The Detroit Tigers captured their first American League pennant in 25 years in 1934, finishing seven games in front of the second-place Yankees, with a record of 101-53. Detroit boasted a solid pitching staff that compiled the second-lowest team ERA (4.06) in the league. Tommy Bridges and “Schoolboy” Rowe anchored Detroit’s starting rotation. Bridges won 22 games and finished among the league leaders with 151 strikeouts, 23 complete games, and 275 innings pitched. Rowe compiled a record of 24-8 and also finished among the leaders in strikeouts, complete games, and innings pitched.
However, it was Detroit’s offense that truly separated them from the rest of the American League in 1934. Although the Tigers finished fourth in the league with only 74 home runs, they topped the junior circuit with 958 runs scored and a team batting average of .300. Both figures far-exceeded the marks posted by their nearest competitors. Goose Goslin batted .305, knocked in 100 runs, and scored 106 others. Third baseman Marv Owen had a career-year, batting .317 and driving in 96 runs. Shortstop Billy Rogell batted .296, knocked in 100 runs, and scored 114 others. Player-manager Mickey Cochrane was named A.L. MVP for batting .320, driving in 76 runs, and helping to stabilize Detroit’s pitching staff.
The team’s top two offensive performers, though, were Charlie Gehringer and Hank Greenberg, who formed quite an imposing duo in the middle of the batting order. Greenberg led the league with 63 doubles and placed among the leaders with 26 home runs, 139 runs batted in, 118 runs scored, and a .339 batting average. Gehringer topped the circuit with 134 runs scored and 214 hits, and he also finished near the top of the league rankings with 127 runs batted in, a .356 batting average, and 50 doubles.
The Tigers ended up losing a hard-fought seven-game World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, with the Dean brothers proving to be the difference. Both Dizzy and Daffy posted two victories for the Cardinals, while also compiling identical 2.00 earned run averages. The Fall Classic ended on a bizarre note when Detroit fans pelted Joe Medwick with garbage after the St. Louis outfielder slid aggressively into Tiger third baseman Marv Owen during the Cardinals’ 11-0 Game Seven route. Baseball Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis subsequently ordered Medwick to leave the game for his own safety.
Although the Tigers featured the American League’s most formidable offense in 1934, the second-place Yankees had the junior circuit’s best player. Lou Gehrig won the A.L. Triple Crown by leading the league with 49 home runs, 165 runs batted in, and a .363 batting average. He also finished first with 409 total bases, a .465 on-base percentage, and a .706 slugging percentage, while placing among the league leaders as well with 128 runs scored, 210 hits, 40 doubles, and 109 bases on balls.
Other notable events from around the league and players who distinguished themselves over the course of the season included:
• July 13 - Babe Ruth became the first Major League Baseball player to amass 700 home runs.
• September 18 - Bobo Newsom of St. Louis no-hit Boston for nine innings but lost 2-1 in 10 innings.
• November 21 - The New York Yankees acquired Joe DiMaggio from San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League for $25,000 and four players.
• New York’s Lefty Gomez won the pitcher’s Triple Crown by leading the American League with 26 wins, a 2.33 ERA, and 158 strikeouts. He also topped the circuit with a winning percentage of .839 and six shutouts.
• The American League won the All-Star Game 9-7.
• Cleveland first baseman Hal Trosky established a rookie record by amassing 374 total bases.
• The Yankees released future Hall of Famers Herb Pennock and Joe Sewell on the same day.
• Detroit's Schoolboy Rowe tied an American League record by winning 16 straight games.
• Detroit’s Goose Goslin compiled a 30-game hitting streak.
• Washington's Jack Russell was the first reliever selected to an All-Star Game.
• Firpo Marberry became the first pitcher to post 100 career saves.
• Boston’s Bill Werber led the majors with 40 steals.
• Jimmie Foxx led both leagues with 111 walks and placed among the A.L. leaders with 44 home runs, 130 runs batted in, 120 runs scored, a .334 batting average, a .449 on-base percentage, and a .653 slugging percentage.
• In addition to leading the American League with a .300 team batting average, Detroit topped the circuit with a .974 fielding average.
• The Yankees led the league with a 3.76 team ERA.
• Babe Ruth finished his final season in New York with only 22 home runs and 84 runs batted in. He retired early the following year.
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