Posts Tagged ‘Mickey Cochrane’

A Chance for Revenge: Back to Detroit

August 24, 2017

With the Tigers leading the 1935 World Series three games to two, the contest moved back to Detroit. A Tigers win would make them first ever champions (the old National League Wolverines had won back in the 1880s, but the Tigers had never won a title). Chicago had to win both games to claim its first championship since defeating Detroit in 1908.

“Goose” Goslin in1935

Game 6, 7 October 1935

For game 6, Detroit sent Tommy Bridges to the mound. Chicago countered with lefty Larry French. The Tigers struck early with back to back singles by manager and catcher Mickey Cochrane and second baseman Charlie Gehringer. After an out, Pete Fox doubled to score Cochrane, but Detroit failed to bring Gehringer home from third.

Chicago tied the game in the third on singles by Billy Jurges, Augie Galan, and Billy Herman. Herman’s single plated Jurges, but Galan was out at third trying to stretch the hit. Detroit went back ahead in the next inning with more singles and a forceout by pitcher Bridges that scored Gee Walker.

The Cubs immediately went ahead in the fifth on a French single and a Herman homer. And that lead lasted just over an inning as a Billy Rogell double and a Marv Owen single tied the game in the bottom of the sixth at 3-3. For trivia buffs, it was Owens’ only hit of the Series.

Each team put a man on in the seventh, but neither scored. After a one-two-three top of the eighth, the Tigers had two men on in the bottom of the eighth but failed to score either. In the top of the ninth, Stan Hack led off with a triple, but a strikeout, a tapper back to the pitcher, and a fly to left stranded him.

In the bottom of the ninth, Flea Clifton struck out, but Cochrane singled. A Gehringer roller to first moved Cochrane to second and brought up Goose Goslin, hitting in what was normally Hank Greenberg’s spot. With Greenberg out with a broken wrist, Goslin, who normally hit fifth, had moved up one spot in the order. He singled to right, bringing Cochrane home with both the game and the Series winning run. Detroit was champion by a 4-3 score.

Don’t you wish they still did things like this?

It was a terrific World Series, only one game (game 2) being decided by more than three runs. One game (4) had gone into extra innings, and the Series had been won on the final swing of the bat by Goslin.

For Detroit, they’d hit .248 with one home run in 51 hits. Greenberg had the homer and his injury in game two put the Tigers in a bind when they lost their clean up hitter. Marv Owen and Flea Clifton didn’t do much in replacing him (one hit, although a critical one, between the two of them), but the remainder of the team stepped up to cover the hole. Both Fox and Gehringer hit over .350 and tied for the team lead with four RBIs. Gehringer also led the team with four runs scored while Fox had 10 hits to lead the Tigers. Cochrane hit only .292, but did a good job as manager. The Tigers pitching was led by Bridges who went 2-0 with a 2.50 ERA in two complete games. Schoolboy Rowe posted a 2.57 ERA with a team leading 14 strikeouts, but took two losses to go with one win. Alvin “General” Crowder got the other win.

For Chicago, Lon Warneke was the big hero. He’d gone 2-0, including a complete game shutout, had an ERA of 0.54, had given up only one run over 16.2 innings. Chuck Klein, in his only World Series, and Billy Herman each hit .333 and produced one home run. Herman’s six RBIs lead both teams. Frank Demaree led all players on either team with two homers.

There was no World Series MVP in 1935, but if I’d been voting, I would have given it to Bridges (feel free to disagree).

For the Tigers it was their first ever World Championship. They’d been in the World Series in 1907, 1908, 1909, and 1934 and lost each (two to the Cubs). They would be sporadically good for the next decade winning pennants in 1940 and again in 1945, taking the Series in the latter year (also against the Cubs). For Chicago it was more of the same pain. They’d lost in 1910, 1918, 1929, and 1932. If the pattern held, they’d get their next chance in 1938.

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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: 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: 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.

 

 

Wally Schang, Mack’s other Catcher

March 10, 2014
Wally Schang while playing with Philadelphia

Wally Schang while playing with Philadelphia

As I mentioned in the post just below, the Philadelphia Athletics used three catchers during their 1910-1914 dynasty. The other post looked briefly at Jack Lapp and Ira Thomas. This one looks at Wally Schang,easily the best of the three.

Walter Schang was born in South Wales, New York, a town just south of Buffalo, in 1889. His dad caught for the local town team and two of his brothers also played ball, Bobby making it to the Majors (1914 and 1915 with the Pirates and Giants and again in 1927 with the Cardinals). In 1912, Wally caught on with the Buffalo Bisons of the International League (managed by George Stallings, later manager of his opponent in the 1914 World Series). In 1913 he made the Majors with the A’s. He got into 79 games with Philadelphia, then played four games against the Giants in the World Series. He hit .357 in the Series with a home run after hitting just.266 in the regular season.

By 1914, he’d become the Athletics primary catcher. He led all American League catchers with a .287 average and with 45 RBIs. He did terribly in the 1914 World Series (as did the A’s as a team), slumped in 1915, then had a great year (for him) in 1916. The 1916 A’s were one of the worst teams in AL history going 36-117. Schang, switched to the outfield in 1916 (he played a few outfield games in 1915 and again later in his career) led the team with seven home runs, two coming on 8 September when he became the first switch hitter to slug a homer from each side of the plate. By 1917, the A’s, already desperate for money, became even more desperate and Mack traded him to the Red Sox to start the 1918 season.

Schang was with Boston for the 1918 World Series. He hit .444 with an OPS of 990. He remained in Boston through the 1920 season when he was part of the continued dismantling of the Red Sox. Like Babe Ruth (who was traded a year earlier), Schang was traded to the Yankees. For the next four years he served as New York’s primary catcher, playing in three World Series’, including the Yanks first championship in 1923 (He hit .318 with seven hits in the victory). He slumped badly in 1925 and was sent to the St. Louis Browns for 1926.

He stayed at St. Louis four seasons, hitting over .300 twice and setting a career high with eight home runs in 1926. He went back to Philadelphia for 1930 as a backup to Mickey Cochrane. He picked up another ring at the end of the season, but did not play in the Series. His final season was 1931 when he got into 30 games with Detroit. He hit all of  a buck eighty-four and was through at 41.

He played and managed in the minors through 1935, then Cleveland hired him as a coach. His primary job was to teach Bob Feller how to pitch instead of throw. He remained in baseball until he was 52, when he finally retired. He died in Missouri in 1965. He was 75.

For his career Schang’s triple slash line is .284/.393/.401/.794 with an OPS+ of 117 (Baseball Reference.com’s version of WAR gives him 41). He had 1506 hits, 264 for doubles, 90 triples, and 59 home runs for 2127 total bases. He had 711 RBIs and stole 121 bases. He was considered one of the better fielding catchers of his era but he led the AL in passed balls (the Boston staff of 1919 will do that to you) and in errors (1914) once each. He appeared in six World Series’, helping his team to three wins. As mentioned above he was also on the 1930 A’s but did not play in the championship games.

Wally Schang was unquestionably the best of Connie Mack’s catchers prior to Mickey Cochrane. He hit well, fielded well, and helped his team win. He occasionally pops up on lists of players overlooked for the Hall of Fame. Frankly, I don’t think he belongs, but I can see why he makes those lists.

Schang's grave (note the image of a catcher in the center)

Schang’s grave (note the image of a catcher in the center)

A Great Age for Hitting Catchers

July 3, 2013
Joe Mauer's Wikipedia picture

Joe Mauer’s Wikipedia picture

Ever look over a list of  Hall of Famers? One of the things a lot of people mention after doing so is “Geez, there’s not a lot of third basemen in the Hall.” That’s true. But it’s also true of catchers. Excluding 19th Century players, there are a dozen each third basemen and catchers in the Hall. It’s a hard position, catcher, to play.

But we are living in a great age for catchers that can hit. There have been a few of those, but not many. In the 1930s you found Mickey Cochrane, Bill Dickey, and Gabby Hartnett playing at the same time. In the 1950s there was Yogi Berra and there was Roy Campanella. Gary Carter and Carlton Fisk overlap in the 1980s. And in the last 15 or so years, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing a new group of them that may (or may not) be as good, but are certainly a deeper pool of fine hitting catchers. Going back to the turn of the century, Mike Piazza and Ivan Rodriguez were still productive players. In the 21st Century we’ve added three more.

Did you know that prior to 2006 catchers won only three batting titles: Ernie Lombardi twice and Bubbles Hargrave? Since 2006 catchers have won four. Joe Mauer has three and Buster Posey one. And this year Yadier Molina (who has in the last few seasons resolved any doubt as to which Molina brother was the best) is leading the National League. He probably won’t stay there, but to have a catcher leading the NL on 1 July is amazing.

So let’s all set back on our Fourth of July break and enjoy a ballgame. And while we’re at it, take a second to revel in the quality of good hitting catchers that are available to us. It’s very rare.

A Review: “The Gashouse Gang”

June 6, 2013

Well, I’m back from high school graduation. She made it through. We made it there and back. Along the way I picked up a book to read in down time. It’s called “The Gashouse Gang”, it’s by John Heidenry, and here’s a quick review of it.

The book is a look at the 1934 St. Louis Cardinals, who won the World Series that year with one of the more colorful teams ever. The book concentrates more on the players than on the games. It centers around Dizzy Dean (naturally) and occasionally you forget that there were other players on the team. Heidenry sees Dean as intelligent and manipulative, a classic con man who can pitch. There are a dozen or so episodes in the book centering on Dean that make him come alive as a person. There are also sketches of general manager Branch Rickey, of manager Frankie Frisch, and of a handful of the players. The sections are uneven in that the comments on Joe Medwick are more in-depth than the comments on Ernie Orsatti. The same is true of other players. The players Heidenry finds most fascinating (or maybe that he can find the most info on) range over several pages. These include players like Paul Dean (who apparently hated being called “Daffy”), Pepper Martin, Medwick, and Leo Durocher while other players like Rip Collins, Spud Chandler, and the non-Dean pitchers get only passing reference. Jack Rothrock is almost invisible. There is also a nice, but short, sketch on Sam Breaden, the owner.

Heidenry spends the better part of a chapter trying to determine where the moniker “Gashouse Gang” came from. He finally decides that the New York papers came up with it in 1935, the year after the Cards won the Series. He also spends a couple of chapters on the 1934 World Series (against Detroit) with a nice character sketch of Mickey Cochrane thrown in as a welcome bonus.

All in all it’s a good book and worth the read if you’re a fan of 1930s baseball. It’s even better if you’re a fan of the Cardinals. The book was published in 2007 and is available in paperback at Barnes and Noble. It retails for $17.99.

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.