Posts Tagged ‘Del Baker’

Trying for Two: The First Round in Cincinnati

January 22, 2015

The 1940 World Series began 2 October in Cincinnati. The hometown Reds sent 20 game winner Paul Derringer to the mound to face Detroit ace Bobo Newsom. With three regulars out, the Reds were very dependent on their pitching holding up.

Game 1

Louis "Bobo" Newsom

Louis “Bobo” Newsom

Derringer was in trouble from the beginning. He got out of the first without a run scoring, but ran into trouble in the second. Hank Greenberg led off the top of the inning with a  single, went to second on a Rudy York single, then an error put him on third. A Pinky Higgins single scored both Greenberg and York, then a walk reloaded the bases. A force at home brought up Dick Bartell who singled, bringing home Higgins with the third run and Billy Sullivan with a fourth. Barney McCosky’s single brought in a fifth run and sent Derringer to the showers. Whitey Moore took over Cincy pitching duties and managed to get out of the inning without more damage. In the bottom of the fourth, Ival Goodman doubled and came home on Jimmy Ripple’s single, shorting the score to 5-1. The Tigers got it right back, along with another run, the next inning when York tripled and Bruce Campbell homered to right center making it 7-1. The Reds got one final run in the eighth on a Bill Werber double and a single. The final score was 7-2. Newsom pitched a complete game allowing the two earned runs on eight hits and a walk. He struck out four. Derringer gave up five runs, four earned, and Moore gave up two. They, along with Elmer Riddle, who pitched the ninth, gave up 10 hits, walked five, and struck out 10. For Cincinnati both Goodman and Eddie Joost had two hits, while Campbell, Higgins, and Bartell all had two RBIs for Detroit.

Game 2

 

Jimmy Ripple

Jimmy Ripple

Game two was played the following day, 3 October. Cincinnati sent out its other ace Bucky Walters, while Detroit countered with stalwart Schoolboy Rowe. It was a much closer game.

Walters was initially wild. He walked Bartell and McCosky to start the game. A Charlie Gehringer single scored Bartell and sent McCosky to third. Greenberg grounded into a double play that allowed McCosky to plate the second run. With two out, Walters struck out York to end the inning. The runs stood up until the bottom of the second. Two singles and a popup put two men on for the Reds. Consecutive singles by Joost and Billy Myers tied the game. In the bottom of the third, Cincinnati went ahead when Goodman bunted for a base hit and Jimmy Ripple slugged a two-run home run. In the bottom of the fourth, the Reds struck for one more run on doubles by pitcher Walters (who, remember, was a converted third baseman and could hit a little) and Werber. Having seen Rowe give up runs in three consecutive innings, Detroit manager Del Baker brought in Johnny Gorsica to shut down the Reds. It worked when Gorsica was able to get the final two outs of the inning. The score remained 5-2 until the sixth. In the top of the sixth, Walters walked McCosky. Gehringer forced McCosky at second, but Greenberg doubled to left scoring Gehringer. It was the last hit for the Tigers. Walters shut them down in order over the last three innings to notch a 5-3 victory and tie the Series at one game each. Walters pitched a complete game giving up only three hits and striking out four. He had, however, also given up four walks (two in the first inning). Rowe was shelled, but Gorsica, coming into the game in the fourth, pitched four and two-thirds scoreless innings giving up only one hit and striking out one.

With the Series moving to Detroit, the Tigers were in good shape. They’d proved they could beat one of the Cincinnati aces (Derringer). In a 2-3-2 World Series format, they had to win at least one game in Cincinnati. They’d done that. The Reds, on the other hand, had won a game and now needed to win only one to send the Series back home. With no day off, game three was 4 October.

 

 

 

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.