1937 Detroit Tigers season

1937 Detroit Tigers
Major League affiliations
Other information
Owner(s) Walter Briggs, Sr.
General manager(s) Mickey Cochrane
Manager(s) Mickey Cochrane, Del Baker, Cy Perkins
Local radio WWJ (AM)
(Ty Tyson)
(Harry Heilmann)
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The 1937 Detroit Tigers finished in second place in the American League with a record of 89–65. The team finished 13 games behind the New York Yankees. Their winning percentage of .578 ranks as the 15th best season in Detroit Tigers history.

Regular season

The strength of the 1937 Tigers was hitting. The Tigers had scored 900 or more runs each season from 1934 to 1937. The 1937 total of 935 runs is the second highest in franchise history, trailing only the 1934 Tigers team that scored 958 runs. The 1937 Tigers led the major leagues with a .292 batting average—nine points higher than the Yankees. The 1937 Tigers also had power, belting twice as many home runs (150 to 74) as the 1934 team.

Second baseman Charlie Gehringer won both the American League batting title and the AL Most Valuable Player Award. First baseman Hank Greenberg led the major leagues with 183 RBIs—still the third highest single season total in major league history. Rookie catcher Rudy York did not make it into the starting lineup until early August and promptly broke the AL record with 18 home runs in the month. York finished as the AL leader in at bats per home run (10.7) and with the third highest slugging percentage (.651) in the major leagues.

While the team had the bats, it lacked the pitching to compete with the Yankees. In contrast to its league-best batting average, the Tigers pitching staff had an ERA of 4.87—ranking seventh among the eight American League teams. Elden Auker (17–9; 3.88) was the only pitcher on the staff with an ERA below 4.00. Former ace Schoolboy Rowe was suspended at the beginning of the year for poor conditioning, pitched only 31-1/3 innings for the year, and compiled a staggering 7.59 ERA.

The team continued to have strong support from Detroit fans, finishing the 1937 season with a team record 1,072,276 fans attending the team's home games at Briggs Stadium. The only American League team to draw more fans up to that time was the 1930 Yankees' team that drew 1,169,230.

The Players

Catcher: Mickey Cochrane and Rudy York

The 1937 season began with Mickey Cochrane as the team's player/manager. However, Cochrane's playing career came to a sudden end on May 25, 1937. After hitting a home run in the third inning, Cochrane was hit in the head by a pitch from Yankees pitcher Bump Hadley when he next came to bat. Hospitalized for seven days, the injury nearly killed him. Ordered by doctors not to play baseball again (he was just 34 years old), Cochrane returned to the dugout but never played again.

Backup catcher Ray Hayworth had his arm broken by a pitched ball shortly after Cochrane's injury, and Birdie Tebbetts took over the catching duties for most of June and July.

At the beginning of August, rookie Rudy York took over as the team's catcher and set the league on fire with his home run hitting. In August 1937, his first full month in the major leagues, York broke Babe Ruth's major league record for most home runs in a single month, slugging 18 home runs (and 44 RBIs). For the year, York hit .307 with a .651 slugging percentage, 35 home runs, and 103 RBIs. Defensively, York was a liability at catcher, leading the AL in passed balls in 1937 despite playing only two months. In 1940, the Tigers persuaded Hank Greenberg to move to left field, allowing York to take over at first base. York was among the American League leaders in home runs for 11 consecutive seasons from 1937 to 1947, and his .503 slugging percentage as a Tiger ranks #4 in franchise history.

Infield: Greenberg, Gehringer, Rogell, and Owen

The Detroit infield remained intact for five years from 1933 through 1937: Hank Greenberg at first, Charlie Gehringer at second, Billy Rogell at shortstop, and Marv Owen at third. They were a solid group both at the bat and defensively. In 1937, Greenberg led the AL in putouts with 1477, and Gehringer, Rogell, and Owen all led the league in fielding percentage at their position.

Hank Greenberg, Hall of Famer and 2-time MVP

"Hammerin' Hank" Greenberg led the major leagues with 183 RBIs in 1937—a total that still ranks as the third highest in major league history. Greenberg also led the major leagues with 103 extra base hits and 172 runs created, and was second in the major leagues with 40 home runs, a .668 slugging percentage, 102 walks, 397 total bases, and 305 times on base. He also hit for average, with a .337 batting average and .375 on-base percentage. Greenberg had already won the AL MVP award in 1935 and finished third in the 1937 voting behind Gehringer and Joe DiMaggio.

Charlie Gehringer had the best season of his career winning the American League batting title (.371) and the American League Most Valuable Player award. Gehringer also lead AL second basemen in fielding percentage and was among the major league leaders with a .473 on-base percentage (2nd in MLB), 300 times on base (3rd in MLB), 135 runs created (3rd in MLB), 133 runs (4th in MLB), and 209 hits (5th in the AL). Known for his consistency as a hitter and fielder, Gehringer was given the nickname "The Mechanical Man" by Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez.[1] Mickey Cochrane joked that "Charlie says `hello' on Opening Day, `goodbye' on closing day, and in between hits .350."

Shortstop Billy Rogell led all AL shortstops in fielding percentage each year from 1935 to 1937, and in 1937 he hit .276 and scored 85 runs. Rogell and Gehringer played over 1,000 games together as the Tigers' double play combination. Rogell's fiery demeanor was a stark contrast to the calm, quiet demeanor of Gehringer. After retiring from baseball, Rogell served on the Detroit City Council from 1942 to 1980 . He was chairman of the city planning committee that built Detroit Metropolitan Airport, and the road entering the airport from the north, Merriman Road, changes its name to William G. Rogell Drive as it enters the airport.

Marv Owen hit .288 with 22 doubles and 45 RBIs. Owen is remembered for his role in the 1934 and 1935 World Series. In Game 7 of the 1934 Series, Joe Medwick tripled in the 6th inning with the Cardinals ahead by 7 runs. He slid hard into Owen at third, knocking Owen down. The two fought, and Detroit fans pelted Medwick with fruit and garbage when he returned to left field. As the fan reaction escalated, Commissioner Landis ordered Medwick removed from the game. Owen also owns one record that still stands: 31 consecutive World Series plate appearances without a hit.

Outfield: Fox, White and Walker

In the outfield, the Tigers had Gee Walker, Pete Fox, and Jo-Jo White.

Right fielder Pete Fox was a mainstay in the Detroit outfield for eight seasons (1933–1940). He played on three AL pennant champion teams, and he was the Tigers' leading hitter in the 1935 World Series. Though a native of Indiana, Detroit became his adopted home, and he died there in 1966. In 1937, Fox hit .331 and was among the league leaders with 149 singles (3rd), 208 hits (6th), 116 runs scored (8th), and 12 stolen bases (10th).

Gee Walker played in the Tigers' outfield from 1931 to 1937. Known as "The Madman from Mississippi", Walker was a fiery competitor and a clown. In 1937, he played 151 games in the outfield, including 88 games in left, 54 in right, and 11 in center. Walker began the season on fire. On Opening Day, he hit for the cycle—the only player to accomplish that feat on Opening Day. Walker hit the cycle in reverse order—starting with a home run, followed by triple, then a double, and a single.[2] Walker continued his hot hitting in the spring of 1937 with a 27-game hit streak in April and May 1937. Walker's fast start earned him a spot on the AL All-Star team. He finished among the AL leaders with 213 hits (3rd), 23 stolen bases (3rd), 149 singles (3rd), 42 doubles (6th), 113 RBIs (9th), and a .335 average (8th). His Power/Speed Number in 1937 was 20.2—tops in both leagues. Despite Walker's strong performance in 1937, the Tigers (reportedly unhappy with Walker's antics) traded him and Marv Owen to the Red Sox on December 2, 1937. The trade caused an uproar among Detroit fans, and owner Walter Briggs was forced to issue an announcement from his Miami home that "the deal was made with my approval."

Center fielder Jo-Jo White played in the Tigers' outfield from 1932 to 1938. He hit .313 in 1934, but his average fell off after that year. In 1937, Jo-Jo hit .246 and played only 94 games. White's real first name was Joyner, but he was called "Jo-Jo" because of the way he pronounced his native state of Georgia.

Rookie Chet Laabs also played 62 games in the outfield for the 1937 Tigers. Labs hit .240 with a .434 slugging percentage. In 1938, Laabs struck out five times in one game against Bob Feller, helping Feller set the all-time record with 18 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. Laabs later hit 27 home runs with 99 RBIs for the 1943 St. Louis Browns.

Hall of Famer Goose Goslin also played in 39 games, but his batting average fell to .238 with 43 hits and 35 RBIs. The Tigers released Goslin on October 3, 1937, and Goslin later recounted (in "The Glory of Their Times") that he received a call from his old boss, Clark Griffith, asking him if he'd be interested in ending his career back where it began in Washington. Goslin jumped at the opportunity and batted .158 in 38 games for the Senators in the 1938 season. The Senators played in only three World Series in their history (1924, 1925, and 1933), and Goslin played for the Senators in every game of those Series.

Pitching: Auker, Bridges, Lawson, Wade, Gill and Poffenberger

Elden Auker was the team's best pitcher in 1937. An underhand pitcher out of Kansas A&M, Auker had a record of 17–9 with 19 complete games and an ERA of 3.88 (Adjusted ERA+ of 120). During the 1935 World Series, Auker was interviewed by a young Cubs broadcaster, Ronald Reagan. When they met after Reagan had been elected Governor of California, Reagan told him, "You probably won't remember me, but I'll remember you as long as I live." The 1935 radio interview, Reagan said, "was my first big break."[3]

After three consecutive 20+ win seasons, Tommy Bridges dropped to a 15–12 season with a 4.07 ERA. He continued, however, to be among the league leaders with 138 strikeouts (5th in the AL). Bridges played in four World Series and six All-Star Games with the Tigers. One of the hardest throwers of the 1930s, Bridges was among the AL leaders in strikeouts 12 times and led the league in strikeouts in 1935 and 1936.

Roxie Lawson had his best season was 1937, with a record of 18–7, despite a 5.26 ERA in 217-1/3 innings. His 18 wins was 3rd best in the AL, and his winning percentage of .720 was 6th best. Lawson also threw 15 complete games (10th best in the AL) and had a .259 batting average with six RBIs. His performance garnered him enough votes to finish 19th in the 1937 AL MVP voting.

Rookie Boots Poffenberger was called up to the Tigers mid-season and went 10–5. His won-loss percentage of .667 in 1937 was seventh best in the AL. Boots was only 21 years old when he debuted with the Tigers, and his career spun out of control within two years. Stories about Poffenberger's late night drinking and poor training practices caused him to fall out of favor with the team. After a night of heavy drinking while on the road in 1937, Poffenberger called room service and said, "I'll have the breakfast of champions." When asked if he wanted cereal, Poffenberge replied, "Hell, no. Two fried eggs and a bottle of beer." ’ [4][5]

George Gill made his debut with the Tigers at age 28 on May 4, 1937. On May 30, 1937, led by fellow Mississippian Gee Walker‚ the Tigers collected 20 hits in an 18–3 victory for Gill. In his rookie season, Gill went 11–4 in 31 games (10 as a starter). His 1937 record ranked 5th in the AL in winning percentage (.733). He was also 7th in the league in games finished with 18.

Pitcher "Whistling Jake" Wade also had his most productive season in 1937, posting career highs in wins (7), starts (25), complete games (7), strikeouts (69) and innings pitched (165-1/3). Wade pitched a one-hit shutout in the last game of the 1937 regular season, preventing Cleveland pitcher Johnny Allen from tying the AL record of 16 straight wins. However, Wade struggled with control and was among the AL leaders in 1937 with 107 walks allowed (7th) and five wild pitches (8th). Wade was nicknamed "Whistling Jake" not for his fastball but because of his tendency to whistle whenever he was nervous.[6]

Season standings

American League W L Pct. GB
New York Yankees 102 52 .662 --
Detroit Tigers 89 65 .578 13
Chicago White Sox 86 68 .558 16
Cleveland Indians 83 71 .539 19
Boston Red Sox 80 72 .526 21
Washington Senators 73 80 .477 28½
Philadelphia Athletics 54 97 .358 46½
St. Louis Browns 46 108 .299 56

Record vs. opponents

1937 American League Records


Boston 10–12 11–11 12–10–1 7–15 17–3 15–7 8–14–1
Chicago 12–10 10–12 8–14 9–13 15–7 18–4 14–8
Cleveland 11–11 12–10 11–11 7–15–1 13–9 18–4–1 11–11
Detroit 10–12–1 14–8 11–11 9–13 14–8 15–7 16–6
New York 15–7 13–9 15–7–1 13–9 14–8 16–6–1 16–6–1
Philadelphia 3–17 7–15 9–13 8–14 8–14 11–11 8–13–3
St. Louis 7–15 4–18 4–18–1 7–15 6–16–1 11–11 7–15
Washington 14–8–1 8–14 11–11 6–16 6–16–1 13–8–3 15–7

Season chronology


1937 Detroit Tigers
Pitchers Catchers


Outfielders Manager


Player stats


Starters by position

Note: Pos = Position; G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Pos Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
C York, RudyRudy York 104 375 115 .307 35 103
1B Greenberg, HankHank Greenberg 154 594 200 .337 40 183
2B Gehringer, CharlieCharlie Gehringer 144 564 209 .371 14 96
3B Owen, MarvMarv Owen 107 396 114 .288 1 45
SS Rogell, BillyBilly Rogell 146 536 148 .276 8 64
OF Walker, GeeGee Walker 151 635 213 .335 18 113
OF Fox, PetePete Fox 148 628 208 .331 12 82
OF White, Jo-JoJo-Jo White 94 305 75 .246 0 21

Other batters

Note: G = Games played; AB = At bats; H = Hits; Avg. = Batting average; HR = Home runs; RBI = Runs batted in

Player G AB H Avg. HR RBI
Laabs, ChetChet Laabs 72 242 58 .240 8 37
Goslin, GooseGoose Goslin 79 181 43 .238 4 35
Tebbetts, BirdieBirdie Tebbetts 50 162 31 .191 2 16
Cochrane, MickeyMickey Cochrane 27 98 30 .306 2 12
Hayworth, RayRay Hayworth 30 78 21 .269 1 8
Herman, BabeBabe Herman 17 20 6 .300 0 3

Note: pitchers' batting statistics not included


Starting pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Auker, EldenElden Auker 39 252.2 17 9 3.88 73
Bridges, TommyTommy Bridges 34 245.1 15 12 4.07 138
Lawson, RoxieRoxie Lawson 37 217.1 18 7 5.26 68
Wade, JakeJake Wade 33 165.1 7 10 5.39 69

Other pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; IP = Innings pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Player G IP W L ERA SO
Poffenberger, BootsBoots Poffenberger 29 137.1 10 5 4.65 35
Gill, GeorgeGeorge Gill 31 127.2 11 4 4.51 40
Coffman, SlickSlick Coffman 28 101 7 5 4.37 22
McLaughlin, PatPat McLaughlin 10 32.2 0 2 6.34 8
Rowe, SchoolboySchoolboy Rowe 10 31.1 1 4 8.62 6
Sorrell, VicVic Sorrell 7 17 0 2 9.00 11

Relief pitchers

Note: G = Games pitched; W = Wins; L = Losses; SV = Saves; GF = Games finished; ERA = Earned run average; SO = Strikeouts

Russell, JackJack Russell 25 2 5 4 16 7.59 10
Hatter, ClydeClyde Hatter 3 1 0 0 0 11.57 4
Logan, BobBob Logan 1 0 0 0 0 0.00 0

Awards and honors

1937 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

Major league records

Rudy York

League top ten finishers

Elden Auker

Tommy Bridges

Pete Fox

Charlie Gehringer

George Gill: #5 in AL in win percentage (.733)

Hank Greenberg

Roxie Lawson

Marv Owen: AL leader in fielding percentage by a third baseman (.970)

Billy Rogell: AL leader in fielding percentage by a shortstop (.967)

"Whistling Jake" Wade: #8 in MLB in bases on balls allowed (107)

Gee Walker

Rudy York

Players ranking among top 100 all time at position

The following members of the 1937 Detroit Tigers are among the Top 100 of all time at their position, as ranked by The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract in 2001:

Farm system

Level Team League Manager
A1 Beaumont Exporters Texas League Al Vincent
A Sioux City Cowboys Western League Dutch Lorbeer and Pete Monahan
C Marshall Tigers East Texas League Bama Jones and Jimmy Dalrymple
C Charleston Senators Middle Atlantic League Ig Walters
D Lake Charles Skippers Evangeline League Joe Bratcher
D Beckley Bengals Mountain State League Eli Harris
D Tiffin Mud Hens Ohio State League Emilio Palmero and Charlie Eckert



  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 16, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-24.
  2. SI.com – Statitudes – Statitudes: Opening Day 2002, By the Numbers – Sunday March 30, 2003 01:50 AM
  3. Floyd Conner, "Baseball's Most Wanted II (Brassey's 2003), p. 64.
  4. Mark Pattison and David Raglin, Detroit Tigers Lists and More: Runs, Hits and Eras (Wayne St. Univ. Press 2002), p. 218.
  5. Al Simmons page at Baseball Reference
  6. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/birkora01.shtml
  7. Richard Bak, "Cobb Would Have Caught It: The Golden Age of Baseball in Detroit", p. 239.
  8. Johnson, Lloyd, and Wolff, Miles, ed., The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball, 3rd edition. Durham, North Carolina: Baseball America, 2007

External links

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