Posts Tagged ‘Gee Walker’

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 Thin Red Line

December 27, 2012
Gee Walker

Gee Walker

As most of you know, I’m very pleased that Deacon White finally made the Hall of Fame. But did you look at who actually got in this time? You have a player who got the first hit in the history of the National Association, the first truly professional baseball league; an executive; and an umpire. Good for all of them. But if you look closely at the nominees for the period 1876-1946 you’ll see we are beginning to approach the thin red line of 1920-1946 players.

The thin red line is my phrase (it’s actually a British military phrase from the Crimean War)I use to denote the line beyond which you are beginning to elect players to the Hall of Fame who don’t deserve to be enshrined. Some (including me) might remark that in a couple of cases we’ve already slid below the line.  But the players in Cooperstown are already there and I can’t see taking anyone out.

Take a look at the players from the 1920-1946 era that were just nominated for Cooperstown: Marty Marion, Bucky Walters, Wes Ferrell. Are they truly the best players from the era not in the Hall of Fame? Maybe they are. I could make a case for them (and I could make a similar case for others). I could also make a case for keeping each out of Cooperstown (and could make similar cases for others). And that makes them “thin red line” candidates. Here’s a full team (eight position players and three pitchers) whose career is primarily in the 1920-46 era:

infield (first around to third): Hal Trosky, Marty McManus, Marty Marion, Harland Clift

outfield: Ken Williams, Gee Walker, Bob Johnson

catcher: Wally Schang (who actually plays quite a lot in the 19 teens)

pitchers: Wes Ferrell, Bucky Walters, Paul Derringer

Not a bad team, right? Put them all together and you’re going to win a lot of games.

But is this a team of Hall of Fame quality players? Maybe yes, maybe no. I wouldn’t be overly upset if any of them were elected, but it also wouldn’t bother me if none of them were chosen. They epitomize the “thin red line” of the Hall of Fame. Let them in and I might reply “OK, I guess”. Keep them out and I might reply “OK, I guess.”

My point in all this is that it appears the Hall of Fame has finally mined the 1920-1946 era of all the truly qualified players. What’s left are guys that are marginal at best and the idea of “marginal Hall of Famers” is really kind of silly, isn’t it? But my concern is that the Hall is desperate to hold the big ceremony every summer and to do that you must have someone to enshrine. If the writer’s don’t elect anyone (and with the weird ballot this year they might not) then the veteran’s committee nominees become critical. I’m afraid the Hall may put pressure on the Veteran’s Committee (a much smaller group) to “Put in someone, anyone, so we can at least get Deacon White’s great great grandchildren here to celebrate.”  And if that happens then every time we get to the 1876-1946 era the players from the 1920-46 period will be players that touch the “thin red line” of the Hall. That means we’ll be getting 19th  Century and Deadball Era players or marginal 1920s, 1930s, 1940s players making the Hall. The first two are fine by me, there are certainly enough decent 19th Century and Deadball players worth considering. But the latter worries me. We don’t need to lower the red line any further.

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.

The Original “Goose”

June 17, 2011

Goose Goslin as a Senator

Use the name “Goose” around a modern fan and the odds are you’ll get one of two responses: “who?” or “Gossage.” Frankly, I’d probably respond with Gossage too. But way back there was another “Goose” who was good enough to make the Hall of Fame. As I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time dealing with the Washington Senators/ Minnesota Twins recently, I thought I might introduce you to “Goose” Goslin.

Leon Goslin was born in New Jersey in 1900. He was good enough to play for his  local factory team, both pitching and playing the field. It got him a job with the Minor League team in Columbia, South Carolina in 1920. The team made him an outfielder. In 1921 the Senators signed him for $6000. He made the club late in the season, hitting .260 with a home run and six RBIs. By 1922 he was the regular left fielder.

This is as good a time as any to get to the “Goose” nickname. There are at least three stories. One says that Goslin was fairly inept in the field when he came up and would run around the outfield chasing the ball with his arms flapping like a goose. The second says that his large nose, known colloquially as a “honker” (a noise geese make) got him the nickname. The third, which is the one I favor, is that it simply was a natural to go with Goslin. Whatever the reason, it stuck for the rest of his life.

He played well in both 1922 and 1923, leading the team in home runs in ’23 and the entire American League in triples. In 1924 the Senators made the World Series for the first time. Goslin, playing all seven games, hit .344, led the league in RBIs, had an OPS of .937, and hit for the cycle on 28 August against New York. The Senators won the Series in seven games, Goslin hitting .344 (the same as his regular season average. I wonder how often that happens?) with three home runs, seven RBIs, and an OPS of 1.000. They were back in 1925, this time dropping the Series in seven. Playing all seven games again Goslin had three home runs, hit .308, and had six RBIs. His OPS? 1.072. For the regular season he led the AL in triples and had 200 hits for the first time.

The Senators slipped in 1926 but Goslin continued to perform well into 1930 when he was traded to St. Louis. He was having trouble getting along with manager Walter Johnson, a conflict he could never win in Washington. Freed from cavernous Griffith Stadium,  Goslin had a career high 30 home runs (37 for the season, a season noted for a juiced ball), dropped back to 24 the next season and further down to 17 in 1932. That got him a trade back to Washington (Johnson had just been fired), which promptly went out and won its third AL pennant. Although on the downside of his career, Goslin contributed a .297 average and 65 RBIs. In the World Series he played all five games of the loss to the Giants, hitting .250 with one home run. It was Washington’s last World Series and Goslin had the distinction of being the only Senator to play in all 19 of the team’s World Series games. He also logged every inning.

Goslin hadn’t gotten along with Johnson’s replacement, Joe Cronin, so he (Goslin) went to Detroit in 1934. There he teamed with Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, and Gee Walker to form the Tigers “G Men” (a play on the currently popular nickname for FBI agents). Again, Detroit promptly went out and won the AL pennant. Goslin hit .305, had  100 RBIs, and an OPS of .826. In the Series he hit .241 with two RBIs and the Tigers lost in seven to Dizzy Dean and the “Gas House Gang” Cardinals.

The Tigers were back in 1935, winning the pennant with Goslin contributing nine home runs, 109 RBIs, an OPS of .770, and a .292 average. This time, taking on the Cubs, the Tigers won the Series (their first ever) with Goslin hitting .273, having three RBIs, and driving in the Series’ winning run in game six. Again he played each game. It was to be his last Series. For his postseason career he hit .287, had an OPS of .836, hit seven home runs, had 19 RBIs, scored 16 runs, and had 37 hits, while playing all 32 games in the Series.

His last good year was 1936. He hit .300 for the last time, had 125 RBIs and 24 home runs. His OPS was .930. He also managed the first home run off phenom Bob Feller. He had a bad 1937 and was released by Detroit. He was 36. Washington brought him back for one last fling in 1938. he hit a buck .58 and was done. He managed a couple of undistinguished seasons in the Minors, then retired to a farm in New Jersey. He farmed, ran a boat business, and made the Hall of Fame in 1968. Death came in 1971.

For his career, Goslin hit .316, slugged .500, had an OBP of .387, totalling .887 for his OPS (OPS+ of 128). He had 2735 hits, 248 home runs, 173 triples, and 500 doubles for 4325 total bases. He had about two walks for every strikeouts and managed 176 stolen bases in a low stolen base era. His black ink number is 10, but his gray ink number is 200. In an end of century list, the Sporting News named Goslin the 89th greatest player of the century (probably too high).

I remember putting together my own list of greatest left fielders one time years ago. I had Goslin third (Williams and Musial) because Bonds and Henderson had not yet become the stars they became and because I was still fascinated by a player hitting .300 (which still is good, just not as good as I used to think). Bill James has him 16th in his historical abstract. My guess is that Goslin sits somewhere between. He helped his team, both Washington and Detroit, win. It can’t be pure coincidence that he gets traded to two teams who just then manage to win pennants (he’s a missing piece, not the prime reason for winning). All in all he’s a player I like and think should be remembered. I have no problem with him being in the Hall of Fame.

And I love the picture of him that I placed at the head of this comment. His hat is cocked, he stands confident and looks very self-assured. Kind of like to see that in a ball player.