Glendale is proud of Floyd Daves (Babe) Herman.
It has been ever since the hometown baseball slugger wielded his mighty bat in 1920 to lead his high school team into the first playoff competition for the Glendale Nitros.
Local citizens continued to cheer their Babe's exploits when he turned professional and, as a member of the Brooklyn Dodgers, set team batting records that still stand. And the city was behind Herman in 1977, helping to mount a campaign for his election to baseball's Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, N.Y. The mighty Babe, alas, struck out. Several other attempts to get him elected to the Hall of Fame also have failed.
So it seemed only fitting that the city chose to honor the 82-year-old baseball star by naming a Little League diamond after him--fitting, that is, to everyone but the Glendale-Crescenta Valley Little League Assn.
The league protested the City Council's decision last week to rechristen the Verdugo Little League Field on Canada Boulevard after Herman. The Verdugo diamond, across the street from Verdugo Park, is one of seven fields in the city used by more than 100 Little League teams for girls and boys.
The association's executive board favored recognizing Herman but wanted it done someplace else, William Bugbey, league general chairman, told the council.
"That is the Little League's pride and joy," Bugbey said of Verdugo Field, which was built in 1953 on city property with money and labor supplied by the league. The field was named in honor of the Verdugo family, Glendale's original settlers, Bugbey said. "It is our home field," he said. "It was named Verdugo with a definite reason behind it."
Bugbey's remarks drew only criticism from the council, which proceeded to vote unanimously to rename the diamond Babe Herman Little League Field.
"I really am so annoyed by your selfish attitude," Councilwoman Ginger Bremberg said, chastising Bugbey and the league. "As far as I'm concerned, it could be named Babe Herman Field and leave out the Little League."
Mayor Jerold Milner said, "I'm sorry that the Little League did not initiate this name change."
Herman, whose activities have been curtailed by a slight stroke he suffered last year, was unaware of the brouhaha.
Nevertheless, Herman is pleased to have a ball field bear his name. "What's nice about this is, people in your hometown, where you were raised, show favoritism to you and like you," he said.
Herman already has an annual Glendale high school baseball tournament and one of the Little League's boys leagues named after him. Several leagues in Glendale and the Crescenta Valley belong to the 35-year-old association, which acts as an umbrella organization.
The name change for Verdugo Field grew from a recommendation made in November by the city Parks and Recreation Commission. There was a precedent: The city had recognized another illustrious hometown baseball star in 1952 by renaming its Verdugo Park municipal baseball diamond Stengel Field after Casey Stengel.
"Babe Herman has been around town for a long time," said parks Commissioner George McCullough, who first suggested renaming Verdugo Field. "I thought it would be very apropos to name a Little League diamond after him."
But the Little League's executive board cried foul when it learned of the proposed name change in a local news article that appeared after the commission made its unanimous recommendation.
"It's been Verdugo Field for 33 years and now all of a sudden somebody wants to change it," Bugbey said.
The league board sent a letter, written by Bugbey, to the parks commission protesting the proposed change and suggesting, instead, that Scholl Canyon athletic field be named after Herman.
Bugbey read the letter at the commission's December meeting but his arguments failed. "The Little League really didn't give a logical reason why it didn't want the name changed other than it was their field," McCullough said.
And, McCullough pointed out, even though the Little League plays there and the diamond bears the league's name, it is not Little League property. "The park belongs to the city," he said. "We own it and we maintain it." The city does not charge the Little League to use the field.
McCullough said that he may have erred in not contacting the league before suggesting the name change but that "it was a spur-of-the-moment idea. It wasn't planned; it just came up."
Fan Gave Nickname
A 6-foot, 4-inch left-hander once known as "Lefty," Herman was drafted from high school in 1921 at age 17 to play with the Edmonton team of the Western Canadian League.
It was there that the young slugger acquired the nickname Babe via a woman fan who, Herman recalled, would frequently yell out, "Come on, Babe, let's hit one," when he stepped up to the plate. At the same time Babe Herman was playing, another famous Babe, George Herman Ruth, also was making an indelible mark on baseball.