Posts Tagged ‘Flea Clifton’

A Chance for Revenge: Games in Detroit

August 15, 2017

The 1935 World Series began in Detroit. It was to be played in a format familiar to us. The first two games were in Detroit, the next three in Chicago, then a final pair, if necessary back in Detroit. There was one significant difference between those games and the modern version. Because of the proximity of the two towns, the games would be played on consecutive dates.

Lon Warneke

Game 1, 2 October 1935

For game one, both teams sent experienced pitchers to the mound, Schoolboy Rowe for the Tigers and Lon Warneke for Chicago. Both men pitched well, but a number of Detroit errors, a key one by Rowe himself, helped doom the Tigers.

And it began immediately for Detroit. Augie Galan led off the game for the Cubs with a double. Then Billy Herman tapped one back to the mound. Rowe turned, tossed it to first, and missed Hank Greenberg’s glove by several feet. Galan scored easily but Herman, running through the base, was unable to advance. A Fred Lindstrom bunt back to Rowe sent Herman to second (this time Rowe got the throw right). Gabby Hartnett followed with a single to score Galan. Rowe then settled down and got out of the inning down only 2-0.

It was more than enough for Warneke. He breezed through the game giving up only four hits and walking another four. It wasn’t until the fourth inning that Detroit got two men on base and managed to move one of them to third before the died there waiting for a hit. It was the only inning the Tigers put either two men on base or moved a man to third.

Meanwhile, Rowe, apparently getting over the error, matched Warneke with zeroes until the ninth. Frank Demaree led off the top of the ninth with the Series’ first home run to give the game its final score 3-0. For the game, Rowe had given up seven hits, struck out eight, walked none, and given up two earned runs. He’d also made the critical error.

Hank Greenberg (in the lumber business?)

Game 2, 3 October 1935

For game 2, the Tigers sent Tommy Bridges to the mound. He drew Charlie Root for a pitching opponent. Root has last seen World Series action in 1932 when he’d given up Babe Ruth’s “called shot” homer in game three. On this occasion he had the same amount of success, none.

After an uneventful top of the first, Detroit lit up Root in the bottom of the inning. Jo Jo White led off with a single. A Mickey Cochrane double scored him. Charlie Gehringer followed with a single scoring Cochrane. Then Hank Greenberg parked one in the left field stands for two runs and an early exit for Root.  Ray Henshaw replaced him with only slightly more success.

After surviving the second and third innings, Henshaw, with two outs in the fourth, plunked Marv Owen. A Bridges single sent Owen to third and a walk to White loaded the bases. Then Henshaw uncorked a wild pitch moving up all three runs and making it 5-0. He walked Cochrane to reload the bases, bringing up Gehringer. He singled to score Bridges and White. Out went Henshaw, in came Fabian Kowalik who managed to retire Greenberg to end the inning. The score stood 7-0. Chicago got a run back on an error, a ground out, and a single, then two more on a walk and consecutive singles, but it was too late.

Detroit came up in the bottom of the seventh ahead 7-3 when one of the key moments of the Series occurred. With two outs and two on, Pete Fox singled to right plating Gehringer. Following close behind, Greenberg tried to score also, but was thrown out at home. In the collision at home, he broke his wrist and was done for the Series. It changed the Tigers lineup for the remaining games by moving Owen to first and bringing in Flea Clifton to play third. At that point Greenberg had a home run and two RBIs. For the entire rest of the Series Owen would get one hit and Clifton went oh-fer.

But Detroit had evened the Series at one win apiece. The next three games would be in Chicago, where a sweep by either team would crown a champion. The 1935 World Series was now a best of five.

 

 

A Chance for Revenge: the 1935 Tigers

August 9, 2017

Mickey Cochrane with Detroit

All the way back in the first decade of the 20th Century, Detroit fielded the premier team in the American League. Led by players like Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford they won three consecutive AL pennants from 1907 through 1909. In three consecutive World Series appearances, however, they failed to win. In 1909 they came up short against Honus Wagner and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In both 1907 and ’08 it was the Tinker to Evers to Chance Chicago Cubs that thwarted them. After that they went into something of a tailspin that lasted into the 1930s when they again began fielding a superior team. It got to the World Series in 1934 and this time managed to lose to Dizzy Dean and the St. Louis Cardinals. With essentially the same team they won the AL pennant the next year.

Player-manager Mickey Cochrane led a team that led the league in runs, average, slugging, OBP, OPS, and total bases while ranking second in hits, doubles, triples, homers, and even stolen bases. The pitching staff was second in ERA, strikeouts, hits, and runs allowed. Cochrane himself contributed a .319 average, 46 RBIs, an 5.0 WAR. He wasn’t particularly well liked by the team. He was an in-your-face type manager who took emotion to a level that sometimes rankled his players. His backup was Ray Hayworth who also hit over .300 in 51 games.

They caught a staff that consisted of four primary starters. Schoolboy Rowe was 19-13 with an ERA in the mid-threes. He struck out a lot of men (140) for a WHIP of 1.233 but gave up a ton of hits. All of that resulting in 5.3 WAR. Tommy Bridges got 21 wins and an ERA just under Rowe’s, led the team in strikeouts with 163, but gave up more hits than he had inning pitched and showed 3.4 WAR at season’s end. Eldon Auker had 18 wins, an ERA of 3.83, gave up 18 more hits than he had innings pitched and had a walk to strikeout ratio that was close to one (1.405 WHIP) and 2.6 WAR. The other major starter was General Crowder whose ERA blossomed to over four, had more walks than strikeouts, gave up more hits than he had innings pitched (WHIP of 1.394) but still managed 16 wins and 1.7 WAR. The bullpen was led by Chief Hogsett’s 1.6 WAR, the result from, again, more hits allowed than innings pitched and more walks than strikeouts (1.634 WHIP). Joe Sullivan got into 25 games, half of them starts (12) and had an ERA of 3.51. Hogsett and Sullivan were the only lefties.

The infield was, in many ways, the strength of the team. It consisted of two Hall of Famers on the right side and two very good players on the left. Hank Greenberg held down first. His triple slash line read .328/.411/6.28/1.039 (OPS+ of 170) for 7.7 WAR. He had 36 home runs, 46 doubles, 16 triples (he seems to have liked the number six) and 168 RBIs (see what I mean about six?). His right side partner was Charlie Gehringer whose 7.8 WAR led the team. He had 19 homers, second to Greenberg, 108 RBIs (third on the team), and a triple slash line that read .330/.409/.502/.911 (OPS+ of 138). Beside him around second was Billy Rogell. He hit .275 with a .754 OPS and was fourth on the team with 74 RBIs. His WAR clocked in at 5.1. A brief aside is in order here. 5.1 WAR is generally considered all-star level. At the same time Rogell shows a 98 OPS+. Both are good stats and I’m sometimes surprised at how differently they can evaluate the same guy. Marv Owen was at third. He .263 with two less RBIs than Rogell (72), hit .263 and had only 0.3 WAR. Flea Clifton, who hit 2.55 (-0.2 WAR) was the only backup infielder who played in more than 20 games (and ya gotta admit with names like Flea, Chief, General, and Schoolboy this team had great nicknames).

Almost all the outfield work went to four men (no other outfielder played in more than 14 games). Joiner (“Jo Jo”–see what I mean about nicknames?) White was the primary center fielder. He led off most games, hit .240 led the team with 19 stolen bases (and 10 caught stealing), and had -1.3 WAR. He was flanked on the left side by Hall of Famer Goose Goslin. At 34, Goslin was the oldest position player on the team (a couple of pitchers, including another all-nickname player, Firpo Marberry, were older).He his triple slash line was .292/.355/.415/.770 (OPS+ of 102) and was second on the team with 111 RBIs. His WAR was 2.5. Pete Fox was the regular right fielder. He hit .321 had an .895 OPS, good for fourth on the team, racked up an OPS+ of 133 (also good for fourth on the team), and had an outfield leading 3.9 WAR. Gee Walker was the primary sub, getting into 98 games. He had -0.3 WAR to go with a .301 average, 56 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 104 (again note how WAR and OPS+ differ). He, joined by Goslin, Gehringer, and Greenberg, gave the team its informal nickname, “The G Men.”

As repeat pennant winners, the Tigers had experience in postseason play. Their opponents were the Chicago Cubs, thus giving the team a chance to gain revenge for the 1907 and 1908 losses. Having said that, I find no evidence that anyone on the team particularly cared if they got “revenge.” They wanted to win for their own team and their city.

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.

 

 

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.