P-Bob Feller, CLE, 2nd MVP
P-Bobo Newsom, DET
P-Johnny Rigney, CHW
P-Schoolboy Rowe, DET
P-Elden Auker, SLB
P-Dutch Leonard, WSH
P-Tommy Bridges, DET
P-Ken Chase, WSH
P-Thornton Lee, CHW
P-Johnny Babich, PHA
C-Frankie Hayes, PHA
C-Billy Sullivan, DET
1B-Rudy York, DET
1B-Jimmie Foxx, BOS
1B-Hal Trosky, CLE
2B-Joe Gordon, NYY
2B-Charlie Gehringer, DET
3B-Harlond Clift, SLB
SS-Lou Boudreau, CLE
SS-Luke Appling, CHW
LF-Hank Greenberg, DET
LF-Ted Williams, BOS
CF-Joe DiMaggio, NYY
CF-Barney McCosky, DET
RF-Charlie Keller, NYY
27-11, 2.61 ERA, 261 K, 163 ERA+, 2.89 FIP, 1.133 WHIP
.157, 2 HR, 12 RBI, .157/.211/.270, 25 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (2 IP, 1 R, 3 K)
MVP Rank: 2
WAR Rank: 1
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1962)
Ron’s: No (Would require two more All-Star seasons. Sure thing)
89-65, 2nd in AL
Manager Ossie Vitt
Ballpark: League Park II and Cleveland Stadium (Pitcher’s)
OPS+-90, 4th in league
ERA+-118, 2nd in league
WAR Leader-Bob Feller, 9.8
1940 Major League Player of the Year
1940 AL Pitching Triple Crown
1940 AL Pitching Title
Wins Above Replacement-9.8 (2nd Time)
WAR for Pitchers-9.9 (2nd Time)
Earned Run Average-2.61
Wins-27 (2nd Time)
Walks & Hits per IP-1.133
Hits per 9 IP-6.884 (3rd Time)
Strikeouts per 9 IP-7.333 (3rd Time)
Innings Pitched-320 1/3 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts-261 (3rd Time)
Complete Games-31 (2nd Time)
Strikeouts/Base On Balls-2.212
Home Runs per 9 IP-0.365
Fielding Independent Pitching-2.89
Adj. Pitching Runs-63 (2nd Time)
Adj. Pitching Wins-6.4 (2nd Time)
Base-Out Runs Saved-72.49 (2nd Time)
Win Probability Added-8.8
Sit. Wins Saved-6.8 (2nd Time)
Base-Out Wins Saved-7.6 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as P-43
3rd Time All-Star-As I’m writing this, we’re living in the era of Covid. (As a matter of fact, I am in quarantine after testing positive.) The 2020 season was a mini-season and there were complaints that players lost some valuable time by not being able to play a complete 162 games. Yet starting in a couple years, great players like Rapid Robert Feller are going to lose many years due to something much worse than the Coronavirus, World War II.
It had to be especially painful for Feller, who put together two of the best pitching seasons ever back-to-back in 1939 and this season. Look at those stats in which he led above. I almost got carpal tunnel typing all of those!
Yet the writers didn’t give Feller the MVP either season. Last year, they gave it to Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio, who played only 120 games, and this year, they gave the award to Hammerin’ Hank Greenberg, who undoubtedly had a great season, but in my eyes, it wasn’t even close to Feller.
The Baseball Hall of Fame page has a story about Feller’s opening day no-hitter, stating,
“On April 16, 1940, Bob Feller threw the first Opening Day no-hitter in history.
“In front of an announced crowd of 14,000 fans in Chicago on Opening Day, Feller walked five but struck out eight. The Indians’ lone run came on a fourth-inning triple by catcher Rollie Hemsley that scored Jeff Heath, but Feller retired 15 in a row between the fourth and eighth innings to make the run stand up.
“’I knew I had a chance for a no-hitter,’ Feller said. ‘But I tried to put it out of my mind by reminding myself you never have a no-hitter until the last man is out.’”
21-5, 2.83 ERA, 164 K, 168 ERA+, 3.70 FIP, 1.269 WHIP
.215, 0 HR, 16 RBI, .215/.222/.262, 21 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (3 IP, 0 R, 1 K)
MVP Rank: 4
WAR Rank: 3
Ron’s: No (Would require three more All-Star seasons. 67 percent chance)
90-64, 1st in AL, Lost WS 4-3 to Cincinnati Reds
Manager Del Baker
Ballpark: Briggs Stadium (Hitter’s)
OPS+-101, 2nd in league
ERA+-118, 3rd in league
WAR Leader-Bobo Newsom, 7.3
4th Time All-Star-Detroit is the answer to a trivia question as the only American League squad except the Yankees to win an American League crown between 1936 and 1942. They put together a solid squad this year led by the itinerant Newsom, who actually managed to play a whole season on one team. He was probably Detroit’s best player, despite Hank Greenberg winning the Most Valuable Player.
In his first World Series, Newsom shined, going 2-1 with a 1.38 ERA, completing all three games. Unfortunately, the Tigers had to occasionally rest Newsom and the lost the Series to the Reds, 4-3.
SABR has an excellent article one of Newsom’s World Series wins, dedicated to his father. Here’s just a snippet:
“Newsom had a well-established persona; he was frequently called ‘Loud Louie,’ and was a pop-off who could be abrasive and prone to brag and make bold, self-serving predictions. But not after pitching perhaps his greatest game. He had given it his all in honor of a father he loved who had so recently died. Entering the Tigers clubhouse, he quickly retreated to the trainer’s room seeking to pour out his emotions and escape the presence of reporters as tears streamed down his cheeks.
“Newsom’s teammates and the writers respected his need to be alone,but after awhile Bobo moved to his locker and spoke in a solemn manner. ‘Naturally, I don’t feel as good as I might. It was the hardest game I ever pitched and I wanted to win more than I ever did before.’ After a player said his dad would have been very proud of him, Newsom responded — ‘I’d give my World Series check for him to have seen it.’”
14-18, 3.11 ERA, 141 K, 143 ERA+, 3.83 FIP, 1.176 WHIP
.215, 0 HR, 7 RBI, .215/.240/.258, 28 OPS+
WAR Rank: 5
Ron’s: No (Would require 12 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Chicago White Sox
82-72, 4th in AL
Manager Jimmy Dykes
Ballpark: Comiskey Park I (Hitter’s)
OPS+-87, 8th in league
ERA+-119, 1st in league
WAR Leader-Jimmy Rigney, 6.7
Fielding % as P-1.000
3rd Time All-Star-This is one of those very good seasons not indicated by the regular stats. It was actually Rigney’s best season ever, but he had no run support and it hurt his won-loss record and was also the reason he received no MVP votes.
Wikipedia wraps up this season, his career, and his life, saying,
“In 1940, he recorded 14 wins with a career-high 3.11 ERA, pitching an 11-inning, 1–0 shutout against the visitors New York Yankees (June 20). It was the first time since 1919 that the Yankees had been shut out in extra innings by one pitcher. After that, he won 13 games in 1941 and was 3–3 before joining the United States Navy in May 1942. After being discharged in 1945, he returned to Chicago, but his playing time was limited by arm injuries. He retired after the 1947 season.
“In an eight-season career, Rigney posted a 63–64 record with 605 strikeouts and a 3.59 ERA in 197 appearances, including 132 starts, 66 complete games, 10 shutouts, five saves, and 1186 1⁄3 innings of work.
“Rigney died in Wheaton, Illinois, seven days shy of his 70th birthday.”
According to the numbers I have above, the White Sox are the worst hitting team and they do only have one position player on this list, Luke Appling. Meanwhile, they’re the best pitching team and they have Rigney and Thornton Lee representing. Chicago, in its history, always has good pitching and weak hitting, usually because of the stadium in which it played. It should be noted at this time in its history, Comiskey Park actually helps hitters more than pitchers.
16-3, 3.46 ERA, 61 K, 137 ERA+, 4.05 FIP, 1.260 WHIP
.269, 1 HR, 18 RBI, .269/.319/.433, 86 OPS+
MVP Rank: 7
WAR Rank: 10
Ron’s: No (Would require five more All-Star seasons. 40 percent chance)
Fielding % as P-1.000 (2nd Time)
3rd Time All-Star-After making my list in 1936, Rowe fell apart. He only pitched a total of 52 1/3 innings in 1937 and 1938 and he pitched most of those years in the minors. In 1939, he pitched 164 innings, but had a 4.99 ERA and a 97 ERA+. It certainly didn’t look like Schoolboy would ever be one of the American League’s great pitchers again. Oh, but what a comeback he had this year! He helped Detroit to the World Series, but unfortunately got roughed up by the Reds in his two starts. He only pitched a total of three-and-two-thirds innings and gave up seven runs as he lost both games. The Reds won the Series, 4-3.
SABR wraps up his remarkable season, stating,
“[T]he 30-year-old Rowe was sidelined for four weeks after just his second start of the 1940 season. But Rowe made a ‘courageous comeback’ and posted a remarkable 16-3 record (and league-best .842 winning percentage) for a team few expected to contend for the pennant. Rowe won eight of nine decisions in the last two months of the season when the team needed him most, as the Tigers overcame a four-game deficit on September 3 to win take the pennant by one game over the Cleveland Indians. ‘Six months ago,’ wrote H.G. Salsinger, ‘there were probably only two men in baseball who believed Lynwood Thomas Rowe would stage a thorough comeback. One was Rowe; the other was [manager Del] Baker.’ Rowe’s success in the regular season did not carry over to the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds. He was shelled in both of his starts. He yielded five runs and eight hits in 3⅓ innings in Game Two and was tagged for two runs and four hits in just a third of an inning in Game Six. The overwhelmingly underdog Tigers lost a heartbreaking Game Seven, 2-1.”
16-11, 3.96 ERA, 78 K, 116 ERA+, 4.21 FIP, 1.498 WHIP
MVP Rank: 29
Ron’s: No (Would require 18 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
St. Louis Browns
67-87, 6th in AL
Manager Fred Haney
Ballpark: Sportsman’s Park III (Hitter’s)
OPS+-88, 6th in league
ERA+-90, 7th in league
WAR Leader-Elden Auker, 4.8
Putouts as P-27
Errors Committed as P-4
2nd Time All-Star-After making my list for the Tigers in 1937, Auker pitched one more season for Detroit and then was traded by the Detroit Tigers with Chet Morgan and Jake Wade to the Boston Red Sox for Pinky Higgins and Archie McKain. He had a disappointing season for the Red Sox and so was then purchased by the Browns. Auker had a great year and ended up the Browns’ best player.
Let’s wrap up Auker’s career and life and by that I mean, let’s let Wikipedia do it:
“Before the 1939 season, Auker was traded by Detroit to the Red Sox for Pinky Higgins and Archie McKain. That season was Ted Williams‘s rookie year in Boston, and the two would develop what became a lifelong friendship during the season. However, Auker chafed playing under Red Sox manager Joe Cronin, and his 9–10 record in the year was the lowest win total of any full season he played. Auker finished his career playing three seasons with the Browns (1940–1942). During the 1941 season, he gave up hits to Joe DiMaggio during two games of DiMaggio’s record 56-game hitting streak.
“Auker appeared at the last game played at Tiger Stadium on September 27, 1999. Auker spoke at the ceremony and told the crowd: ‘Never forget us, for we live on by those that carry on the Tiger tradition and who so proudly wear the olde English D.’
14-19, 3.49 ERA, 124 K, 120 ERA+, 3.66 FIP, 1.405 WHIP
.158, 0 HR, 4 RBI, .158/.167/.158, -13 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (Didn’t play)
Ron’s: No (Would require five more All-Star seasons. 80 percent chance)
64-90, 7th in AL
Manager Bucky Harris
Ballpark: Griffith Stadium (Pitcher’s)
OPS+-88, 7th in league
ERA+-91, 6th in league
WAR Leader-Dutch Leonard, 4.7
Hits Allowed-328 (2nd Time)
Assists as P-72 (2nd Time)
Errors Committed as P-4
Range Factor/Game as P-2.49 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-At a time when the Senators were miserable, at least they could depend on Ol’ Dutch stepping on the mound every four or five days. True, he led the American League in losses and hits allowed, but he didn’t have much hitting or defense to back him up, so he makes my list for the second consecutive season.
SABR speaks about his best pitch, saying,
“Dutch Leonard rode his knuckleball to a 20-year big league career, baffling batters, catchers, and umpires until he was 44 years old. As Jackie Robinson described Leonard’s knuckler, ‘It comes up, makes a face at you, then runs away.’
“Joining the Crackers in June 1936, Leonard met his new catcher, Paul Richards, another washout from the majors. After getting a look at the knuckler, Richards told him, ‘You keep throwing it, and it’s my job to catch it.’ Leonard said, ‘Richards was the first catcher I ever worked with who wasn’t too timid to call for my knuckleball.’ Leonard went 13-3 with a 2.29 ERA, best in the league, and helped Atlanta win the pennant.”
Isn’t the knuckleball an unusual pitch? Almost everything else in sports relies on the best athletes in the world giving it their all, but the knuckle requires holding back and purposely throwing slow pitches up to confuse batters. Sometimes a hockey player might purposely shoot a slower shot to confuse a goalie or a soccer player might bloop one over the goalie’s head instead of kicking as hard as he or she can, but none of these is as prevalent as the knuckle.
12-9, 3.37 ERA, 133 K, 141 OPS+, 3.55 FIP, 1.310 WHIP
.176, 0 HR, 4 RBI, .176/.211/.206, 5 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (Didn’t play)
Ron’s: Yes (inducted in 1939)
7th Time All-Star-First of all, before reading this, take a look at Jackie the Baseball Bloggess’s post here. It talks about the Baseball Writers Association of America not electing anyone for the Hall of Fame in 2021. One of the players not inducted is Curt Schilling. Now I don’t want to get political, but it because of Schilling’s statements from the right that he hasn’t been voted in yet. To me, he’s a no-brainer, but since the baseball writers skew left, it’s not a surprise.
What’s that have to do with Tommy Bridges? To me, he’s a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame also, but he’ll never get in. I don’t think it’s political, I think he just pitched at a run-happy time of the sport, so his stats look less stellar than they really are. That’s why I like having this page and getting to do my own votes for the Hall of Fame. Bridges is in my Hall of Fame.
One of the depressing things to me about sports is how political it’s become. I’ve actually stopped watching sports for right now, but might pick up baseball again here in 2021. I don’t know why ballplayers of all sports can’t see what they do as a gift and just go out to entertain the fans – all fans – and get their minds off their troubles for a few hours. Maybe I’m just naïve.
Bridges helped Detroit make the 1940 World Series and he won the one game he started in the Series, allowing four runs (three earned) in a complete game victory. However, the Tigers fell to the Reds, 4-3.
15-17, 3.23 ERA, 129 K, 129 ERA+, 4.24 FIP, 1.540 WHIP
.163, 1 HR, 9 RBI, .163/.198/.239, 16 OPS+
Ron’s: No (Would require 51 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Bases on Balls-143
1st Time All-Star-Kendall Fay “Ken” or “Lefty” Chase was born on October 6, 1913, 16 years before my mom, in Oneonta, NY. The six-foot-two, 210 pound lefty pitcher started with Washington in 1936, became a regular in 1938, and had his best season ever this year despite leading the American League in walks and wild pitches.
Wikipedia says he gave up a famous hit, stating,
“A hard-throwing pitcher, Chase entered the majors in 1936 with the Washington Senators, playing six years for them before joining the Boston Red Sox (1942–43) and New York Giants (1943). While in Washington, he was part of a rotation that included Dutch Leonard, Wes Ferrell and Sid Hudson. On April 29, 1939, Ken Chase gave up hit number 2,721 of Lou Gehrig’s career. Lou Gehrig never recorded another hit as he willingly pulled himself out of the lineup the next day. He never played another game.
“Chase’s most productive season came in 1940 with the Senators, when he set career-numbers with 15 wins, a 3.23 ERA, and 129 strikeouts. He struggled with poor control during the season, allowing 143 walks and 12 wild pitches to lead the American League.
“Following his playing retirement, Chase ran a dairy business. He died in his hometown of Oneonta at age of 71.”
How sad that what Chase is known for is a hit he gave up instead of having a decent career. It wasn’t great as this will most likely be his only time on my list, but it wasn’t terrible.
12-13, 3.47 ERA, 87 K, 128 ERA+, 3.58 FIP, 1.224 WHIP
.274, 0 HR, 5 RBI, .274/.307/.321, 62 OPS+
Ron’s: No (Would require six more All-Star seasons. 33 percent chance)
Errors Committed as P-4
3rd Time All-Star-After making my list in 1938, he had an okay season in 1939, but it wasn’t good enough for me. He came back this year despite a losing record. That’s the deal with Lee, he didn’t often have eye-popping won-loss records, but that’s because of a lack of run support not talent.
SABR agrees with me, saying,
“Lee’s commanding four-hit complete game against the Cleveland Indians in his first start of the 1940 season inaugurated a dominating two-year stretch during which he completed 54 of 61 starts. The White Sox finished in fourth place again in ’40, and Lee finished with a losing record (12-13), primarily due to poor run support. His 24 complete games trailed only Bob Feller’s 31. What might he have done had he started more than 27 times? Dykes continued to juggle his six primary starting pitchers so that Lee could face the left-handed sluggers on the Indians and Yankees (15 of his 27 starts were against them).
“Lee’s success rested with a blazing, sinking fastball, a sharp-breaking overhand curveball, and his control. Syndicated sportswriter Harry Grayson wrote, ‘[Lee] did little more than rear back and pump the pill in there’ as a member of the Indians, but Muddy Ruel transformed him into one of game’s best left-handers. ‘Ruel took me in hand and cured my wildness,’ said Lee. ‘He picked out flaws in my delivery and pretty soon I had better than average control.’”
For a short stretch of time, there weren’t many better pitchers than Lee. If he could’ve done this over more seasons, he might be in Cooperstown.
14-13, 3.73 ERA, 94 K, 119 ERA+, 3.98 FIP, 1.317 WHIP
.116, 0 HR, 1 RBI, .116/.146/.128, -27 OPS+
MVP Rank: 19
Ron’s: No (Would require infinite All-Star seasons. Impossible)
54-100, 8th in AL
Manager Connie Mack
Ballpark: Shibe Park (Pitcher’s)
OPS+-89, 5th in league
ERA+-85, 8th in league
WAR Leader-Johnny Babich, 4.1
1st Time All-Star-John Charles “Johnny” Babich was born on May 14, 1913 in Albion, CA. The six-foot-one, 185 pound righty started with Brooklyn in 1934 and 1935 and, um, wasn’t great. He went 14-25 in those years with a 5.46 ERA and so was then traded by the Brooklyn Dodgers with Gene Moore to the Boston Bees for Fred Frankhouse. For the Bees, he was even worse, pitching just three games and allowing seven earned runs in six innings. He then went to the minors until 1940.
At this point in Babich’s career, he is 14-25 with a 5.57 ERA and a 71 ERA+. So what happened this season? Who knows, but it was such a fluke year for Babich as he was the A’s best player, according to WAR. It was the only year he ever had a winning record and the only time his ERA was below four.
There is a long article from the Oakland Oaks on Babich’s career. Here’s just a bit of it:
“The Philadelphia A’s drafted John from the Yankees for the 1940 season. Five of John’s 14 wins that year were against the Yankees. The last win knocked the Yankees out of the pennant race. After that game, Yankee manager Joe McCarthy ranted and raved in the Yankee clubhouse, yelling, ‘Babich, Babich, Babich. Who…ever heard of Babich?’ Yankee second baseman Joe Gordon responded, ‘Well, apparently our scouts didn’t.’ By many accounts, John Babich had personally cost the Yankees the 1940 American League flag.”
Babich died on January 19, 2001 in Richmond, CA.
.308, 16 HR, 70 RBI, .308/.389/.477, 126 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (0-1)
MVP Rank: 20
Ron’s: No (Would require 29 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
Errors Committed as C-17 (2nd Time)
Stolen Bases Allowed as C-60 (3rd Time)
1st Time All-Star-Franklin Witman “Frankie” or “Blimp” Hayes was born on October 13, 1914 in Jamesburg, NJ. The six-foot, 185 pound righty catcher started with Philadelphia in 1933 and 1934 and then didn’t play in the Majors in 1935. He was back as a 21-year-old in 1936 and became the A’s regular catcher. He had a decent career, but it’s hard to tell how many of these lists he’ll make. It always is for catchers. He’s the first A’s catcher to make this list since Mickey Cochrane in 1933.
Wikipedia wraps up his career, stating,
“His batting average improved in 1940, when he posted a .308 batting average with 16 home runs and 70 runs batted in. Hayes’ on-base percentage also improved from .348 in 1939 to .389, and was once again named as a reserve player for the American League team in the 1940 All-Star Game.
“When he caught 155 games in 1944, he set a still-standing American League record for games played in a season as catcher. His accomplishment of 312 consecutive games caught remains an unbroken major league record.
“Hayes operated a sporting goods store in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, after his playing career. He died at the age of 40 in Point Pleasant in 1955, eight years after retiring as a professional baseball player. His family declined to reveal the cause of his death. However, TheDeadBallEra.com lists it as retroperitoneal hemorrhage in the site’s ‘Too Young to Die’ entries for 1955.”
Even though I did this wrap up for Hayes, it’s still possible he’s going to make this list in the future.
.309, 3 HR, 41 RBI, .309/.399/.450, 112 OPS+
Ron’s: No (Would require 38 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
1st Time All-Star-William Joseph “Billy” Sullivan was born on October 23, 1910 in Chicago, IL. The six-foot, 170 pound lefty hitting, righty throwing catcher started as a third baseman for the White Sox in 1931, moved to first base for Chicago in 1932 and actually received some MVP votes and finished his time with the Pale Hose in 1933. Sully then came to Cincinnati in 1935, again playing first, and then went to the Indians in 1936, where he finally moved to catcher. He’s the first Detroit catcher to make this list since, well, last year, when Rudy York was the Tigers’ main catcher.
After the 1938 season, Sullivan was traded by the Cleveland Indians with Ed Cole and Roy Hughes to the St. Louis Browns for Rollie Hemsley. Then after the 1939 season, he was traded by the St. Louis Browns to the Detroit Tigers for Slick Coffman. That ended up being a good thing for Sully, who ended up on the American League pennant-winning team and got to play in his only World Series. He hit .154 (two-for-13) with five walks as the Tigers lost to the Reds, 4-3.
SABR explains he was actually Billy Sullivan, Jr., as his dad also played in the Majors. It says,
“Although [Billy Sullivan, Sr.’s} son Joseph, a second baseman and captain on the University of Notre Dame team, turned down an offer from the White Sox in order to pursue a law career, his son, Billy, Jr., began his own twelve-year major league career with the White Sox in 1931, playing with Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, the St. Louis Browns, Detroit, Brooklyn, and Pittsburgh. When Billy caught for Detroit in the 1940 World Series, the Sullivans became the first father and son to have played in the Fall Classic. Baseball dopesters frequently remarked that if Billy, Sr. could hit like his son, and if Billy, Jr. could field like his father, they would be ‘the best catcher in the history of the game.’”
Sullivan died on January 4, 1994 in Sarasota, FL.
.316, 33 HR, 134 RBI, .316/.410/.583, 145 OPS+
MVP Rank: 8
Ron’s: No (Would require seven more All-Star seasons. 14 percent chance)
Def. Games as 1B-155
3rd Time All-Star-It’s very rare a team will mess with something successful like a power-hitting catcher like Rudy York and an outstanding first baseman like Hank Greenberg. Yet this year, Detroit moved Greenberg to leftfield and York to first base and it worked. For this year, at least. Both players made my list and Detroit won the American League crown. In the World Series, York hit .231 (six-for-26) with a triple and a homer, but the Tigers lost to the Reds, 4-3.
Wikipedia says everything I just said, but with more words:
“Realizing that York was not best suited to the catcher position, and seeking to get his bat into the lineup on a full-time basis, the Tigers in 1940 shifted slugger Hank Greenberg from first base to left field, allowing York to return to his natural position at first base. The move proved successful as Greenberg and York each played 154 games and ranked highly among the league’s batters in several key batting statistics: first and second in RBIs (150 and 134); first and second in total bases (384 and 343); first and second in doubles (50 and 46); and first and third in home runs (41 and 33). The power duo of Greenberg and York helped propel the Tigers to the American League pennant with a 90–64 record.”
One wonders if this move would have been made if the Yankees weren’t so dominant during this time. It’s possible the Tigers felt they had to try some bold move if they were ever to move past the Bronx Bombers.
.297, 36 HR, 119 RBI, .297/.412/.581, 150 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (0-3, 1 K)
MVP Rank: 6
ONEHOF: Yes (Inducted in 1938)
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1951)
Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1931)
Boston Red Sox
82-72, 4th in AL
Manager Joe Cronin
Ballpark: Fenway Park (Hitter’s)
OPS+-104, 1st in league
ERA+-92, 5th in league
WAR Leader-Ted Williams, 6.6
12th Time All-Star-Rudy York had the highest Wins Above Replacement of any first baseman in the American League, the first time since 1925 anyone other than Foxx or Lou Gehrig led in that category. This will be the last great season for Double X as his career is starting to fade out. He might possibly make this list in 1941, but I doubt it, so I’m going to use this write-up to wrap up Foxx’s life and career.
I believe Foxx to be the 17th greatest player of all-time through 1940, behind Christy Mathewson. He, along with Cap Anson, Lou Gehrig, and Roger Connor, are on my all-time All-Star team, again through 1940. His last homer of 1940 gave him 500, making him just the second player, along with the Bambino, to have 500 dingers at this point in baseball history.
SABR wraps up his almost mythical life, saying,
“In the twenty-first century, Jimmie Foxx is often caricatured as a drunken failure. That is wrong. Jimmie drank heavily toward the end of his career, but there is no evidence that he was anything more than a moderate drinker until around 1940, when extreme adversity pushed him in the wrong direction. It is also true that life was often unkind to Foxx after his playing days, but, until near the end of his career, he was one of baseball’s greatest success stories. Jimmie always did his best, and did so with grace and charm. He should primarily be remembered for his joyful demeanor and Olympian talent.”
Foxx died at the age of 59 on July 21, 1967 in Miami, FL.
.295, 25 HR, 93 RBI, .295/.392/.529, 138 OPS+
Ron’s: No (Would require seven more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
3rd Time All-Star-In Trosky’s 1939 write-up, I already gave him his death blurb, giving him up for dead and assuming he wouldn’t make any more of these lists. Well, you know what they say about assuming….Trosky proved me wrong and had a good enough season this year to make this list once again.
What a set of first basemen the American League had in the Thirties and Forties! Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg, and then occasional entries from people like Trosky, who weren’t part of that elite set, but still one of the better players in the league. The reason Trosky wasn’t better was because he started declining at an early age. Click on his 1939 link above for more information about his early demise.
After this season, Trosky played just 89 games for Cleveland in 1941 and then didn’t play in the Majors in 1942 or 1943. He played for the White Sox in 1944, but his best days were far behind as he only hit .241 with just 10 homers. He didn’t play in the Majors in 1945 and then finished his career with the White Sox in 1946. That was his last appearance in The Show at the age of 33.
Trosky had the misfortune of playing for the Indians in a dry spell for the squad. After winning the American League pennant in 1920, they wouldn’t win another league title until 1948. Only three times in that stretch did they even finish second, though they did often finish in the first division.
.281, 30 HR, 103 RBI, .281/.340/.511, 121 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (0-2, 2 K)
MVP Rank: 23
WAR Rank: 7
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 2009)
Ron’s: No (Would require four more All-Star seasons. Sure thing)
New York Yankees
88-66, 3rd in AL
Manager Joe McCarthy
Ballpark: Yankee Stadium I (Pitcher’s)
OPS+-100, 3rd in league
ERA+-104, 4th in league
WAR Leader-Joe DiMaggio, 7.3
Assists-505 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as 2B-155 (2nd Time)
Assists as 2B-505 (2nd Time)
2nd Time All-Star-After four straight championships, the Yankees fell to third this year. Slackers! It wouldn’t last long as the Bronx Bombers will be on top of the baseball world again by next year. Maybe it was this drop of out of third that dropped Flash Gordon to 23rd in the MVP voting, because he certainly didn’t deserve to be that low. He’s taken over from Charlie Gehringer as the Junior Circuit’s best second sacker.
Wikipedia shares some info on Gordon’s 1940 season, saying,
“In 1940 Gordon again increased his home run total to 30 and was second on the team to DiMaggio in homers and RBI (103), leading the AL in assists and posting career highs in runs (112), triples (10), slugging average (.511), total bases (315) and stolen bases (18) while hitting .281. On September 8, he hit for the cycle. But the Yankees finished two games behind Detroit, in the only year between 1936 and 1943 that they lost the pennant.”
Gordon set many career highs this season for New York. His 112 runs, 173 hits, 32 doubles, 10 triples, 18 stolen bases, .511 slugging, and 315 total bases all were his highest ever. Offensive WAR would say there would be three better hitting seasons than this and that’s mainly because Gordon started getting on base more as he got older.
One thing Gordon never struggled with was defense. From 1938-through-1943, he finished in the top three in Defensive WAR and would finish in the top four for 10 consecutive playing seasons.
.313, 10 HR, 81 RBI, .313/.428/.447, 119 OPS+
MVP Rank: 23
ONEHOF: Yes (Inducted in 1939)
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1949)
Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1932)
12th Time All-Star-For the last couple of years, I’ve been wondering how many of these lists Gehringer had left and now I can absolutely, positively say this is his last one. Still, making my All-Star team 12 times is not a small feat as only 23 players in baseball history up to this point have done so. I would rank The Mechanical Man as the 20th greatest player of all-time through 1940, right behind Eddie Plank, the A’s pitcher from early 1900s.
Gehringer also played in his last World Series this year, hitting just .214 (six-for-28) as Detroit lost to Cincy, 4-3.
Wikipedia wraps up his long life and his career, stating,
“Gehringer enlisted in the U.S. Navy after the 1942 season. He served three years, and was released in 1945.
“During his major league career, Gehringer lived with his mother in Detroit. Gehringer’s father died in 1924, and Gehringer moved her from the family farm outside Fowlerville, Michigan, to Detroit. Gehringer recalled that she was a diabetic and ‘needed someone to look after her.’
“Gehringer did not marry until after his mother died, and when he did get married in 1949, he did not let anything stand in the way—not even his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Gehringer missed his Hall of Fame induction ceremony on June 13, 1949, because he did not want it to interfere with his wedding, which was to take place five days later. Gehringer’s marriage to his wife, Josephine (née Stillen), lasted until his death more than four decades later.
“Gehringer died in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan on January 21, 1993 at age 89.”
.273, 20 HR, 87 RBI, .273/.396/.463, 120 OPS+
Ron’s: No (Would require three more All-Star seasons. 33 percent chance)
Assists as 3B-329 (2nd Time)
Double Plays Turned as 3B-32 (2nd Time)
Fielding % as 3B-.959 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-This is the fifth straight time Clift has made my All-Star team and yet during that time, he received MVP votes just twice and went to the All-Star Game just once. I have him as having only a 33 percent chance of making my Hall of Fame, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. He’s definitely the best American League third sacker of his time.
There is a page called Hall of Fame Debate that talks about the underrated Clift, saying,
“An on-base stud throughout his brief Major League career, Harlond coupled fine batting averages with a propensity for walks, enabling him to post an enviable career on-base percentage of .390. The keen visioned hot corner custodian walked in the excess of 80 times every year from his rookie season in 1934 until his last great year in 1942–six times eclipsing the 100 walk plateau.
“In 1940, he led Major League third basemen in RBI while finishing second in the American League with 104 walks.”
For those of you who’ve read my write-ups on Mel Ott, I’ve mentioned walks didn’t mean too much to the writers during this time. When people picked players for the All-Star team or MVP votes, they looked at batting average first and usually where a team finished. Clift only hit over .300 twice in his career and played for some awful teams, so he wasn’t drawing too much attention. Nowadays, he would be lauded because his modern stats look so good. My guess is he’s going to fall short of my Hall of Fame, but he’s worth the conversation.
.295, 9 HR, 101 RBI, .295/.370/.443, 112 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (Def. Replacement)
MVP Rank: 5
WAR Rank: 8
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1970)
Ron’s: No (Would require four more All-Star seasons. Sure thing)
Double Plays Grounded Into-23
Def. Games as SS-155
Assists as SS-454
Double Plays Turned as SS-116
Fielding % as SS-.968
1st Time All-Star-Louis “Old Shufflefoot” or “Handsome Lou” or “The Good Kid” Boudreau was born on July 17, 1917 in Harvey, IL. The five-foot-11, 185 pound righty shortstop started with Cleveland in 1938 and became its regular shortstop this year. He would have an outstanding career and will make my Hall of Fame easily and will also make Cooperstown…eventually.
SABR talks about a revolt on the Indians that year, stating,
“The 1940 season looked promising but would be tumultuous for the Cleveland Indians. Feller opened the season with a 1-0 no-hitter, and the Indians were in contention for the pennant all season long. But the season was marred by a rebellion of Cleveland ballplayers (not including Boudreau) who were unhappy with Vitt, who’d been known to bad-mouth his players with derogatory remarks. The 10 players, thereafter known as the ‘Crybabies.’ complained to owner Alva Bradley in early June. Nothing was done and Vitt remained the manager for the rest of the season. The story hit the newspapers immediately, but the Indians continued to play well and went into Detroit on August 22 with a 5 ½ game lead over the second-place Tigers.
“Boudreau kept his views to himself, but later wrote, ‘Had I been asked my opinion, I would have urged them to either wait till the end of the season, or to meet with Vitt himself and not with Bradley. But I wasn’t asked, I didn’t volunteer and the veterans did what they felt they had to do.’ The Indians didn’t win the pennant that year, losing to Detroit by one game. Boudreau had a good season despite all the turmoil, batting .295, clouting nine homers, and driving in 101 runs. Defensively Lou led all shortstops in the American League.”
.348, 0 HR, 79 RBI, .348/.420/.442 123 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (2-3, 2B)
MVP Rank: 10
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1964)
Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1937)
Putouts as SS-307 (2nd Time)
6th Time All-Star-With Lou Boudreau now in the league, Appling would have competition as the Junior Circuit’s best shortstop. Still, Luscious Luke’s decent bat and great glove will continue to put him on these lists for a long time and my guess is he’s going to eventually make the hallowed ONEHOF, the One-a-Year Hall of Fame that inducts just one player every calendar year.
This season was the year Appling got closer to winning a pennant than any other time, as the White Sox finished in fourth place, eight games out of first. As SABR says,
“Luke Appling had the misfortune of playing for the White Sox during some of their leanest years. A decade before his arrival, the franchise had been devastated by the Black Sox Scandal, when eight players conspired to fix the 1919 World Series and were banned from baseball, and the team did not compete again until the 1950s. Appling, a happy-go-lucky man and a notorious hypochondriac, was one of the Sox’ few bright lights. He never got to play in a World Series, as his career was ending just as the team embarked on a period of competitiveness highlighted by their 1959 pennant.
“At a time when America, along with the rest of the world, was struggling to cope with the worst depression in its history and the ominous rise of fascism in Europe, baseball provided some diversion from dark times. Appling started his major league career in 1930, just about the beginning of the Depression. The best word to describe Luke Appling is durability, a quality he showed throughout his baseball career and his life. He was emblematic of an America struggling through the Depression and digging into their psyches (perhaps unknowingly) to prepare for another world war. Appling endured and so did America.”
.340, 41 HR, 150 RBI, .340/.433/.670, 171 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (0-2)
MVP Rank: 1
WAR Rank: 4
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1956)
Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1940)
1940 AL MVP
On-Base Plus Slugging-1.103
Total Bases-384 (2nd Time)
Doubles-50 (2nd Time)
Home Runs-41 (3rd Time)
Runs Batted In-150 (3rd Time)
Runs Created-166 (3rd Time)
Adj. Batting Runs-64
Adj. Batting Wins-5.9
Extra Base Hits-99 (4th Time)
Offensive Win %-.812
AB per HR-14.0 (2nd Time)
Def. Games as LF-147
Putouts as LF-246
Assists as LF-13
Errors Committed as LF-15
Errors Committed as OF-15
6th Time All-Star-It was in the writings of Bill James I first read about the defensive spectrum. His theory was as players got older they moved from more difficult positions to easier to play positions. The order of the positions from hardest to easiest are:
So as a player aged, he’d slide from left to right on the spectrum. Yet this year, Greenie slid from right to left, moving from first base to leftfield. It was only a move of one position so it wasn’t dramatic and it certainly led to Greenberg having a great season. The writers picked him for MVP. He’s the first Tiger to be on my list as a leftfielder since Bob Fothergill in 1927.
Hammerin’ Hank’s Tigers lost to the Reds in the World Series, 4-3, but it wasn’t Greenberg’s fault. He hit .357 (10-for-28) with two doubles, a triple, and a homer. He still has a championship in his future.
What’s no longer in Greenberg’s future is making my Hall of Fame as it is now in his present. He made it this year by making his sixth All-Star team while having a Career WAR of 55.7. He is the 119th player in my Hall of Fame and the 12th first baseman. He’s not going to have a long enough career to make my ONEHOF, the Hall of Fame of my design that admits just one player per calendar year.
It’s going to be a few years before the Detroit slugger makes my list again. He’s going to play just 19 games in 1941 and then go to war, so he won’t have another full season until 1946.
.344, 23 HR, 113 RBI, .344/.442/.594, 162 OPS+
0-0, 4.50 ERA, 1 K, 116 ERA+, 1.84 FIP, 1.500 WHIP
All-Star: Yes (0-2, 1 BB)
MVP Rank: 14
WAR Rank: 6
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1966)
Ron’s: No (Would require one more All-Star season. Sure thing)
Times On Base-292
2nd Time All-Star-Williams moved from rightfield to leftfield this year and would be there the rest of his career. He’s the first Red Sox player to make this list at that position since Moose Solters in 1935. At the age of 21, The Kid already established himself as one of the American League’s great stars. With some players, it takes a while for them to hit their groove. With Teddy Ballgame, he came in grooving!
Wikipedia spends a lot of ink on 1940, saying,
“Williams’s pay doubled in 1940, going from $5,000 to $10,000. With the addition of a new bullpen in right field of Fenway Park, which reduced the distance from home plate from 400 feet to 380 feet, the bullpen was nicknamed ‘Williamsburg’, because the new addition was ‘obviously designed for Williams’. Williams was then switched from right field to left field, as there would be less sun in his eyes, and it would give Dom DiMaggio a chance to play. Finally, Williams was flip-flopped in the order with the great slugger Jimmie Foxx, with the idea that Williams would get more pitches to hit. Pitchers, though, were not afraid to walk him to get to the 33-year-old Foxx, and after that the 34-year-old Joe Cronin, the player-manager. Williams also made his first of 16 All-Star Game appearancesin 1940, going 0-for-2. Although Williams hit .344, his power and runs batted in were down from the previous season, with 23 home runs and 113 RBIs. Williams also caused a controversy in mid-August when he called his salary ‘peanuts’, along with saying he hated the city of Boston and reporters, leading reporters to lash back at him, saying that he should be traded. Williams said that the ‘only real fun’ he had in 1940 was being able to pitch once on August 24, when he pitched the last two innings in a 12–1 loss to the Detroit Tigers, allowing one earned run on three hits, while striking out one batter, Rudy York.”
.352, 31 HR, 133 RBI, .352/.425/.626, 173 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (0-4)
MVP Rank: 3
WAR Rank: 2
Cooperstown: Yes (Inducted in 1955)
Ron’s: Yes (Inducted in 1939)
1940 AL Batting Title (2nd Time)
WAR Position Players-7.3 (2nd Time)
Batting Average-.352 (2nd Time)
Base-Out Runs Added-69.50 (2nd Time)
Win Probability Added-5.6 (2nd Time)
Situ. Wins Added-4.8 (2nd Time)
Base-Out Wins Added-6.5 (2nd Time)
5th Time All-Star-Poor Joltin’ Joe! This was the first season he went home with no championship under his belt. I’ll tell you this, it certainly wasn’t DiMaggio’s fault. He continued to be one of the best players in the American League at this time along with one of the greatest of all time. Over the next decade or so, it will be a battle between the Yankee Clipper and the Splendid Splinter for best player in the league.
Wikipedia explains why stats don’t tell the whole story for Mr. Coffee, saying,
“DiMaggio might have had better power-hitting statistics had his home park not been Yankee Stadium. As ‘The House That Ruth Built’, its nearby right field favored the Babe’s left-handed power. For right-handed hitters, its deep left and center fields made home runs almost impossible. Mickey Mantle recalled that he and Whitey Ford witnessed many DiMaggio blasts that would have been home runs anywhere other than Yankee Stadium (Ruth himself fell victim to that problem, as he also hit many long flyouts to center). Bill James calculated that DiMaggio lost more home runs due to his home park than any other player in history. Left-center field went as far back as 457 ft [139 m], where left-center rarely reaches 380 ft [116 m] in today’s ballparks. Al Gionfriddo‘s famous catch in the 1947 World Series, which was close to the 415-foot mark [126 m] in left-center, would have been a home run in the Yankees’ current ballpark. DiMaggio hit 148 home runs in 3,360 at-bats at home versus 213 home runs in 3,461 at-bats on the road. His slugging percentage at home was .546, and on the road, it was .610.”
.340, 4 HR, 57 RBI, .340/.408/.491, 124 OPS+
MVP Rank: 16
Ron’s: No (Would require 14 more All-Star seasons. Impossible)
1st Time All-Star-William Barney McCosky was born on April 11, 1917 in Coal Run, PA. The six-foot-one, 184 pound lefty hitting, righty throwing outfielder started with Detroit in 1939 and right away became its regular centerfielder. He’s the first Tiger to make my list at this position since Heinie Manush in 1926.
His fantastic season helped lead the Tigers to the World Series, where McCosky hit .304 (seven-for-23) with a double and seven walks. It didn’t help as Cincinnati won the Series, 4-3.
Wikipedia wraps up his season and career, stating,
“His most productive season came for the 1940 Detroit Tigers American League champions, when he was among the AL league leaders with a .340 batting average (6th in the AL), 200 hits (tied for 1st in the AL), 19 triples (1st in the AL), 123 runs (3rd in the AL), 264 times on base (4th in the AL), and 39 doubles (7th in the AL). In the World Series, he hit .304 (7-for-23) with five runs as Detroit lost to the Cincinnati Reds in seven games. McCosky finished No. 16 in the MVP voting for 1940. Since 1940, the only Tiger to exceed McCosky’s 19 triples is Curtis Granderson in 2007.
“McCosky married his wife, Jane, in 1946. After his baseball career ended, he operated Barney McCosky’s party store on Joy Road between Greenfield and Southfield in Detroit from 1953 to 1963. He then worked as an automobile salesman at Les Stanford Chevrolet in Dearborn, Michigan, until he retired in 1982.
“In 1982, McCosky and his wife moved in Venice, Florida, where they lived for 14 years. In 1996, McCosky died from jaw cancer at Bon Secour-Venice Hospital in Venice. He was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield, Michigan.”
.286, 21 HR, 93 RBI, .286/.411/.508, 141 OPS+
All-Star: Yes (0-2, 1 K)
WAR Rank: 9
Ron’s: No (Would require six more All-Star seasons. 67 percent chance)
Bases on Balls-106
1st Time All-Star-Charles Ernest “King Kong” Keller was born on September 12, 1916 in Middletown, MD. The five-foot-10, 185 pound lefty hitting, righty throwing outfielder started with the Yankees in 1939 and was a big part of their championship team. This year, his batting average dipped from .334-to-.286, but his ability to walk continued to give him a high on-base percentage (.411). He’s the first Yankee rightfielder on this list since George Selkirk in 1935. However, after this season, he’s moving to leftfield for the rest of his career.
Wikipedia tells us about his nickname and various other tidbits, saying,
“His ability to hit massive fly balls and home runs earned him the nickname ‘King Kong’.
“A splendid all-round athlete at the University of Maryland, where he earned a degree in agricultural economics in 1937, Keller joined the Yankees in 1939 and quickly became the regular left fielder, with Tommy Henrich patrolling right field and Joe DiMaggio in center field. For much of ten American League seasons, Keller, DiMaggio, and Henrich formed one of the best-hitting outfields in baseball history.
“Through much of his career, Keller was a feared slugger and a competent fielder. In his rookie season he hit .334 with 11 home runs and 83 RBI in 111 games. Keller hit three homers and batted .438 as the Yankees swept four games from the Cincinnati Reds in the World Series.