Willard Hershberger

Willard McKee Hershberger (May 28, 1910 – August 3, 1940) was an American baseball catcher for the Cincinnati Reds of Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1938 to 1940. In 160 career games, Hershberger recorded a batting average of .316 and accumulated 5 triples and 41 runs. He is the only major league player to date to commit suicide during the season.

Born and raised in California, Hershburger attended Fullerton Union High School where he was a baseball standout. He was signed by the New York Yankees and was part of their minor league system for eight years. He was traded after the 1937 season to the Cincinnati Reds, where he found a place on the major league roster as a backup behind Ernie Lombardi. For three seasons, Hershberger played in relief of Lombardi, stepping in if he needed a day off or was injured. After a slump in late July and early August, Hershberger committed suicide on August 3, 1940 in his hotel room; the Reds retired his jersey number and went on to win the 1940 World Series in his honor.

By Dean Hanley

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