After suffering through a disappointing 1928 season, and with the realization that hiring manager George Moriarty from the umpiring ranks was maybe not a great idea, the Tigers changed skippers before the 1929 campaign.

The team hired 32-year-old Bucky Harris, who was coming off five seasons in which he was player-manager for the Washington Senators. The first two of those years, Harris led the Senators to the World Series, winning it in 1924.

Harris had fallen into disfavor with the Nats, and so the Tigers snapped him up, eager to add someone with MLB managerial experience after the failed Moriarty Experiment.

Harris pretty much retired as a player to take the Tigers job, thougb he did start a handful of games at second base in 1929.

As usual, the Tigers were loaded with offense, as was the entire league, as pitchers were under siege in those days. Harris had no difficulty finding firepower with a lineup that would feature five regulars who hit .300+, and with two reserves who also crossed that plateau.

The .300+ hitters were: RF Harry Heilmann (.344); 1B Dale Alexander (.343); 2B Charlie Gehringer (.339); LF Roy Johnson (.314); and CF Harry Rice (.304) among the starters. Reserves Bob Fothergill (OF, .354) and Pinky Hargrave (C, .330) also had big years at the plate for Harris. Even pitcher George Uhle hit .343 in 108 AB!

But even in a year that saw the American League teams post a composite ERA of 4.24, the Tigers still managed to find themselves flat on the bottom with an unsightly mark of 4.96. Uhle "led" the team with a 4.08 ERA and 15 wins.

Rookie Johnson burst onto the scene, registering 201 hits, scoring 128 runs and leading the league with 45 doubles. Had there been a Rookie of the Year Award back then, Johnson might have won it.

The Tigers managed to stay above .500 and in fourth place as late as mid-July, but their awful pitching eventually got the best of them, and they ended at 70-84, buried in sixth place.

It was obvious that even with an experienced manager like Harris, the Tigers had a long way to go before a pennant was within their grasp.

By GregEno

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