Posts Tagged ‘Charlie Gehringer’

1934: Back to Navin

May 2, 2017

With the Tigers up three games to two, the World Series shifted back to Navin Field in Detroit. To win the Series, all the Tigers had to do was win one of two. Their opponents, the St. Louis Cardinals, would have to sweep on the road to claim their third championship.

Game 6, 8 October 1934

Paul “Daffy” Dean

Detroit sent staff ace Schoolboy Rowe to the mound to clinch the Series. St. Louis responded with the younger Dean brother, Paul. The Cards got a run immediately. With one out, Jack Rothrock doubled. One out later, a Joe Medwick single scored Rothrock to put the Cardinals up 1-0.

It took a couple of innings, but the Tigers got the run back in the third on series of plays that started with a walk to JoJo White. White then stole second and went on to third when St. Louis second baseman, and manager, Frankie Frisch misplayed the ball. A single by Detroit catcher, and also manager, Mickey Cochrane gave the Tigers an unearned run and a tied ball game.

It stayed tied until the fifth when a Leo Durocher single and a Dean bunt put the go ahead run on second. Pepper Martin singled, scoring Durocher, and a bad throw by left fielder Goose Goslin who tried to nip Durocher at the plate got by Cochrane and put Martin on third. He stayed perched there for a couple of pitches before Rothrock rolled one to short. Martin scored as shortstop Billy Rogell got the out at first.

That held up until the sixth when White led off the inning with a walk and went to third on a Cochrane single. A Charlie Gehringer grounder back to the mound that Dean couldn’t handle scored White and advanced Cochrane. A Goslin bunt wasn’t far enough away from the catcher and St. Louis backstop Bill DeLancey gunned Cochrane down at third. A Rogell fly sent Gehringer to third and a Hank Greenberg single brought Gerhinger home with an unearned run that tied the game 3-3.

The tie lasted exactly three batters. With one out in the seventh, Durocher doubled, then came home on a single by pitcher Dean. He’d hurt himself with the misplay in the sixth, but made up for it with a single in the seventh. With St. Louis now up  4-3, he allowed singles in both the seventh and eighth innings (actually two in the eighth) but kept a run for scoring. In the ninth he set Detroit down in order to finish the game and tie the Series at three games each. The decisive game would be the next day.

Game 7, 9 October 1934

Joe Medwick

Game seven turned out to be one of the great blowouts in World Series history. It would be little remembered today except for one play and the fan reaction to it. It would make Joe Medwick a household name and require the Commissioner of Baseball to interfere in the World Series.

The game began with Eldon Auker on the mound for Detroit and Dizzy Dean pitching for St. Louis. For two innings nothing much happened. A handful of Cards got on base and Dean had a man reach on a error, but the score stayed 0-0. In the third with one out, Dean doubled. A Pepper Martin single sent him to third, then Martin stole second. A walk set up an out at any base and made a double play in order. The problem was that Cardinals second baseman Frankie Frisch hit the ball into the right field gap clearing the bases. A second out sent Frisch to third. A Rip Collins single and a Bill DeLancey double plated two runs, A walk and a single reloaded the bases. A Dean single brought in another run while leaving the bases loaded (and making Dean one of the few people to have two hits in one inning of a World Series game). A walk to Martin forced in another run. A Jack Rothrock grounder ended the inning, but the score now stood 7-0.

For Dean it became a walk in the park. Between the bottom of the third and the end of the fifth, he allowed a couple of men on base, but kept them clear of home. Then the Cards struck again in the sixth. Martin opened the frame with a single and came home on a Medwick triple. The play was close at third and Medwick slide in hard upsetting Marv Owen, the Detroit third baseman. Words were exchanged and some sources indicate that at least a few swings were taken. Ultimately Medwick was still safe and came home on a Rip Collins single, making the score 9-0.

But the play wasn’t over. Medwick went to his normal position in left field and the Detroit fans let him know what they thought of his roughhouse play. Medwick, being Medwick, didn’t care, but the fans continued to yell. Eventually various items of food, like oranges, and a sandwich or two, went flying out into left field. It went on long enough that play had to be stopped. Commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis was in attendance and umpires turned to him for help. With the game already out of hand, Landis ruled that Medwick was to be removed from the game (at 9-0 it was presumed his bat wouldn’t be missed) and play would continue with a new Cardinals left fielder and a thorough clearing of left field. The new left fielder was Chick Fullis.

Losing Medwick didn’t matter. Dean set the Tigers down in order in the sixth and St. Louis tacked on two more runs in the seventh on a triple, an error, and a double. Now up 11-0, the Cards coasted to a win and took the Series in seven games.

It’s tough to call it a terrific Series. Two of the games, including the last, were blowouts, but four were decided by three or less runs. It was punctuated by two famous plays: Dean’s beaning in game four, and Medwick’s confrontation with a fruit salad in game seven.

St. Louis hit .279 with only two home runs, but they had 14 doubles and five triples (along with two stolen bases, both by Martin). Jack Rothrock had six RBIs, Medwick had five, and both Martin and DeLancey had four. Martin, Medwick, and Collins each had 11 hits and Martin, the lead off man, scored eight runs.

Detroit hit only .224 with two homers, one by Greenberg and the other by Gehringer. But they only had one triple and 12 doubles. Greenberg’s seven RBIs easily led the team while lead off man JoJo White had six runs scored. Gehringer’s 11 hits paced the losers.

The Cardinals pitching was spotty. Both the Dean brothers were great. The each had two wins, and Paul’s 1.00 ERA led the starters. But Tex Carleton and Bill Walker had ERA’s over seven. As a team they walked 25 and struck out 43. The Tigers pitchers were equally spotty. Schoolboy Rowe’s ERA was under three, but Eldon Auker’s was over five. As a team they walked 11 and struck out 31.

For St. Louis it would mark the team apex until the coming of the 1940s and Stan Musial. Paul Dean would hurt his arm and Dizzy Dean his toe and both would be out of the game by 1940. Medwick had a great next few years, then went to Brooklyn. DeLancey developed tuberculosis and would die shortly.

For Detroit they would get one more chance to win their first championship. They would, with essentially the same team, win a pennant again in 1935. This time they would face Chicago. I don’t want to give away the ending, but I’ll remind you that the Cubs went 108 years between World Series wins in 1908 and 2016. You figure it out.

 

1934: On to St. Louis

April 27, 2017

The middle three games of the scheduled seven game 1934 World Series were held on consecutive days in St. Louis. With the teams tied one game apiece, the Series was now a best of five affair.

Game 3, 5 October 1934

Paul “Daffy” Dean

For game three the Detroit Tigers sent Tommy Bridges to the mound. The Cardinals responded with Dizzy Dean’s younger brother, Paul. Sometimes called “Daffy”, a nickname he hated, he was considerably less colorful than his brother, but Paul Dean was every bit as good a pitcher, if only for a few seasons.

In game three he was close to masterful. Inning after inning he shut down the strong Tigers lineup. Over eight innings he allowed six hits while walking five (the five walks keep the outing from being truly “masterful”) and striking out seven. No Detroit player advanced beyond second base. In the top of the ninth, JoJo White led off with a single. Dean got the next two men on pop ups. Needing one out for a shutout, he allowed a Hank Greenberg triple that plated White for the Tigers first, and only, run. Another pop up finished Detroit.

Meanwhile, the Cards jumped on Bridges for a run in each of the first two innings and two more in the fifth. Pepper Martin led off the first with a triple and scored on a Jack Rothrock sacrifice fly. A Rip Collins single, a double by Bill DeLancey, and another sacrifice fly, this one by Dean, led to what proved to be the winning run. In the fifth St. Louis tacked on insurance runs via a Martin double, a Rothrock triple, and a Frankie Frisch single.

The final was 4-1 and St. Louis, thanks go Pepper Martin, Jack Rothrock, and a great pitching performance by Paul Dean was ahead in the Series two games to one. It set the stage for arguably the most famous beanball in baseball history.

Game 4, 6 October 1934

Dizzy Dean (on ground) and Billy Rogell

Game four began as simply another World Series game. It ended as one of the more famous, primarily for one incident in mid-game.

The game was a blowout with Detroit winning 10-4. Eldon Auker pitched for the Tigers and scattered four runs, three of them earned, and four walks, while giving up 10 hits. He gave up a run in the second and the third, but Detroit jumped on Tex Carleton for three runs in the third. He was pulled and Hall of Fame pitcher Dazzy Vance made his only World Series appearance ever. He got out of the inning after allowing an inherited runner to score and then wild pitched a run home in the fourth.

Going into the bottom of the fourth, the score stood 4-2 in favor of Detroit. Ernie Orsatti led off the half inning with a single. Leo Durocher hit a ball to Marv Owen at third. He flipped to Charlie Gehringer for a force at second, but Gehringer dropped the ball making both runners safe. Spud Davis then pinch hit for Vance. He singled home Orsatti and sent Durocher to third. Davis was slow and a catcher. Manager Frisch decided to pinch run for him. Dizzy Dean, not scheduled to pitch in game four, went in as the pinch runner. That brought up Pepper Martin, whose ball in play scored Durocher and tied the game.

But the big news was at second. Martin’s ball went to Gehringer, who tossed to shortstop Billy Rogell for an out on the advancing Dean. Then Rogell fired the ball to first in an attempt at a double play. Dean was running head down and Rogell admitted he threw low to force Dean to slide. Dean seems not to have noticed and he and ball collided. Down went Dean with a blow to the head and all St. Louis fans held their breath. He was carried from the field and rushed to the nearest hospital for x-rays.

With Dean gone, the Cardinals offense completely collapsed (remember, the score was tied when Dean went down). They scored no more runs while Detroit erupted for one more run in the seventh and five in the eighth. The most famous of the scoring plays was a steal of home in the eighth by big Hank Greenberg who was never noted for his speed. The final scored ended up 10-4 and knotted the Series at two games each.

Of course the big question was “how’s Dean”? The hospital released him that evening and a flood of reporters was waiting for him. The first, and obvious, question was, “How are you, Diz?” His response was priceless, “They x-rayed my head and didn’t find nothing.”

Dean is, along with Mark Twain, Winston Churchill, and Yogi Berra, one of those people who get a lot of credit for things they probably didn’t really say. But in this case, apparently he really did say it. Back several years ago my son was walking when he discovered proof that two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time. In his case himself and a car. He was hit and suffered head trauma. The ran x-rays of course (and lots of other tests). A week or so later they gave us the x-rays to keep. We looked them over closely. You could see a small fracture in one and in the other you could see inside the skull to note a little brain swelling. He looked at them and through the still pounding headache commented, “Hey, they x-rayed my head and did find something. I’m one up on Dizzy Dean.” I love my kid. (BTW he’s fine, he’s grown up to be a successful husband, father, and a good man–at least as good as he can be with me as half of his parenting model.)

Here’s another shot of the beaning of Dean, taken from another angle. Dean is on the ground, Rogell is bending over him. The player in the distance with the dark hat and wearing number 8 is Tigers third baseman Marv Owen. The two Cardinals in the foreground wearing 8 and 9 are Spud Davis and Bill DeLancey. I don’t know which umpire is pictured.

Dean’s beaning

Game 5, 7 October 1934

Tommy Bridges

On 7 October 1934 the biggest baseball question was “How’s Dizzy Dean doing?” The answer was he was doing well enough to start game five of the World Series. He went eight innings, gave up six hits and three walks while striking out six. He also gave up three runs, two of them earned. In the second inning, he walked Hank Greenberg then saw him score on a Pete Fox double. In the sixth Charlie Gehringer led off with a home run and a Billy Rogell single coupled with an error put Dean nemesis Rogell on third. He scored the unearned run on a subsequent Greenberg sacrifice fly.

It was a good performance, particularly after the beaning, but Tigers starter Tommy Bridges was better. He allowed one run, a Bill DeLancey home run in the seventh, gave up seven hits, and walked none. He struck out seven Cardinals and put Detroit ahead in the Series three games to two.

With the end of the three games in St. Louis, the 1934 World Series returned to Detroit for game six and a possible game seven. The Tigers were going home needing only one win to gain their first ever championship. The Cardinals needed to win both games to claim their third (1926 and 1931). They would have the Dean brothers on the mound for each game.

 

 

 

 

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1934: Games 1 and 2

April 25, 2017

The first two games of the 1934 World Series were played in Navin Field, Detroit.

Game 1, 3 October 1934

Ole Diz

For St. Louis, manager Frankie Frisch sent his ace, Dizzy Dean, to the mound for game one. The Tigers manager, Mickey Cochrane, responded with General Crowder. Crowder was in trouble early. With one out in the top of the second, Ernie Orsatti singled. One out later both Dean and Cardinals lead off man Pepper Martin got on with consecutive errors by Detroit all-star second baseman Charlie Gehringer. A Jack Rothrock single plated both Orsatti and Dean to put St. Louis up 2-0. It would not be the last time an error would wreck the Tigers.

In the third, Joe Medwick led off with a single. A Rip Collins roller to Gehringer led to a flip to Tigers shortstop Billy Rogell. He got the out on Medwick, but threw the ball away trying to double up Collins, who ended up at second. Then catcher Bill DeLancey hit one to first baseman Hank Greenberg, who fumbled it allowing DeLancey to be safe and letting Collins score all the way from second.

Detroit got a run back in the third, but Medwick hit the Series’ first home run in the fifth to put St. Louis back ahead by three runs, 4-1. Then the Cards had the first big inning of the Series. With Firpo Marberry now on the mound for the Tigers (Crowder was lifted for a pinch hitter) in the sixth, three singles, a bunt, and a double plated four Cardinals and put the game away. Detroit got two more runs, including a Greenberg home run, but St. Louis cruised to an 8-3 win. Dean had predicted he’d win game one. He had.

Game 2, 4 October 1934

Schoolboy Rowe

Many people claim game two was the best of the 1934 World Series games. With Schoolboy Rowe on the mound for Detroit, the Cards struck for early runs on a single and Orsatti triple in the second inning. In the third, Medwick singled to score Martin and put St. Louis ahead 2-0. It could have been 3-0, but a great throw by Goose Goslin nipped Medwick at the plate for the final out of the inning.

From that point Rowe calmed down and shut out the Cards without a hit. He also didn’t walk anybody, giving him 18 men set down in a row. While he was holding St. Louis scoreless, the Tigers were chipping away at Cards starter Bill Hallahan. Doubles by Billy Rogell and Pete Fox gave Detroit its first run in the bottom of the fourth. With the score now 2-1, Hallahan kept the Tigers off the scoreboard until the ninth.

Fox led off the inning with a single and went to second on a sacrifice bunt. Gee Walker, pinch hitting for JoJo White, singled to score Fox, then was picked off first to kill the rally.

With the game in extra innings, Rowe did the unthinkable, he gave up a hit. It went no where and at the middle of the 12th, the score still stood 2-2. Hallahan had been lifted earlier and Bill Walker stood on the hill for St. Louis going into the bottom of the 12th. With one out he faced the Tigers “G-Men.” He walked both Gehringer and Greenberg, which brought up Goslin, who promptly singled to center to score Gehringer and tie up the Series at one game each.

With the Series now tied, the games shifted to St. Louis and Sportsman’s Park, which would host the next three games. Games three and five would be the best games, but it was game four that became memorable for one throw and one immortal line.

1934: The G-Men

April 18, 2017

Black Mike

Detroit hadn’t done much in baseball by 1935. Yeah, they’d had the Wolverines in the 1880s and that team won a National League pennant and one of those postseason series that served as an early version of the World Series, but then the team quickly folded. The American League put a team into Detroit in 1901 and it took a few years to jell into a pretty fair squad. Led by Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, the team won consecutive pennants in 1907-1909, then fell back and were also-rans through the teens and the 1920s. By 1934, that changed as the Tigers G-Men team finally broke through to win the American League pennant.

In the 1930s the name “G-Men” was applied to FBI agents. It was short for “government men” and was considered something of a badge of honor. The Tigers featured three men whose last name began with “G” in the heart of their lineup. Another of their outfielders had a nickname beginning with “G.” It was sort of natural.

The team won 101 games and led the league in hitting at .290. It also showed first in slugging, OBP, OPS, walks, runs, and total bases. In in hits, home runs, triples, doubles, stolen bases, it finished second. To top it off they didn’t strike out much (third). The pitching wasn’t quite that good, but they were second in the AL in hits, runs, ERA, and strike outs. They even led the league in fielding percentage.

From first around to third, the infield consisted of Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg and Charlie Gehringer (two of the “G” men), Billy Rogell, and Marv Owen. All were in their prime. Greenberg, one of the first great Jewish ballplayers, (which would become something of an issue during the Series) hit .339 with an OPS of 1.005 (OPS+ of 156), 26 home runs, 139 RBIs (both led the team), and 201 hits. His WAR was 6.2. If possible, Gehringer was better. He hit .356, had an OPS+ of 149, 214 hits, 127 RBIs, played a wonderful second base, and led the team with 8.4 WAR. Owen at third also came in with a batting average north of three (.317), with a 115 OPS+, 98 RBIs, and 3.3 WAR. Rogell didn’t make a 300 average. He ended up at .296 (hey, somebody’s gotta be the low guy). He had 99 RBIs, 175 hits, an OPS+ of 98 (which seems low to me), and 4.8 WAR.

The outfield saw four men do almost all the work. Hall of Fame member Goose Goslin (the third “G” man) was in left. He hit .305 with 13 home runs (second on the team), 100 RBIs, 187 hits, a 112 OPS+, and 2.7 WAR. JoJo White was in center. He hit .313 and led the team with 28 stolen bases. His OPS+ was 108 and his WAR was 2.5. He was spelled by Gee Walker (the last “G” man). Walker hit an even .300 with 20 stolen bases and 1.0 WAR. Pete Fox held down the other outfield slot. He was low among the starters with a .285 average, but was second on the team with 25 stolen bases and produced 0.9 WAR.

Other than Walker, the team didn’t have much of a bench. Flea Clifton and Frank Doljack were the only non-catchers (except Walker) to play in more than 15 games (Clifton was in 16). Doljack hit .233 with a home run, while Clifton had under .100. The backup catcher was Ray Hayworth. He got into 54 games hit .293 with no power.

The pitching staff featured twin aces: Schoolboy Rowe and Tommy Bridges. Both won over 20 games with ERAs in the middle threes. Each pitched a lot of innings and gave up a lot of hits. Both struck out more men than they walked, but had WHIPs that were high for aces (1.284 for Bridges and 1.278 for Rowe). Beyond them, four men started double figure games, but none of them started 20 or more. Vic Sorrell and 35 year-old Firpo Marberry each started 19 games. Both had ERA numbers in the middle fours and gave up more hits than they had innings pitched. At least Marberry got 15 wins out of it. Carl Fisher, the only lefty, and Elden Auker were the other two pitchers with more than 10 starts. Auker, with 15 wins and an ERA under four did the better of the two. Of the staff, Rowe had 7.1 WAR and Bridges put up 5.0.

All these were managed by the primary catcher, Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane. “Black Mike” (the name had more to do with his temper than his complexion) was still a fine catcher. He hit .320 with an .840 OPS and an OPS+ of 117 to go with 4.0 WAR (which is excellent for a player-manager). He was respected more than liked.

The G-Men were a formidable team. They hit well, had decent power, a good pitching staff, an excellent (for the era) fielding team. They were weak in the bench and their pitchers gave up a lot of hits (it was a hitting era). In the World Series, they would face one of the most famous of all Major League teams, the “Gas House Gang” Cardinals.

 

 

The Councilman

August 25, 2015
Billy Rogell

Billy Rogell

I’ve typed this before, but it bears repeating. My grandfather once told me there were three things you never discussed in public: politics, religion, and sports. Eventually you’d quit discussing and start arguing. The only thing worse was to combine two of them in the same discussion. I’ve discovered there’s a lot of truth to that, but I’m going to break that rule (as I’ve done before with Billy Sunday and Count Sensenderfer) and do a little bit on a man who combined two. In his case it was sport and politics, and he did both well. His name was Billy Rogell.

Rogell came out of Springfield, Illinois to play shortstop in the big leagues in 1925. He’d done well in the minors and the Red Sox tried him at second base. They also tried to make him give up switch hitting and concentrate on hitting right-handed. Needless to say the change in batting stance and playing out of position made him ineffective (he hit a buck ninety-five with no power) and got him sent back to the minors. He resurfaced in 1927, did better. Played in 1928, and was let go by Boston. After another year in the minors, Detroit picked him up for the 1930 season.

Again, he didn’t do particularly well, but by late 1931 he’d become the Tigers regular shortstop. He hit .303 in 48 games and played a solid short. He remained the Tigers primary shortstop through the 1930s. Teaming with Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer, he helped form one of the best keystone combinations of the era. He hit well (generally in the .270s) with little power (the nine home runs he hit in 1932 was his peak), a good eye (he tended to walk about twice as often as he struck out), and his WAR (BBREF version) floated between 2.0 and a high of 5.1 in 1935. He led the American League in fielding percentage, assists, putouts, and double plays a few times, but almost always was in the top three or four in the AL in most fielding categories.

He helped Detroit to consecutive AL pennants in 1934 and 1935. In the former year the Tigers lost a seven game World Series to the St. Louis “Gas House Gang.” He hit .276 for the Series with four RBIs and eight hits. In the famous incident involving the beaning of Cardinals ace Dizzy Dean, Rogell was the man who threw the ball.  He was such a competitor that when told he’d hit Dean in the head, he responded, “If I’d known his head was there, I’d have thrown the ball harder.” In 1935 Detroit won the Championship with Rogell hitting .292 with seven hits, including a pair of doubles.

By 1938 he was 33 and fading, although he set a Major League record by walking in seven consecutive plate appearances in August (three games were involved). He had a bad year in 1939 and was traded to the Cubs. He was through. He hit all of .136 in 33 games. He retired at the end of the season, but returned to baseball as a minor leaguer in 1941.

Hugely popular in Detroit, Rogell ran for public office in 1941 and was elected to the City Council. Except for a two-year break, he remained in City Government into 1980. Much of his emphasis was on public works and he chaired the committee that built the modern Detroit airport (the road leading into the airport is named for him). In retirement he was chosen to throw out the first pitch in the final game at Tiger Stadium. Returning to retirement, he died in 2003 at age 98.

For his baseball career he hit .267 with an OBP of .351, slugged .370, and had an OPS of .722 (OPS+ 85 and 23.7 WAR–again BBREF version). His WAR peaked in 1933 at 5.3 (he was also above 4.0 in 1934 and 1935). He had 1375 hits, 256 doubles, 75 triples, and 42 home runs for 1907 total bases. He scored 757 runs and had 610 RBIs to go with 82 stolen bases and 649 walks.

Teaming with Gehringer he made the Tigers a formidable defensive team up the middle. Although he didn’t hit nearly as well as Gehringer, Rogell was still a good enough hitter. He’s never gotten much push for the Hall of Fame and probably shouldn’t.

Billy Rogell was an example of something that was missing in baseball for a long while, the civic-minded sportsman. We’re seeing it begin to return at least a little as teams realize the good PR that can be gained by having their team at least appear civic-minded. It seems that in Rogell’s case it was, as 38 years on the Detroit City Council would prove, much more than appearance.

Trying for Two: the Second Round in Cincinnati

January 29, 2015

After five games of the 1940 World Series, the Detroit Tigers were ahead three games to two. With only two games left, they needed one victory to clinch their first championship since 1935. Unfortunately, the two games were in Cincinnati and the Reds two best pitchers were set up to throw the remaining games. There were no days off during the Series (it was, unlike the current format, played on consecutive days). That created something of a problem for Detroit. If there was a game seven, their ace, Bobo Newsom, would pitch it on very short rest.

Game 6

Bucky Walters

Bucky Walters

Game 6 was 7 October and featured game two winner Bucky Walters pitching for the Reds matching up against game two loser Schoolboy Rowe. Cincinnati needed the same result as game two; the Tigers looked for Rowe to rebound. They didn’t get it. Bill Werber led off Cincinnati’s half of the first with a double, then went to third on a sacrifice bunt. An Ival Goodman single brought Werber home with the first run. Another single by NL MVP Frank McCormick sent Goodman to second, and a Jimmy Ripple single sent Goodman home and Rowe to the showers. Johnny Gorsica took over for Detroit and got out of the inning with a strikeout and a ground out. The score remained 2-0 until the bottom of the sixth when consecutive singles and a walk loaded the bases. A force out at home kept them loaded for a Walters bleeder to third. The throw home was late and the score went 3-0, Walters getting the RBI. A double play then ended the inning. With Fred Hutchinson now pitching for the Tigers, Walters connected on a solo home run in the eighth to complete the scoring for the Reds. Detroit managed to get two runners on in the ninth, but a double play and a fly to center completed the shutout. The Reds had won 4-0. The big hero was Walters. He’d pitched nine shutout innings, given up only five hits and two walks, while striking out two. He’d contributed to the scoring with a home run and two RBIs. Rowe failed to get out of the first inning. So there would be a game seven.

Game 7

Frank McCormick

Frank McCormick

Game seven was 8 October and featured Cincy ace Paul Derringer against Detroit ace Bobo Newsom. Tigers manager Del Baker was taking a chance with Newsom who was pitching on a single day’s rest (they don’t do that much anymore). The game turned out to be a classic.

For two innings no one got beyond second base as each team managed one single. In the top of the third Billy Sullivan led off with a single, then went to second on a Newsom sacrifice bunt. A pop fly retired Dick Bartell, then Barney McCosky walked. The next batter, Charlie Gehringer, hit one to third. Werber threw it away letting Sullivan score an unearned run. Hank Greenberg struck out to end the inning. The game stayed 1-0 through the fifth. Both pitchers did well. In the top of the sixth, Greenberg singled and, after an out, went to second on a walk. A ground out sent him to third, then another ground out ended the inning. Greenberg was the only Detroit player to reach third after the Tigers scored their run. In the bottom of the seventh, failing to score Greenberg came back to haunt Detroit. Frank McCormick led off with a double and Ripple followed with another double to tie the game at 1-1. A bunt sent Ripple to third. The Reds sent up injured catcher Ernie Lombardi to hit. Newsom intentionally walked him to set up a double play. Billy Myers batted next and slammed a long fly to center that scored Ripple. A grounder ended the inning, but Cincinnati took the lead 2-1. Derringer needed six outs to end the Series. Gehringer led off the eighth with a single, but a liner to short and consecutive flies to the outfield ended the inning without a run. The Reds managed a single in the bottom of the eighth, but failed to score, leaving it 2-1 going to the top of the ninth. Consecutive ground outs brought up Hall of Famer Earl Averill to pinch hit for Newsom. He rolled one to second and the Series ended on the flip to first baseman McCormick. Cincinnati had won its second World Series. Derringer gave up one unearned run, seven hits, and three walks. He stuck out one. Newsom was great in defeat. He gave up only seven hits, one walk, and struck out six, but the two runs in the seventh doomed him.

It had been a very good Series. Detroit actually outscored Cincinnati with 28 runs to the Reds’ 22 (all that coming in the 8-0 fifth game blowout). For the Series Cincy hit .250, Detroit .246.  The Reds had 58 hits, the Tigers 56. Both teams had 30 strikeouts. Detroit had four home runs, Cincinnati two. The pitching numbers were just as close. The Reds pitchers had a 3.69 ERA, the Tigers pitchers came in at 3.00. The only significant difference saw the Tigers take 30 walks to Cincy’s 15. Stats-wise it was a great Series.

Individually, the Reds twin aces, Walters and Derringer did well, together going 4-1 with ERAs well under 3.00. Reliever Whitey Moore had an ERA of 3.24, but the rest of the bullpen, minus Elmer Riddle who only pitched one inning, didn’t do as well. For the Tigers Newsom was superb, finally losing in the seventh inning of the seventh game on one day’s rest. His 17 strikeouts led all pitchers on either team and his 1.38 ERA was first among both team’s starters. Schoolboy Rowe, however, was clobbered. Gorsica did well in relief, and Tommy Bridges won the Tigers other victory.

Among hitters Jimmy Ripple, a midseason pickup, led Cincinnati with six RBIs while Goodman had five. Goodman and Werber led the team with five runs scored while Ripple scored three times. Five hitters who played six or more games hit over .300 while Goodman clocked in with a .276. Even pitcher Walters chipped in a .286 average and a homer. For Detroit Greenberg had a great Series hitting .357 with a home run, a triple, two doubles, 10 hits (the most by any player on either team), six RBIs and five runs scored. Pinky Higgins had eight hits, including three doubles, a triple, and a home run, while driving in six. McCosky scored five runs and Bruce Campbell also had four hits and five RBIs. Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer had a miserable Series hitting .214 with one RBI, three runs scored, and no extra base hits.

For Cincinnati the death of Willard Hershberger hung over the Series. But having dedicated the Series to him, they’d won. The lingering questions about 1919 could be put to rest for a while. There was nothing tainted about the 1940 win. It was, for them, the end of the line. Their next pennant would come in 1961, their next championship would have to wait all the way to 1975.

For Detroit it was a bitter loss. They were now 1-5 in World Series play (a win in 1935, losses in 1907, ’08, ’09, 1934, and 1940). They would not, however, have to wait as long as Cincinnati to claim their next, and second, championship. They would get back to the World Series in 1945 on the arm of Hal Newhouser (who did not pitch in the 1940 Series) and the bat of Greenberg. It would take seven games but they would defeat the Cubs to finally win their second World Series.

 

 

Trying for Two: The Round in Detroit

January 26, 2015

With the 1940 World Series tied 1-1, the teams moved to Detroit for the next three game. A sweep by either would end the Series. A split would mean the two teams would return to Cincinnati for at least one game.

Game 3

Pinky Higgins

Pinky Higgins

Detroit sent Tommy Bridges to the mound for game three on 4 October 1940. Bridges was a 10 year veteran with six All Star appearances who was 3-1 in two previous World Series’ (1934 and 1935). But Cincy got to him immediately. Bill Werber led off with a double and with one out, Ival Goodman singled him home. Bridges got out of the inning without further damage and the run stood up until the bottom of the fourth. Barney McCosky led off for the Tigers with a single, went to second on a Charlie Gehringer single, and scored when Hank Greenberg hit into a 5-3-4 double play. Although Bridges got into trouble in the sixth, neither team scored again until the bottom of the seventh. With one on, Rudy York hit a two-run homer to put Detroit ahead. Billy Campbell followed the home run with a single, then Pinky Higgins slugged another two-run shot to put the Tigers up 5-1. That brought manager Bill McKechnie to the mound to take Reds pitcher Jim Turner out of the game. He was replaced by Whitey Moore, who proceeded to give up a couple of hits but kept Detroit from doing more damage. In the top of the eighth with one on Lou Riggs, pinch-hitting for Moore, hit into a force out, but consecutive singles plated him with the Reds’ second run. The bottom of the eighth saw two singles score a run for the Tigers, then a Higgins double drove in one final score for Detroit. Cincinnati tried to come back in the ninth against a tiring Bridges. Two singles and an error scored one run, then with two outs a single brought in a final run. Bridges managed a strikeout to end the inning and assure a 7-4 Detroit win. Higgins was the big hitting star with two hits, a home run, and four RBIs, while Bridges pitched a complete game giving up 10 hits, one walk, and three earned runs, while striking out five.

Game 4

Paul Derringer

Paul Derringer

Game four was held the next day, 5 October, with Detroit sending Dizzy Trout (who’d started only 10 games all season) to pitch. The Reds responded by sending game one loser Paul Derringer back to the mound. Cincinnati wasted no time in teeing off on Trout. Leadoff hitter Werber walked and was forced at second. Mike McCormick, on base replacing Werber, scored when Goodman doubled to left. A ground out put Goodman on third. A sharp grounder to Higgins was muffed allowing Goodman to score with the second run. In the third inning singles by Goodman and Frank McCormick were followed by a Jimmy Ripple double that scored Goodman. That brought Clay Smith in to replace Trout. Smith got out of the inning with no more damage. In the bottom of the inning, Detroit got a run back on a walk, a ground out, and a Greenberg double. The Reds got it right back with a walk to Werber, a double by Mike McCormick, and a sacrifice fly to right field. With the score at 4-1, runs came to a halt for a few innings. In the bottom of the sixth, a Bruce Campbell single and a Higgins triple made the score 4-2. In the eighth two singles sandwiched around a wild pitch, allowed Cincinnati to tack on another run, producing a 5-2 final score. The game was something of a redemption for Derringer. He’d managed to tie up the Series 2-2 while giving up five hits and six walks. He struck out four. Goodman scored two runs and drove in two more while getting two doubles to lead the Reds hitters, while Higgins got two more hits, including the triple, to lead Detroit hitting. Trout was beaten up badly with six hits, three runs, and a walk in two innings. The Series was now a best two of three with Cincinnati having home field advantage.

Game 5

 

Bobo Newsom

Bobo Newsom

On 4 October word came that Bobo Newsom’s father had died (a heart attack after seeing his son win game one). Newsom was scheduled to pitch game five. Despite the loss, he took the mound on 6 October (no days off during the Series). He would face Gene Thompson. Thompson got through two innings before disaster struck. He  gave up back to back singles to McCosky and Gehringer then grooved one to Greenberg who drove a home run to left field. In the bottom of the fourth a walk to Billy Sullivan, a sacrifice bunt by Newsom, and a Dick Bartell double scored one run. Then a passed ball sent Bartell to third. A walk to McCosky sent Thompson to the showers. In came Moore who walked Gehringer to send McCosky to second and load the bases. Another Greenberg fly to left, this one shorter than the home run, brought in Bartell. Rudy York walked to reload the bases. A Campbell single scored both McCosky and Gehringer. Higgins, designated rally killer for the day, then grounded to short to end the inning. The Tigers got one more in the eighth on a wild pitch. Final score? 8-0. Newsom was magnificent. He walked two and allowed only three hits in a complete game shutout. He struck out seven and no batter reached third. He was in trouble only once, and then only vaguely. In the fourth a single and ground out put Mike McCormick on second. Consecutive foul pops ended any threat. In the entire game, McCormick was the only Reds player to reach second.

With the Tigers up 3-2, the Series returned to Cincinnati for the final game (or two). Detroit needed one win, the Reds two. Fortunately for Cincy, they had both aces (Walters and Derringer) ready for the final two games.

 

 

Trying for Two: The Tigers

January 16, 2015
Charlie Gehringer

Charlie Gehringer

The 1940 World Series was sort of the odd man out Series of the era. Between 1936 and 1943 it was the only one in which the Yankees didn’t represent the American League. The Detroit Tigers won 90 games and made a temporary dent in the New York run. The Tigers weren’t new to World Series play, they’d been in five previously, but had won only once, in 1935 (Detroit had a championship from the 1880s, but that was a different team). So for Detroit, it was a chance to win a second title.

Manager Del Baker was a former catcher, who’d had a number of stints as a fill-in manager for the Tigers. He’d finally gotten the job fulltime with about 60 games left in 1938 and by 1940 had formed a team that hit well, fielded well, and pitched well enough to cop a pennant.

His infield consisted of one Hall of Famer and three very good players. The Hall of Famer was Charlie Gehringer. He was the resident gray-beard at 37. He was on the downside of a stellar career that included the 1937 AL MVP award. He hit .313 (OPS+ of 119) with 10 home runs and played a fine second base. At first, the Tigers had Rudy York. York was in his mid 20’s, and was noted for his inability to play in the field. Baker decided York would do less damage at first that anywhere else, so a Hall of Fame first baseman was sent to the outfield. York responded with a .316 average (OPS+ of 145) and 33 home runs. Pinky Higgins held down third. Higgins was one of the handful of third basemen who could honestly be considered the best AL third sacker of the era (along with Harold Clift, Ken Keltner, Red Rolfe). He was a capable enough fielder but his hitting made him something of a  star. In 1940 he managed .271 (a 92 OPS+), and 13 home runs. “Rowdy” Dick Bartell was the new guy at short. He’d come over from the National League and had World Series experience with the Giants. He was considered one of the finer shortstops of his day, but his hitting wasn’t much (As a testament to his fielding, he finished 12th in the MVP voting with a .233 average and seven home runs.)

The outfield consisted of a transplanted first baseman, a new guy, and one old hand. The transplant was Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg. With York unable to play the outfield, Greenberg agreed to make the move to left field in ’40. He wasn’t great (his dWAR for 1940 is -0.8 in Baseball Reference.com’s version) but his hitting was still superb. He hit .340, led the AL in doubles, home runs, RBIs, total bases, and slugging and copped the MVP award (his second). The new guy was second year player Barney McCosky, age 23. He, like Greenberg, hit .340 (OPS+124) but with only four home runs. He did lead the AL in hits and triples and played an acceptable center field (he was fifth in the league in assists). The old hand was right fielder Pete Fox. He’d been around long enough to have played in both the 1934 and 1935 World Series (Detroit winning the latter and losing the former). He hit .289 with little power.

The Tigers bench wasn’t overly strong. Backup outfielder Bruce Campbell had eight home runs. For the Series he would get the bulk of the play in right field. Hall of Famer Earl Averill hit .280 while playing out the string in Detroit.  Backup catcher Billy Sullivan hit .309 with 41 RBIs. Come Series time he would replace the regular catcher for most of the games.

Primary catcher Birdy Tebbetts hit just under .300 with no power and handled a staff with four starters pitching at least 20 games. All but one were right-handed. Lefty Hal Newhouser was only 19 and still four years from the numbers that would put him in the Hall of Fame. The righty starters were 21 game winner and ace Louis “Bobo” Newsom, 1934-5 stalwart Lynwood “Schoolboy” Rowe, Tommy Bridges, Johnny Gorsica, and later managing legend Fred Hutchinson who got into less than 20 games. Only Newsom had an ERA under 3.00, although all but Hutchinson and Newhouser had ERA+ numbers over 100 (Newsom’s was 168). But only Newsom and Bridges had given up fewer hits than they had innings pitched. Al Benton did most of the relief work, but had an ERA of almost four and a half.

It was a very different team from the 1934-35 versions who’d won a World Series. The pitching was about the same, but most people agreed it had somewhat better hitting and the defense, particularly up the middle was better. Detroit was a slight favorite to defeat the National League’s Cincinnati Reds.

 

 

Shut Down

September 11, 2012

The 1935 Detroit Tigers

So the Nationals have shut down Stephen Strasburg and the Cubs have shut down Jeff Samardzija. Well, it’s unusual to say the least. Generally when a player is shut down it’s certainly not voluntary on the part of the team. It’s more like to be because he’s either having a dreadful season or he gets hurt. There’s a really good case of the latter back in the 1930s.

In 1935 the Detroit Tigers were defending American League champions. Under manager and catcher Mickey Cochrane they were able to repeat, besting the Yankees by three games. They had a good, solid team with the “G Men” hitting in the middle of the order: Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg, and Goose Goslin. In keeping with the “G Men” theme the backup outfielder was Gee Walker and the three pitcher was General Crowder. Crowder won 16 games, Walker hit .301, Goslin had a down year but managed .292. Gehringer hit .330 with 19 home runs, and an OPS+ of 138. Greenberg hit .328, led the AL in home runs (36) and RBIs (170) and picked up the MVP award.

They made the World Series and faced Chicago. The Cubs hadn’t been to a Series since 1932 and were retooled. It was expected to be a close contest with Detroit slightly favored. With the first two games in Detroit, Chicago shut out the Tigers 3-0 in game one.

Game two saw the Tigers jump out to a 7-0 lead by the end of four with the big blow being a two-run home run by Greenberg. The Cubs got one back in the fifth, then two more in the seventh. That brought Detroit up in the bottom of the seventh. With one out and one on Greenberg was hit in the hand by a pitch. He stayed in the game and subsequently made the final out of the inning on a close play at the plate. That finished the scoring, the Tigers winning 8-3, but the big story was Greenberg. The wrist was broken and he was out for the rest of the Series. The AL MVP was not going to participate in the remainder of the World Series, which had just turned into a best of five set.

Cochrane was forced to improvise. Goslin went into Greenberg’s four hole in the batting order. Third baseman Marv Owen moved to first in the field and backup infielder Herman “Flea” Clifton took over third and batted eighth. I’d like to say that Clifton became the big hero. He didn’t. He went oh fer sixteen but did well enough at third (two putouts, nine assists, and an error). It was the rest of the team that stepped up. With Greenberg shut down Gehringer hit .375 with four RBIs, right fielder Pete Fox hit .385 also with four RBIs, Goslin hit .273 with three RBIs, and the pitching staff gave up 12 runs for the rest of the Series. Detroit won the World Series in six games on a walk-off single by Goslin.

Without Greenberg Detroit doesn’t make the 1935 World Series. With him in the Series they are 1-1. After he goes down the team steps up and goes 3-1. So even with their best player shut down a team can win. Maybe that bodes well for Washington this season. What it means for Chicago for next season is a little more difficult to determine.

The Original Hammerin’ Hank

August 16, 2012

Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg

It used to be possible to argue that you could directly compare the best first basemen to ever play the game because the three top first basemen all played in the same league at the same time, the 1930s. The men in question were Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Hank Greenberg. You might disagree with that premise but other people would agree. The advent of Albert Pujols makes it almost impossible to make that argument today. Because they were contemporaries it is still instructive to look at the three and compare them (which I’m not going to do). By universal agreement, the third of the troika was Greenberg.

Hank Greenberg was born in 1911 (on New Year’s Day, no less) in Greenwich Village to a Jewish family that ran a textile mill. They made enough money to move to the Bronx when Greenberg was still young. He became a fine high school athlete excelling in soccer, baseball, and basketball (his high school team won the New York City title in 1929). After graduation he played first base for a semi-pro ball team and was scouted by the Giants (who decided he was too awkward to play) and the Yankees (who had Gehrig). He signed with Detroit in late 1929 for $9000.

Greenberg spent 1930, 1931, and 1932 in the minors at Hartford, Raleigh, Evansville, and Beaumont. He did well, but his ethnic background caused him some trouble with both fans and teammates. One famous anecdote has a teammate staring at Greenberg. When asked why, the guy is reported to have said “I”ve never seen a Jew before.” Greenberg asked if he “saw anything interesting.” The guy replied, “No, you look just like everyone else.” That was supposed to be the incident that solved Greenberg’s ethnic problems with his teammates. Unfortunately, it was a problem that was to plague him throughout his career as other teams and fans in other towns were known to heap anti-semitic abuse on him.

By 1933 he was with Detroit. They tried him at third (they already had a first baseman who cost them $75,000 and weren’t about to watch that much money ride the pine). He was awful. Finally they settled on a platoon situation in which Greenberg played against lefty pitching. He hit .301 with 12 home runs, 87 RBIs, and 59 runs scored in 117 games. That settled the issue and Greenberg settled in as the regular first baseman for the rest of the 1930s.

It was a good time for Detroit. They were in contention most years. The “G-Men” (a play on the then current fashion of referring to FBI men as “G-Men”-for “government men”) of Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Goose Goslin, and Gee Walker won a pennant in 1934, losing the World Series to the Cardinals “Gas House Gang”, then won the World Series in 1935 over Chicago. Greenberg led the American League in doubles in 1934 and in home runs, total bases, and RBIs in 1935.  He led the league again in RBIs in 1937. In 1938 he made a serious run at Babe Ruth’s 60 home run record. He managed 58, which along with his walk and run totals, led the AL. For the decade of the 1930s his lowest average was his rookie .301. He peaked at .339 the next season (OK, he hit .348 in 1936, but only played in 12 games).

His career took a couple of sharp turns in the 1940s. First, the Tigers brought up Rudy York. York could hit a ton, but was terrible in the field. They only place they could play him was first. So Greenberg moved to left field. He wasn’t very good (his fielding percentage was .963 in 1940), but the papers of the time indicate he improved as the season went along. He was rewarded with another trip to the World Series. Despite getting a .357 average with a home run and six RBIs, Detroit lost the Series to Cincinnati in seven games. BTW the 2-1 Cincy win is one of the best game seven’s ever played.

For Greenberg the second change came in 1941. Nineteen games into the season, the government came calling. He was drafted into the Army (he became a tanker) and spent most of the next five years in the service. Interestingly enough, his original Army physical rejected him because of flat feet, leading one reporter to ask “Do you shoot a gun with your feet?” He was discharged in early December 1941. Of course the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor a few days later and Greenberg rejoined the military, this time joining the Army Air Corps. He spent 1942 and 1943 flying “the Hump” in Burma, then was sent back to the US in 1944, where he served with a unit in New York. In mid-1945, he was discharged.

He returned to the Tigers in July. He played 78 games, hit .311, and had 13 home runs. On the last day of the season Detroit was tied with Washington for the pennant. In the final game of the season, Greenberg’s grand slam in the top of the ninth gave the Tigers the pennant. He hit .304 in the World Series with two home runs, seven RBIs, and seven runs scored. Detroit won in seven games.

In 1946 he hit only .277, but led the AL in home runs with 44 and in RBIs with 127. After the season he was waived. No one seems to know quite why. There’s a lot of speculation, but I’ve been unable to find a definite answer to the question of why Greenberg was waived. Pittsburgh claimed him. He spent one season with the Pirates, hitting .249 with 25 home runs and tutoring a budding star named Ralph Kiner. At the end of the season Greenberg retired.

For a career of 1394 games he hit .313, had an OBP of .412, slugged .605, and had an OPS of 1.017 (OPS+ of 158). The OPS and slugging percentage are both seven in MLB history. He had 331 home runs, 1276 RBIs, 1051 runs scored, 379 doubles, and 852 walks over 6097 plate appearances.

After retirement he moved to the front office with the Cleveland Indians. Initially Cleveland did well, winning a World Series in 1948 and a pennant in 1954. But as Greenberg’s influence grew, the team got worse. He seems to have been a decent executive, but as he moved into the general manager’s spot he moved a level too high for him and the team floundered. He went to Chicago as Bill Veeck’s assistant in the late 1950s and helped the White Sox to a pennant in 1959. He retired a wealthy man and died of cancer in 1986. The Hall of Fame called in 1956.

Throughout his career, Greenberg faced adversity. First his ethnic background gave him problems. Then he had to shift positions. Finally the Second World War interrupted his career. He became a great player and arguably one of the five greatest first basemen to ever play. Not a bad legacy.