Tigers All Stars: 1930 – 1939

Tiger Tales


Charlie Gehringer, Hank Greenberg and Rudy York were three of the stars on the Tigers of the 1930s.

(Photo credit: Detroit Public Library Digital Collections)


This week, I present the Detroit Tigers All Star team for the 1930-1939 decade.  All Star teams for previous decades are found below:


1901-1909

1910-1919

1920-1929


In each decade, I select nine position players, one for each position on the field plus one other hitter.  This ninth player could be a designated hitter, a multiple position player who didn’t fit neatly into one position and/or the best hitter who didn’t get selected as a position player.  I refer to this final hitter as the utility player.  Then I select five pitchers: four starters and one reliever.  In earlier decades when relievers were not frequently used, it will just be the fifth best starting pitcher.  


Some further general rules are as follows:

  • A player must have played at least half of his games with the Tigers at a given position or played that position more than any other position.  In rare cases, I might cheat a little bit if none of the players qualifying at a given position are any good at all and there is a superior player who played a good number of games at that position. 
  • A player must have played at least two full seasons with the Tigers, preferably at the assigned position. 
  • Only games played with the Tigers are considered. 
  • If a player played other positions with the Tigers besides his assigned position, his hitting performance in those games does count. 

Many statistics and sometimes, especially for fielding evaluation, anecdotal information will be considered.  For hitters, some of the statistics I consider are:

  • Games Played (G)
  • Plate Appearances (PA) 
  • Wins Above Replacement (Baseball-Reference WAR), 
  • Adjusted Batting Runs (ABR
  • Adjusted On Base Plus Slugging (OPS+)
The follow are among those I use for evaluating pitchers:

After two decades with no titles, the Tigers captured two pennants in the thirties (1934, 1935) and the franchise’s first championship in 1935. Much like the teens and twenties the Tigers had an explosive offense, including four consecutive seasons from 1934-1937 where they scored over 900 runs (or averaged 6 runs per game). In fact, in 1934, they scored 958 runs which was most in Tigers history.  The Yankees also had an awesome offense during that period, so it took strong pitching to beat them and the Tigers had it in 1934 and 1935.  In those two seasons, the Tigers finished first in run production and second in run prevention.      

The top Tigers of 1930-1939 by Wins Above Replacement were:


Charlie Gehringer 64 

Hank Greenberg 37

Tommy Bridges 35

Billy Rogell 26

Schoolboy Rowe 19 (including 3 as a batter)

Vic Sorrell 19 


One conspicuous absence from that list is Hall of Fame catcher Mickey Cochrane who only played two full seasons in Detroit, but led the team as a manager and player in 1934-1935.  The rest of the All Stars are shown in Tables 1 and 2 below and player profiles follow.



Table 1: Tigers All Star Position Players: 1930-1939


Pos

Player

From

To

G

PA

WAR

ABR

OPS+

C

Mickey Cochrane

1934

1937

315

1,348

12

64

126

1B

Hank Greenberg

1930

1939

882

3,918

37

285

159

2B

Charlie Gehringer

1930

1939

1,434

6,497

64

316

133

SS

Billy Rogell

1930

1939

1,207

5,093

26

-60

89

3B

Marv Owen

1931

1937

792

3,310

5

-69

84

LF

Goose Goslin

1934

1937

524

2,216

9

38

111

CF

Gee Walker

1931

1937

794

3,240

10

25

108

RF

Pete Fox

1933

1939

904

3,908

12

-14

98

UT

Rudy York

1934

1939

344

1,357

10

67

140

 

Table 2: Tigers All Star Pitchers: 1930-1939


Pos

Player

From

To

G

IP

WAR

PR

ERA+

SP

Tommy Bridges

1930

1939

309

2,083

35

190

122

SP

Schoolboy Rowe

1933

1939

189

1,127

16

61

110

SP

Vic Sorrell

1930

1937

215

1,275

19

52

108

SP

George Uhle

1930

1933

96

579

13

56

122

RP

Elden Auker

1933

1938

195

1,084

12

48

108




Player Profiles

C Mickey Cochrane

Cochrane was one of the top five catchers in the history of the game batting .320/.419/.478 lifetime.  He only played 315 games as a Tiger, but made quite an impact catching and managing two pennant winners and a world champion.  in 1934, Black Mike (So named for his competitiveness and distaste for losing) batted .320/.428/.412 with 4 WAR in 1934.  He did even better in 1935 batting .319/.452/.450 with 5 WAR. 

Tigers star second baseman Charlie Gehringer said “Cochrane was a great inspirational leader.  Boy, he was a hard loser, the hardest loser I think I ever saw. He wouldn’t stand for any tomfoolery. He wanted everybody to put out as hard as they could and he set the example himself. Always hustling, always battling. Cochrane was in charge out there.” (BaseballHall.org)

1B Hank Greenberg

Baseball’s first Jewish superstar, Greenberg was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1956.  The “Hebrew Hammer” won MVP awards in both 1935 and 1940 and played on all four Tigers World Series teams (1934, 1935, 1940, 1945) of the ’30s and ’40s.  During the thirties decade, he led the league in home runs three times and finished in the top five in OPS and slugging average five times.  Other notable Greenberg feats include 58 home runs in 1938 and 184 RBI in 1937, both the highest single-season totals in Tigers history

In September, 1934, with the Tigers trying to capture their first pennant in 25 years, Greenberg had to choose between his religion and his baseball career as an important game was to played on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.  With the blessing of a local rabbi, Greenberg decided to play and crushed two home runs in a 2-1 Tigers victory.  Later in the month, Greenberg missed his only game of the year in honor of the most sacred Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. (The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg)

2B Charlie Gehringer

Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer was not flashy but was one of the greatest second basemen in the history of the game.  The Mechanical Man led the Tigers in WAR every year from 1932-1937, amassed 7 WAR or more every season from 1933-1937 and won the American League MVP in 1937.  He had his best season in 1934 when he batted .356/.450/.517 for the pennant winning Tigers.  He was also an integral part of the 1935 world champions.

Hall of Fame Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez said about Gehringer that “You wind him up in the spring and he goes all summer. He hits .330 or .340 or whatever, and then you shut him off in the fall (Jim Hawkins and Dan Ewald. The Detroit Tigers Encyclopedia via SABR.org).  Thus, he was dubbed the Mechanical Man.  

SS Billy Rogell

Bill Rogell was one of the best overall shortstops in the league in a Tigers career which spanned the the 1930s.  A long-time Detroit City Council member after his career, Billy Rogell teamed with Hall of Fame second baseman Charlie Gehringer as the keystone combo of the 1934-35 pennant winning teams.  The switch hitting Rogell could hit pretty well for a middle infielder averaging 5.1 WAR and a 101 OPS+ from 1933-1935.

Rogell had a reputation as one of the top defensive shortstops of his era and the statistics back it up.  According to Wizardry by Michael Humphreys, Rogell saved 96 runs over an average shortstop in his career.    

3B Marv Owen

Owen had his best season in 1934 when he posted a 115 OPS+ and 3.3 WAR.  The Tigers infield of Greenberg, Gehringer, Rogell and Owen was nicknamed the “Battalion of Death” when they combined for 448 runs, 463 RBI and a 130 OPS+ that year.  According to Bill James’ Win Shares system, that infield was fourth best in the history of the Majors with 114 Win Shares (The New Bill James Historical Abstract


LF Goose Goslin

According to Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia by David Pietrusza, et al, Leon Goslin acquired the nickname “Goose” because he flapped his arms while running after fly balls, but it could just as easily have been a play on his last name.  If Goose had played his entire career with the Tigers, he would be number one on their list of all time best left fielders, but he played only four twilight years in Detroit.  His best year with the Tigers was 1936 when he was 3.7 WAR, but his best moment came in 1935.  

In 1935, the Hall of Fame outfielder singled in the bottom of the ninth of game six of the World Series to give the Tigers their first world championship.  Cochrane led off the inning with an infield single.  Gehringer then hit a hard smash off the glove of Cubs first baseman Phil Cavaretta, who was able to make the plat at first but could get Cochrane at second.  Goslin then knocked Cochrane home with a single to right. (Scott Ferkovich, SABR.org

CF Gee Walker

The Tigers did not really have a regular center fielder in the thirties.  The only one with more than 300 games played at the position was the light hitting JoJo White who had an 82 OPS+ and was not a standout defensive center fielder.  Thus, Gerald Holmes Walker who played all over the outfield including 258 games in center gets the nod. Walker’s best year was 1936 when he finished sixth in the American League in batting average (.353) and second in doubles (55) to go with a 126 OPS+.  The Speedy outfielder finished in the top five in the league in stolen bases four times between 1932-1937.

The right handed batting Walker platooned with his brother Hub Walker as rookie in 1931.

Gee often drove manager’s nuts with his risk averse approach to base running (David Raglin, SABR.org), but he was very popular with fans.  According to Art Hill in I Don’t Care If I Never Come Back“He was one of those rare players whose crowd appeal transcends even their unquestioned ability.  He was “the people’s choice” and if the Tigers had been run by popular vote, he would have started every game.  


RF Pete Fox

Fox had a short prime batting .323 with a 118 OPS+ between 1935-1937.  His best season was 1935 when he finished eighth in batting (.321), fifth in slugging (.513) and eighth in OPS (.895).  He made a strong contribution to their championship in post-season as well batting .385 with four extra base hits and four RBI.

UT Rudy York

On August 4, 1937, the Tigers were stuck in a five game losing streak and suffering from a shortage of healthy players. With all their regular catchers injured, manager Mickey Cochrane decided to try Rudy York, the rookie without a position, as the starting catcher.  He proceeded to hit an amazing 18 homers with 49 RBI for the month.  Some 81 years after his big month of August, Big Rudy still holds the the American League record for most home runs in a month.

Off the field, York – who had dropped out of school in the third grade to support his family – enjoyed the fame and fortune of a major league player. York reported that he spent all of his estimated $250,000 in his career earnings on “booze, women and a new automobile each year.” He admitted in a letter to his son related to Sport Magazine in 1954 that the drinking affected his career: ”Son, leave that liquor alone. I can tell you it never helped anybody, and if I had to do it over again that’s one thing I’d use a lot less. I’d have had a couple more years of baseball left in me if I’d stayed away from it.”  

SP Tommy Bridges

The five-foot ten-inch Bridges is ranked as the third best Tigers starting pitcher of all time after the more famous Justin Verlander and Hal Newhouser. Bridges did not have elite seasons like Verlander and Newhouser, but he had twelve seasons of two WAR or better which was more than any other Bengals pitcher.  The Gordonsville, Tennessee native led the American League in strikeouts in 1935 and 1936 and finished in the top ten every year from 1931-1939.  He also finished in the top ten in WAR six times and ERA seven times in the decade.   

Bridges won two games in the 1935 World Series helping the Tigers to their first championship.  In fact, Bridges was the winning pitcher in game six, the series clincher.  With the scored tied at three in the top of the ninth inning of that game, he allowed a lead-off triple to Cubs third baseman Stan Hack. The Tigers right hander proceeded to retire the next three batters stranding Hack at third.  The Tigers then won the the championship on Goose Goslin’s game-winning single in the bottom of the inning.  
       
SP Schoolboy Rowe

Lynwood Thomas Rowe was one of the most popular and successful players in the history of the franchise.  Despite a chronic sore shoulder, he managed six seasons of 2 WAR or better and played an important role in three Tigers pennants in 1934, 1935 and 1940.  Schoolboy’s best season was 1934 when he went 24-8 with a 3.45 ERA in 276 innings.  The Texas native acquired the moniker “Schoolboy” from a local sportswriter John Erp because he starred as a 14-year old in a local adult league.  

Gregory Wolf of SABR writes that Rowe captured the attention of baseball fans with his success and folksy personality:  Rowe was known for talking to the baseball, which he often called Edna in honor of Edna Mary Skinner, whom he married after the 1934 World Series. He once described his preparation for pitching: “Just eat a lot of vittles, climb the mound, wrap my fingers around the ball and say to it, ‘Edna, honey, let’s go.’” During a nationally broadcast interview, Rowe famously asked his bride-to-be, “How am I doin’, Edna?” The question, which captured both Rowe’s charm and eccentricity, was as recognizable at the time as his nickname.

SP Vic Sorrell

Victor Garland Sorrell is lesser known than Rowe largely because his best seasons were lean years for the Tigers.  The bespectacled right hander pitched ten seasons in the majors, all with the Tigers.  He had his best seasons between 1930-1933 averaging 4.5 WAR and 116 ERA+.  Unfortunately his arm gave out after that and he was not the same pitcher when the Tigers made their great run starting in 1934.  

SP George Uhle

George Uhle had his best years with the Indians, but performed admirably for the Tigers after age 30.  His top season in Detroit were 1930 (7.3 WAR, 130 ERA+) and 1931 (6.1 WAR, 131 ERA+).  

According to Joseph Wancho of SABR, Uhle once walked Mark Koenig to pitch to the great Babe Ruth in a key spot in the ninth inning.  He then struck the Babe out.        

RP Elden Auker

Auker was a submarine pitcher and an important piece of the exciting Tigers teams of the 1930s.  He averaged 113 ERA+ and 2.5 WAR between 1934-1937.  

Auker attended Kansas Agricultural and Manufacturing College (now Kansas State) with the goal of becoming a medical doctor, but that dream was never realized.  Auker said that  “I went to the Tigers in 1933, and we won the pennant in ’34 and another in ’35,” Elden recalled. “I was making money, and I was tied up in baseball, and the season ran up to the World Series in October. So I didn’t get back to med school, which was probably a good thing. I probably would have lost all my patients!”  (Baseball Almanac Biography)

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