The Tigers prepared to go to battle in 1927 without Ty Cobb for the first time in 22 years.
Cobb had "retired" in November 1926, but was enticed to end his brief stay from baseball by Connie Mack and the Philadelphia Athletics, who signed the 40-year old on February 8, 1927.
Even though Cobb had missed a lot of games in 1926, he was still the heart and soul of the Tigers, and their manager, to boot. It was agreed by those around the team that, no matter what you thought of him, Ty Cobb could not be easily replaced. But, the Tigers had to try; they had no choice.
In the dugout, the Tigers turned to George Moriarty as their new field general, and the move was extraordinary, for Moriarty had been, for 10 seasons, a big league umpire! Can you imagine such a thing happening today? Not only that, but Moriarty was a former player, having played 1B and 3B for the Tigers from 1909-1915 before turning to umpiring from 1917-26. So he went from playing to umpiring to managing---quite the amazing baseball path.
On the field, the Tigers sported a revamped outfield in the wake of Cobb's disassociation with the team. In LF everyday was Bob Fothergill, who joined CF Heinie Manush and veteran Harry Heilmann in RF. The infield featured Charlie Gehringer at 2B, who was entering his second full season, along with mainstay Lu Blue at 1B and another young player, Jack Warner, who manned 3B. At SS was Jackie Tavener. Gehringer, Warner and Tavener were all starting their second full seasons as Tigers infield regulars.
Manager Moriarty had a potential advantage over his colleagues, because his job as umpire meant that he saw all the American League teams and its players for 10 seasons in a much more observing way than had he been a player. Yet that perceived advantage never really took root.
On the mound, the Tigers lacked depth and talent, and it had been that way for years in Detroit. A typical Tigers season in the 1920s was a high-scoring offense and a weak pitching staff. The 1927 campaign wouldn't prove to be any different.
The Tigers floated around .500 for much of the early part of the season before getting hotter as the weather got warmer. But they never really went on an extended sizzling streak, and thus were unable to challenge the "big boys" in the AL---the New York Yankees and Cobb's Athletics.
Heilmann provided some drama as history will show that he once again flirted with .400 before ending at .398 in capturing the batting crown. Oddly, Heilmann never reached .400 at any time in the season and his .398 BA was his highest mark beyond the opening couple weeks. A 7-for-9 finish lifted him to nearly .400. Fothergill batted .359 and had 114 RBI, second to Heilmann's 120. Earl Whitehill led all pitchers with 16 wins.
In May, Cobb made his first trip back to Detroit as a member of the A's and got a rousing ovation from the Tigers faithful. In four games at Navin Field, Cobb went 5-for-13 with four doubles as the Athletics claimed three wins. Cobb finished the 1927 season, at age 40, with a stellar .357 batting average in 133 games.
The Yankees ran away with the pennant, fielding one of the greatest teams of all time. They went 110-44, almost 20 games ahead of the A's. The Tigers rode in at 82-71, in fourth place. The first year in the post-Cobb era hadn't been a disaster, but it wasn't anything to write home about, either. It was beginning to sound monotonous to say, but the 1927 Tigers were a good but not great team that still had a long ways to go before being considered serious pennant contenders.By GregEno
- Bob Fothergill, Charlie Gehringer, Earl Whitehill, George Moriarty, Harry Heilmann, Heinie Manush, Jack Warner, Jackie Tavener, Ty Cobb