, in college, at Millersville.
In 1960, he was hired at McCaskey to teach social studies and coach baseball. Over the next 13 seasons his Red Tornado would win seven Central Penn championships — including five straight — finishing second four times.
Herr: I started coaching the 1961 season. We won the first year with a team that, the year before, had gone unbeaten. George Bechtold was the No. 1 pitcher on that team.
The next three seasons saw McCaskey place second in the Central Penn, an upset loss to Lebanon opening the door for John Harris in 1964.
Herr: I thought we had the makings of a good team in ‘65. We had two good pitchers, Dave Smith and Jim Todd.
(Todd would go on to pitch in the majors for the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s).
We couldn’t hit! The last two games of the season were no-hitters against us. On our field.
The team in ‘66 won the championship and we started that streak.
In 1967, McCaskey won its first 14 games before losing in the second-to-last game of the season, finishing 15-1-1.
The 1968 team pitched six shutouts, going 13-3. In 1969 the Tornado won their last three games, all by shutout, to tie John Harris.
In 1970 it came down to the last inning of the last game of the season. McCaskey scored four times to win the game and capture the title.
Denied in 1971, McCaskey bounced back in 1972 to win the last title before the Central Penn League disbanded.
Herr: The first year we were in the L-L League, we finished second in our division to Penn Manor. Jeff Rineer beat us both times.
The 1973 season was Herr’s last coaching the Tornado, and he finished with a 154-73-3 record.
Herr: I got a chance to be the department head. I’ll tell you, with two kids and what have you, I thought I’d better take the chance or it might not appear again.
When I interviewed, the superintendent told me, “You know, you’re done with baseball.”
Well, yes. And no.
Herr led the School District of Lancaster’s Social Studies Department through 1992, when he retired.
He kept his hand in baseball as a paid scout for the Philadelphia Phillies, focusing on American Legion ball in Lancaster and York counties.
Then Charlie Henry came calling.
Herr: Near as I can tell, it was 1996, or ’97. (Tournament commissioners) Bud Moyer and Charlie wanted to step out. Charlie approached me about it and I said, “OK. I’ll try it.”
He tried it, and liked it.
The opportunity to just sit around and talk baseball with like-minded souls was like heaven.
Watching one generation of players replaced by another generation kept Herr young.
Now that he’s no longer on the commission, has the LNP Tournament seen the last of Bob Herr?
Herr: (Chuckles) Oh, I’ll probably still come to the games!