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Series Wrapup

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The 1931 baseball season brought the passing of the two founding fathers of the American League, Ban Johnson and Charles Comiskey.  Once best friends, the two men hadn't spoken to one another for years due to several bitter disagreements they had over issues that cropped up during Johnson's tenure as American League president.  Both men died unhappy, with Johnson enduring a forced retirement from the league he had founded, courtesy of Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and Comiskey forever brokenhearted after the Black Sox Scandal of 1919.

Meanwhile, the prodigious offensive numbers posted in both leagues one year earlier prompted the baseball hierarchy to introduce a less lively ball it hoped would create a proper balance between hitting and pitching.  Although power numbers fell off considerably as a result, hitters continued to have the upper hand.  The National League batted .277 as a whole, while American League hitters posted a combined batting average of .278.  

Once again, the New York Yankees had baseball’s most potent offense.  After establishing a new record by scoring 1,062 runs the previous year, the Yankees scored the most runs by any team in the “modern era” by crossing the plate 1,067 times in 1931.  Under new manager Joe McCarthy, New York also led the major leagues with 155 home runs, a .297 batting average, a .383 on-base percentage, and a .457 slugging percentage.  Although they also received outstanding offensive production from shortstop Lyn Lary, third baseman Joe Sewell, left fielder Ben Chapman, catcher Bill Dickey, and centerfielder Earle Combs, the Yankees continued to be paced by the tandem of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.  Ruth had another phenomenal year, leading the league with 46 home runs, a .495 on-base percentage, and a .700 slugging percentage, while also finishing second with 163 runs batted in, 149 runs scored, 374 total bases, and a .373 batting average.  Gehrig was equally magnificent, batting .341, tying Ruth for the league lead with 46 homers, and topping the circuit with 163 runs scored, 211 hits, 410 total bases, and an American League record 184 runs batted in.  The duo’s combined total of 347 runs batted in remains the most ever by two teammates.  With Lary and Chapman also driving in more than 100 runs, New York averaged more than seven runs per-game.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, they continued to struggle somewhat on the mound.  With only Lefty Gomez (21-9, 2.67 ERA) pitching well consistently, the Yankees surrendered 134 more runs to their opponents than the Philadelphia Athletics, who continued to feature the league’s best pitching staff.  The combination of the A’s strong pitching and solid offense (they finished third in the league with 858 runs scored) enabled them to capture their third straight American League pennant.  Philadelphia finished the campaign with a record of 107-45, 13 ½ games ahead of second-place New York.

The trio of Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Mickey Cochrane paced the A’s on offense.  Foxx batted .291, compiled a .380 on-base percentage, and placed among the league leaders with 30 home runs and 120 runs batted in.  Simmons hit 22 homers, drove in 128 runs, scored 105 others, and won his second consecutive batting title with a mark of .390.  Cochrane batted .349, posted an on-base percentage of .423, hit 17 homers, and knocked in 89 runs.  

However, the A’s greatest strength lay in their pitching staff, which compiled a league-leading 3.47 team ERA.  George Earnshaw finished 21-7, with 23 complete games and 282 innings pitched.  Rube Walberg won 20 games, completed 19 of his starts, and led the league with 291 innings pitched.  Lefty Grove dominated American League batters almost as much as he dominated the statistical categories for league hurlers.  Grove led all A.L. pitchers with a record of 31-4, a 2.06 ERA, 175 strikeouts, 27 complete games, and four shutouts.  His ERA of 2.06 placed him more than half a run per-game ahead of league runner-up Lefty Gomez, and two runs per-game ahead of the league average.  Grove’s exceptional performance earned him recognition as the American League’s Most Valuable Player at season’s end.  He beat out Lou Gehrig for the award, voted on by the members of the newly-appointed BBWAA committee.

The Athletics subsequently faced a St. Louis Cardinals team in the World Series they defeated in six games in the previous year’s Fall Classic.  The outcome proved to be a different one this time, though.  Earnshaw and Grove once again pitched brilliantly for Philadelphia, compiling ERAs of 1.88 and 2.42, respectively, in a combined 50 innings.  The A’s even outscored their opponents 22-19.  But, led by 27-year-old rookie Pepper Martin, who batted .500, knocked in five runs, stole five bases, and preserved Burleigh Grimes’s 4-2 Series-clinching victory in Game Seven with a superb defensive play in the outfield, the underdog Cardinals eventually prevailed.

Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:

• April 29 – Cleveland’s Wes Ferrell pitched a no-hitter against the St. Louis Browns during a 9-0 victory.

• August 8 - Washington Senators pitcher Bobby Burke tossed a no-hitter in a 5–0 win over the Boston Red Sox.

• August 23 - Dick Coffman held the Philadelphia Athletics to three hits on his way to a 1-0 victory.  The Philadelphia defeat snapped Lefty Grove's 16-game winning streak.  It marked one of only two times the A's were shut out all season.

• September 18 - Lefty Grove won his 30th game of the season, 3-1 over the Chicago White Sox.  Only two other pitchers have reached the 30-win plateau since (St. Louis’ Dizzy Dean in 1934 and Detroit’s Denny McLain in 1968).

• The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) appointed two committees, one in each league, to elect the MVPs.

• Lou Gehrig established a major league record with 301 runs produced.

• The Yankees had a record six men who scored 100 or more runs.

• Cleveland's Wes Ferrell hit a season record nine home runs while serving as a pitcher.

• Ferrell tied Grove for the American League lead in complete games (27) and placed second to him in wins (22).

• The American League ruled that all teams must have numbers on their uniforms.

Earl Webb of the Red Sox hit a major league record 67 doubles.

• Lou Gehrig hit a record three grand slams over a four-day period.

Batting

TM G AB R H RBI AVG 2B 3B HR SB CS TB OBP SLG OPSLG GIDP SF SH
BOS 1796 5378 625 1410 572 .203 289 34 37 43 43 1878 .292 .273 .583 0 0 68
CHA 1884 5483 705 1423 649 .203 238 69 27 94 39 1880 .307 .279 .605 104
CLE 1731 5450 885 1615 812 .221 321 69 71 63 60 2287 .329 .310 .669 0 0 90
DET 1669 5426 651 1456 600 .214 292 69 43 117 75 2015 .295 .284 .589 63
NYA 1752 5608 1067 1667 990 .228 276 78 155 139 68 2564 .341 .325 .679 87
PHA 1577 5377 858 1544 798 .261 311 64 118 25 23 2337 .420 .378 .798 0 0 78
SLA 1709 5384 720 1455 666 .235 286 62 76 73 80 2093 .343 .308 .662 0 0 61
WS1 1719 5577 843 1593 788 .226 307 93 49 72 64 2233 .339 .299 .688 97

Pitching

Team G W L IP SO BB BF H HR ERA ER R GC SH SV WP BK
BOS 314 62 90 1367 365 473 6067 1559 54 66.290 698 800 61 5 10 18 2
CHA 326 56 97 1390 421 588 6321 1613 82 68.270 778 939 54 6 10 20 5
CLE 279 78 76 1355 470 561 6156 1577 64 76.230 697 833 76 6 9 23 2
DET 246 61 93 1383 511 597 6214 1549 79 60.880 706 836 86 5 6 26 2
NYA 287 94 59 1410 686 543 6200 1461 67 61.400 659 760 78 4 17 24 3
PHA 235 107 45 1365 574 457 5728 1342 73 59.250 526 626 97 12 16 20 2
SLA 283 63 91 1361 436 448 6072 1623 84 86.740 720 870 65 4 10 14 1
WS1 301 92 62 1395 582 498 6012 1434 73 47.310 583 691 60 6 24 21 3

Fielding

Team ID G TC PO A E Fld% InOuts SB CS CS% PB
BOS 1631 6303 4104 2012 187 .956 0 0 0 0 10
CHA 1687 6218 4160 1812 246 .944 0 0 0 0 9
CLE 1613 6193 4062 1900 231 .926 0 0 0 0 7
DET 1548 6183 4160 1802 221 .945 0 0 0 0 7
NYA 1637 6053 4221 1665 167 .969 0 0 0 0 0
PHA 1524 5848 4094 1614 140 .969 0 0 0 0 10
SLA 1612 6210 4093 1886 231 .956 0 0 0 0 6
WS1 1607 6014 4188 1684 142 .966 0 0 0 0 7

West

Central

East

Awards

Silver Slugger

Gold Glove

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Tagged:
1931 World Series, Al Simmons, American League, Babe Ruth, Ban Johnson, Ben Chapman, Bill Dickey, Bobby Burke, Charlie Comiskey, Connie Mack, Dick Coffman, Earl Averill, Earl Webb, Earle Combs, George Earnshaw, Jimmie Foxx, Joe McCarthy, Joe Sewell, Kenesaw Landis, Lefty Gomez, Lefty Grove, Lou Gehrig, Lyn Lary, Mickey Cochrane, Pepper Martin, Philadelphia Athletics, Rube Walberg, St. Louis Cardinals, Wes Ferrell

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