Carol Felsenthal
On politics

Cheri Daniels: First Lady of Indiana, Granddaughter of a Cubs Great… And Future First Lady of the United States?

Of all the hurdles Indiana governor and likely presidential candidate Mitch Daniels faces on the road to the White House, one important one his the permission of his wife, Cheri. She’s not much for politics, but she does love Chicago’s other pastime: her beloved grandfather was Cubs Hall of Famer Billy Herman.

Cheri Daniels (left) is the granddaughter of Cubs great Billy Herman
Cheri Daniels, the wife of Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, is the granddaughter of Cubs Hall of Famer Billy Herman
 

Indiana’s First Lady Cheri Daniels is getting all kinds of attention lately. Observers are asking whether her husband, Gov. Mitch Daniels, will run for president. There’s also chatter about whether or not it will hurt his chances that in 1993, Cheri filed for divorce after 15 years of marriage, leaving Mitch and their four young daughters to wed an old flame in California—only to return three years later to remarry the gov.

But for Cubs fans, what’s most interesting about the 61-year-old Daniels is that she is the granddaughter of Cubs second baseman and Hall of Famer Billy Herman. Daniels adores baseball with the same intensity that she abhors politics; her husband campaigned alone when he ran for governor in 2004 and 2008.

The love of baseball comes from her grandfather, William Jennings Bryan Herman (named after the Great Commoner); they played backyard catch in their hometown of New Albany, Indiana. In the few interviews that Cheri has given, her grandfather is almost always the major player. She relishes stories of him playing against Babe Ruth—like his eyewitness debunking of Ruth’s “called shot” during a 1932 Yankees/Cubs World Series game at Wrigley. As legend has it, Ruth pointed to the center field wall and indicated that he’d aim the home run he was about to hit precisely there. In fact, Herman said, Ruth was holding up two fingers to Cubs pitcher Charlie Root—who had managed two strikes against Ruth—to let Root know that the Sultan of Swat wasn’t out yet, and had one more strike to go. Then he hit the famous home run, but Herman insisted Ruth was pointing at the pitcher.



His first season at Wrigley was 1931; he was brought there by Cubs President William Veeck, father of White Sox owner Bill Veeck. According to News and Tribune reporter Kevin Harris, Herman “help[ed] Chicago reach the World Series three times (1932, 1935, 1938). Unfortunately, the Cubs failed to win the world championship in those three Series appearances.” (After his decade with the Cubs, Herman played for Leo Durocher’s Brooklyn Dodgers.)

 As Chicago begins the age of the notoriously profane Rahm Emanuel, it’s worth noting that Billy Herman was fined $200 during the 1935 World Series by Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis for using “vile and unprintable language.”

 Herman died in 1992.



His granddaughter would be some kind of different First Lady—she loves the Indiana State Fair and wins awards for milking cows and spitting watermelon seeds. She’s nicknamed “the pig whisperer” and calls herself an “Honorary Hooters Girl.”

   

It seems that Mitch Daniels, who previously worked for Ronald Reagan as political director and George W. Bush as budget director, would love to run for president, but he awaits his wife’s permission before taking the plunge. Surely there will be some Cubs fans who hopes she gives in. And while she might balk at playing hostess at White House soirees, she’d undoubtedly love to throw out the first pitch at the Cubs’ home opener in April 2013.

 

Photograph: (Daniels) Ind.gov; (Herman) Chicago Tribune

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