With the introduction of a less lively baseball, the major leagues returned to somewhat of a balance between offense and defense in 1931. Still, hitters maintained something of an upper hand, with the National League batting .277 as a whole over the course of the campaign.
The St. Louis Cardinals captured their second straight N.L. pennant, finishing a full 13 games ahead of the second-place New York Giants, with a record of 101-53. Once again the senior circuit’s most well-balanced team, St. Louis finished second in the league in both runs scored (815) and runs allowed (614). Bill Hallahan and Paul Derringer headed the St. Louis starting rotation, posting a combined record of 37-17. Meanwhile, 37-year-old Burleigh Grimes finished third on the club with 17 victories.
Chick Hafey, Jim Bottomley, and Frankie Frisch led the Cardinals on offense. Hafey hit 16 home runs, knocked in 95 runs, scored 94 others, and edged out Bill Terry for the batting title with a mark of .349. (Hafey actually batted .3489, while Terry hit .3486). Although limited by injury to only 108 games, Bottomley finished right behind Hafey and Terry in the batting race with a mark of .348. Frisch captured N.L. MVP honors by batting .311, driving in 82 runs, scoring 96 others, and topping the circuit with 28 stolen bases.
The Cardinals subsequently entered the World Series seeking to gain a measure of revenge against a Philadelphia Athletics team that defeated them in six games in the previous year’s Fall Classic. Although Philadelphia outscored St. Louis 22-19 over the course of the seven-game affair, the Cardinals emerged victorious, thanks to the inspired play of 27-year-old rookie centerfielder Pepper Martin. The “Wild Horse of the Osage” batted .500, knocked in five runs, stole five bases, and played brilliantly in the outfield, to lead his team to the second world championship in franchise history.
While the Cardinals were the National League’s best team and the members of the BBWAA named Frankie Frisch league MVP, the circuit’s top two players performed for other teams. Philadelphia’s Chuck Klein, who placed second to Frisch in the balloting, led the league with 31 homers, 121 runs batted in, and 121 runs scored, and he also batted .337. Meanwhile, in addition to placing a close second to Chick Hafey in the batting race, New York’s Bill Terry finished among the league leaders with 112 runs batted in, 213 hits, and 43 doubles. He also topped the circuit with 121 runs scored and 20 triples.
Other outstanding performers, notable events, and points of interest from around the league follow:
• April 27 - Boston Braves centerfielder Wally Berger tied a modern record with four assists in a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
• December 11 - The Chicago Cubs traded future Hall of Famer Hack Wilson and pitcher Bud Teachout to the St. Louis Cardinals for pitcher Burleigh Grimes. After hitting 56 home runs, driving in a major-league record 190 runs, and batting .356 the previous season, Wilson slumped to 13 homers, 61 runs batted in, and a .261 batting average in 1931.
• Burleigh Grimes and Bill Hallahan both won two games for the Cardinals in the World Series.
• No National League pitcher won 20 games, marking the first time that either of the two leagues failed to have a 20-game winner.
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- 1931 World Series, Bill Hallahan, Bill Terry, Bill Walker, Bud Teachout, Burleigh Grimes, Carl Hubbell, Chick Hafey, Chuck Klein, Dizzy Dean, Frankie Frisch, Hack Wilson, Jim Bottomley, Paul Derringer, Pepper Martin, St. Louis Cardinals, The Wild Horse Of The Osage, Wally Berger