Juan Francisco "Pancho" Herrera Willavicencio was a professional baseball player. He played all or part of three seasons in Major League Baseball for the Philadelphia Phillies between 1958 and 1961, primarily as a first baseman. He also played for the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro American League, from whom he was purchased by the Phillies in 1954, as well with the Buffalo Bisons of the International League (AAA) and also in Mexico. Herrera was the first Afro-Latino to play for the Phillies.
As a prospect, he spent 1957 with the Miami Marlins of the International League, where he, Woody Smith, Mickey Micelotta, and Bobby Young were considered to be one of the best infields in the International League, with one writer saying, "they make plays the Phillies couldn't make."
1960 was Herrera's most productive year. He homered 17 times and batted .281 for the season. He also led National League batters with 136 strikeouts, a league record at the time (it would be broken by Dick Allen four years later). Herrera also committed more errors (13) than any other first baseman in the league. Still, Herrera finished a distant second to Frank Howard in that year's Rookie of the Year balloting.
Herrera's statistics slipped after 1960 and he never played again in the majors after the 1961 season. He played another eight years of minor league baseball before retiring in 1969, although he continued to play sporadically until 1974. After that he managed in both the Mexican and Florida State leagues.
The "missing 'a'" version of Herrera's 1958 Topps baseball card, where his name is spelled "Herrer" on the front, is one of the baseball card world's great rarities. An example of this card in "Near Mint 7" condition sold for $8,365.00 in an October 2009 Heritage auction.
By Dean Hanley
Page : 1