1932, the “Call”and the Philadelphia Story...
The 'depression era' had a grip on the nation in 1932. Attendance to major league games dropped a combined 18% between the leagues, with the American League attendance suffered its lowest full season total since 1915.
Off the field, the nation was spellbound by the tragedy surrounding the Lindbergh baby's kidnapping, and subsequent murder.
Charles Lindbergh Jr., he son of the famous aviator, was abducted from his room during the evening of March 1st. There was a ransom note left behind. Word spread quickly, and dozens of people responded to the Lindbergh home to assist in the search resulting in the destruction of any physical evidence that may have been left behind. Those searches were futile.
Six weeks later, the body of the child was discovered a few miles away, in Mount Rose, New Jersey.
And there was a political storm brewing in Germany, where young upstart Adolf Hitler became a naturalized German citizen, ostensibly to run for President in the future. And his National Socialist party was quickly gaining power.
But let us just look at the baseball world, where the season would end with an impressive four game sweep of the Fall Classic by the Yankees, who bested the Chicago Cubs.
Statistically speaking, the American League was far outpacing the National League, except for pitching. But that stands to reason as the American League was very top heavy with some of the greatest hitters of all time...Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Al Simmons, Earl Averill, just to name a few.
The top three pitching teams for each league were:
And the top three offensive teams for each league were:
So our overall top five teams is listed below. They are all American League teams, and they are actually ranked in order of highest to lowest, but that also, interestingly enough, is how they finished in the standings. So the top five teams were all better than the top National League team, which was the Cubs, who ranked sixth overall. (statistically speaking that is)
That top five:
- YankeesWorld Series ChampsA's2nd in ALSenators3rd in ALIndians4th in ALTigers5th in ALCubsNational League Champions
The World Series that year, between the Yankees and Cubs, as I stated earlier, resulted in a four game sweep by the “Bronx Bombers”. Yankees manager, Joe McCarthy was able to coax 107 wins out of the offensive powerhouse that he led. It was his second season with the Yankees.
McCarthy managed the Cubs from 1926 through 1930, replaced with four games left in the '30 season by Rogers Hornsby. Hornsby managed the Cubs in 1931 and part of the way through 1932, when he was fired and replaced by Charley Grimm.
Hornsby's firing was caused by 'shady' reasons, with the chief complaint being borrowing money from his players in which to 'share in joint ventures', but many believed that to mean 'play the ponies'. In fact, after his dismissal from the Cubs, Commissioner Landis investigated the allegations involving heavy betting on horse racing by the Hornsby's players, but no disciplinary action was taken.
As the World Series unfolded, the Yankees won the first two games in the Bronx fairly easily, winning 12-6 and then 5-2. The Series then moved to the friendly confines of Wrigley Field for the next set of games. Upon their first batting practice in Wrigley, with the Cubs players watching in awe, Lou Gehrig blasted seven ball out of the park, while Babe Ruth blasted nine.
Ruth yelled over to the Cubs, “Hey, I would play for half my salary to be able to hit here all season!”
The bench jockeying between the two teams was pretty ferocious, with the Yankees being on the defensive. The two main sore spots were manager Joe McCarthy, and the not so friendly reception he was getting from his former players and former fans, and the fact that current Cub Mark Koenig, a former Yankee, was only voted a half a share of the post season pot that was divvied up among the players each year.
(For the record, Koenig appeared in just 36 games with the Cubs)
With both teams yelling across the diamond at each other during the third game, Babe Ruth stepped to the plate against Charlie Root. As the Sultan of Swat dug in, so did the bench jockeys. They were getting onto Babe, and he was responding to them with words and gestures himself.
With the score tied 4-4 in the top of the fifth inning, Ruth let a fastball go past for a strike. This brought howls and heckles form not only the dugout, but from the stands as well, as the Cubs faithful began berating the Babe as well.
The Babe stepped out of the box, and made a gesture...the gesture that has been speculated about ever since. He pointed at something, or someone out in the distance. The story has been told millions of times, with millions of different meanings. In one version, Babe was pointing to the mound, but yelling at the scheduled starter for Game Four, saying something to the effect of 'we'll see if you can do any better out there tomorrow', or that he was pointing at Root, challenging him to try to get another fastball past him, or that he was yelling at the Cubs bench as a whole, saying that if they were any good, they'd be on the field now...
Then Babe took a second strike, and the yelling got louder and more intense. Ruth made the same gestures to the Cubs dugout...
Here's what we know happened factually...Babe pointed toward the middle of the field. He stepped back into the batter's box, and swung at Root's next offering, which was a curve ball. Babe hit the ball, sending it to dead center-field (sort of where he was pointing), where the ball reached the deepest part of the Stadium, and traveled an estimated 490 feet.
Film that remains of the game show that Ruth began gesturing to the Cubs dugout as he rounded first base, and that he continued to gesture around the bases. At third base, he began making a 'push' style gesture to the Cubbies bench, which was now remarkably silent.
As he crossed the plate, Ruth could no longer hide the smile on his face, as he was greeted by his teammates for his second homer of the day.
No one really knows if he actually predicted, or called, his home run, and if one asked Babe Ruth about it, the great showman could offer more candid, or creative answers to what really happened.
For Ruth, it was his last hurrah as a member of the Yankees, and his last World Series appearance. He was disappointed in not being offered the Yankees managerial spot before it was offered to McCarthy, and his relationship with McCarthy was strained.
And while Ruth had a very respectable season for him, 41 HR 147 RBI and .341 Average (which would be fantastic for just about any other player in history) his numbers would decline in 1933, and then drastically in 1934 and he would be out of baseball, retiring from the Braves in 1935.
In other things that happened in the baseball world during 1932, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Red Lucas established a record of eleven doubles hit by a pitcher.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean became the second rookie to lead the league in strikeouts. Dodger hurler Dazzy Vance did so in 1922.
Detroit Tiger pitcher Tommy Bridges recorded twenty-six consecutive outs, before agonizingly losing his perfect game (and no-hitter) to Dave Harris of the Washington Senators. It was the second time that a perfect game was broken up by the last batter. The first time was in 1908, and the next time it would happen would be in 1958.
The Brooklyn ball club would officially become the Dodgers. Pitcher Jack Quinn became the oldest pitcher to earn a win, at forty-eight years old.
For the White Sox, Carey Selph struck out, and then went eighty-nine games before he would strike out again. That would be the record until Nellie Fox bettered that in 1958.
On June 9th, the St. Louis Browns traded Dick Coffman to the Washington Senators in exchange for Carl Fischer. On December 13th, the Browns traded Carl Fischer to the Senators for Dick Coffman.
For the Champion Yankees, Lou Gehrig became the first American Leaguer, and the first player in the modern era (1901-) to hit four homers in a game. That game was a 20-13 slug-fest against the Philadelphia A's, in which teammate Tony Lazzeri also hit for the cycle. Lazzeri's cycle was actually completed in order (single, double, triple and then home run), marking just the second time an American Leaguer was able to accomplish that feat.
The Yankees unveiled a plaque to former manager Miller Huggins, the first in what would become 'Monument Park'. The former Yankee skipper died suddenly in late September, 1929. So respected was he that the American League canceled all games scheduled on the day following his passing, and a moment of silence was held in his honor prior to Game Three of the 1929 World Series, between the A's and the Cubs.
Cleveland's Johnny Burnett recorded nine hits in a game against the Philadelphia A's. In a quirk of happenstance, Connie Mack had only two pitchers available for the game against the Indians, and the starting pitcher was injured early, so Eddie Rommel came in to finish the game. Rommel proceeded to give up 29 hits, but was still able to manage a victory in sixteen innings.
Burnett's record still stands.
Red Sox first baseman Dale Alexander, who came over from the Tigers in an early season trade, became the first American League hitter to lead the league in batting for a last place team.
How bad were the Sox?
At one point in the season, with a record of 27-85, they went up against the powerhouse Philadelphia Athletics. Pitcher Johnny Welch proceeded to shut out the A's. It was the only time all season that Philadelphia was shut out.
The Sox went on to lose 111 games by the season's end, 64 games behind the first place Yankees.
But Philadelphia was the place to be to see hitting of epic proportions. Even if neither team made the post season.
First, the Athletics.
Catcher Mickey Cochrane (after whom Mickey Mantle was named) became the first catcher to record 100 runs and 100 runs batted in for a season. His 118 runs scored is still the record by a catcher.
Outfielder Doc Cramer recorded six hits in a game, as did Jimmie Foxx. The first time that teammates accomplished this feat in the same season.
Most Valuable Player Jimmie Foxx (who was the inspiration for the Jimmy Dugan character, played by Tom Hanks, in the great film “A League of Their Own”, although his players remembered Foxx as being a true gentleman during his time in the AAGPBL)
Twenty-four year old “Double X” amassed 438 total bases, the third highest total ever, and the highest by a non-Yankee player.
1932 was the first of his back-to-back MVP seasons, becoming the first to accomplish that feat.
He was the first player (not named Babe Ruth) to hit 100+ homers in two consecutive seasons.
He was the first (again, not named Babe Ruth) with 50 homers and a .350 average in a season in the American League.
He had the most hits (213) by any player hitting 50 or more homers. (Only Alex Rodriguez had 200 hits)
In fact, only four players have managed to hit 45 or more homers, 140 or more RBI and hit .350 or better in a single season. From 1932 through 1935, Jimmie Foxx averaged those numbers.
And for the Phillies, it started and ended with Chuck Klein. This is what he did in 1932:
Klein amasses 420 total bases, the third time that he eclipsed the 400 plateau. Only Lou Gehrig did it more. (Five times for Larrupin' Lou)
He was the last National Leaguer to lead the league in both total bases and stolen bases.
He remains the only player with 50 doubles, 10 triples, 30 homers and 20 stolen bases in a season.
He was the first with 2 30home run/50 stolen base seasons until 2000, when Todd Helton did it, and then Albert Pujols .
Klein was also involved in a bizarre play against Brooklyn, where he was trying to score from first base on a double. Taking the relay throw from the outfield, Dodger first baseman George “High Pockets” Kelly turned and threw to the plate just as Klein was sliding in. The ball struck Klein in the head (remember, this was before helmets) and ricocheted approximately 55 feet into the sixth row of the grandstand.
To the shock of the crowd, Klein wasn't hurt. He didn't even rub his head. He flashed a grin and trotted into the dugout. He went on to homer and hit two more singles in the game to boot.
Often overlooked, Klein was the fastest to reach 1,000 career hits, doing so in just 683 games. And (at the time) he was the fasted to 100 homers, doing so in 390 games.
Foxx and Klein are both enshrined in Cooperstown.
The election for Foxx was particularly challenging, as it took eight ballots before he was selected in 1951. Foxx seemed to always be in the shadow of Ruth. His fifty-eight homers...second to Ruth. His 534 homers by a native of Maryland...second to Ruth. His jersey number with the A's? Number 3.
Klein had a tougher road to immortality, failing to be voted in by the BBWAA on fourteen ballots, he was selected by the Veteran's Committee in 1980. Playing in the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia seemed to have had an impact on Klein's performance, as seen by the voters. The right field wall was 280 feet from home plate, and the power alley was just 300 feet. But there was a sixty foot wall that made the fence.
During his time with the Phillies, he hit .420 at home, but under .300 on the road.
He was traded to the Cubs in 1934, and continued his assault on National League pitching, until he tore his calf muscle running the bases, and wasn't the same hitter for a couple of years, but like Foxx, he was a dominant force in the City of Brotherly Love for a few years.
But now, down to brass tacks...the season in review.
I will start with the pitching, which didn't fare well against the mighty offensive teams of the era. The National League pitchers held a 15.7% statistical advantage over the American League pitchers, and where hitters averaged a whopping 25.3% advantage over the pitchers overall.
The initial top ten National League pitching rankings are:
- PitcherTeamW-LERALon WarnekeCubs22-62.37Carl HubbellGiants18-112.50Steve SwetonicPirates11-62.82Huck BettsBraves13-112.80Bill HallahanCardinals12-73.11Red LucasReds13-172.94Watty ClarkDodgers20-123.49Guy BushCubs19-113.21Larry FrenchPirates18-163.02Flint RhemPhillies/Cardinals15-93.58
And then against their team's performances, we get this list:
- Carl HubbellAboveRed LucasAboveLon WarnekeAboveBill HallahanAboveFlint RhemAboveWatty ClarkAboveHuck BettsAboveSteve SwetonicAboveDizzy DeanCardinals18-153.30Si JohnsonReds13-153.27
Which brings our final rankings to:
- Lon Warneke2nd in MVP voteCarl HubbellNo MVP voteSteve SwetonicNo MVP voteRed LucasNo MVP voteBill HallahanNo MVP voteHuck BettsNo MVP voteWatty ClarkNo MVP voteFlint RhemNo MVP voteLarry FrenchNo MVP voteGuy Bush23rd in MVP vote
Now to the American League pitchers, which initial rankings list features more Hall of Famers than the National League, but who fared worse against the AL hitters in 1932, 43.7% weaker than the offense of the league, to be exact.
- Lefty GroveA's25-102.84Red RuffingYankees18-73.09General CrowderSenators26-133.33Wes FerrellIndians23-133.66Johnny AllenYankees17-43.70Lefty GomezYankees24-74.21Tommy BridgesTigers14-123.36Monte WeaverSenators22-104.08Ted LyonsWhite Sox10/15/173.28George PipgrasYankees16-94.19
And then against their teams, we get this list:
- Ted LyonsAboveIvy AndrewsRed Sox/Yankees10/07/173.52Lefty GroveAboveEd DurhamRed Sox6-133.80Sad Sam JonesWhite Sox10/15/174.22Milt GastonWhite Sox7-174.00Wes FerrellAboveTommy BridgesAboveLefty StewartBrowns15-194.61General CrowderAbove
Which brings the final American League pitching list to:
- Lefty Grove14th in MVP vote (tied)Red RuffingNo MVP voteWes Ferrell19th in MVP vote (tied)General Crowder27th in MVP vote (tied)Ted Lyons19th in MVP vote (tied)Ivy AndrewsNo MVP voteJohnny Allen14th in MVP vote (tied)Lefty Gomez5th in MVP voteTommy BridgesNo MVP voteMonte Weaver18th in MVP vote
I am honestly not sure why there was so much love given to the American League pitchers when it came to post-season recognition, unless there was an overwhelming fell of sympathy for them. The league's ERA as a whole was 4.48, and the AL hitters averaged scoring 100 more runs per team than the National League did.
That being said, here is the initial National league offense listing, where they fared 9.4% better than the pitchers, and including Runs Created per Game (RCG):
- PlayerTeamHRRBIAVGRCGChuck KleinPhillies38137.3481.63Don HurstPhillies24143.3391.52Mel OttGiants38123.3181.32Bill TerryGiants28117.3501.38Lefty O'DoulDodgers2190.3681.28Hack WilsonDodgers23123.2971.31Pinky WhitneyPhillies13124.2981.32Paul WanerPirates882.3411.18Dan TaylorCubs/Dodgers1151.3191.15Babe HermanReds1687.3261.07
And then compared to their teams averages, we get this list:
- Babe HermanAboveChuck KleinAboveMel OttAboveBill TerryAboveErnie LombardiReds1168.3030.85Left O'DoulAboveDon HurstAboveHack WilsonAboveRed WorthingtonBraves861.3031.10Harvey HendrickReds/Cardinals545.2940.85
A note here before the final tally. Remember that this was during the depression, but even so, Lefty O'Doul of the Dodgers after winning the batting title in 1932, would have to take a $1,000 pay cut (from $9,000 to $8,000) for the 1933 season.
Financial constraints would force the Dodgers to trade him to the Giants mid-way through the 1933 season.
Anyway, here is the top ten National League ranking for offensive players, with their MVP vote results:
- Chuck KleinNL MVPDon Hurst7th in MVPMel Ott10th in MVPBill Terry6th in MVPLefty O'Doul3rd in MVPHack Wilson13th in MVPBabe Herman12th in MVPPaul Waner4th in MVPPinky WhitneyNo votesDan TaylorNo votes
And over to the hitter heavy American League results, with the initial list as follows:
- Jimmie FoxxA's58169.3641.70Babe RuthYankees41137.3411.62Lou GehrigYankees34151.3491.63Mickey CochraneA's23112.2931.49Al SimmonsA's35151.3221.69Heinie ManushSenators14116.3421.50Joe CroninSenators6116.3181.43Earl AverillIndians32124.3141.36Bill DickeyYankees1584.3101.25Earle CombsYankees965.3211.38
Note, if you would, that the three A's players on the above list were responsible for 4.88 runs created per game, and the four Yankees were responsible for 5.88 runs per game. This shows the run away offenses that permeated the American League, which was also detrimental to the pitching stats, in baseball's yin/yang.
That being said, here's how the top performers against their team averages were ranked:
- Dale AlexanderTigers/Red Sox860.3670.89Roy JohnsonRed Sox/Tigers1469.2911.10Smead JolleyRed Sox/White Sox18106.3120.99Jimmie FoxxAboveBabe RuthAboveHeinie ManushAboveMickey CochraneAboveLou GehrigAboveRick FerrellBrowns265.3151.03John StoneTigers17109.2971.37
And our top overall ranking of American League hitters, with their MVP results, is as follows:
- Jimmie FoxxAL MVPBabe Ruth6th in MVP (tied)Lou Gehrig2nd in MVPMickey CochraneNo votesAl Simmons9th in MVP (tied)Heinie Manush3rd in MVPJoe Cronin6th in MVP (tied)Earl Averill4th in MVPDale Alexander11th in MVP (tied)John StoneNo votes
The post season voters were correct in their choices of the two Philadelphians, Foxx and Klein. In looking at how I ranked the players, if there were to be just one award issued for both leagues, it would have gone to Foxx.
Just as an FYI, my top five combined rankings for 1932, should there have only been one award given, would have been:
There was also no individual pitching awards handed out at this time, so I will use my artistic license.
My post season awards would go to:
National League Player of the Year
National League Pitcher of the Year
American League Player of the Year
American League Pitcher of the Year