It didn't take long after the 1929 season for Bucky Harris to start making changes to the Tigers roster. And the biggest one was the first one: the sale of venerable OF Harry Heilmann to the Cincinnati Reds on October 14, 1929.
Heilmann, like Ty Cobb, had been a great-hitting outfielder and fixture on the Tigers, winning batting titles and terrifying pitchers. But he was 35 years old and Harris, who had become a manager at the tender age of 27, wanted to go with younger players.
Buoyed by the great rookie year of Roy Johnson, Harris kept with the youth in the outfield, inserting rookie Liz Funk in center field and placing 24-year-old John Stone in LF.
Second base was in the more than capable hands of Charlie Gehringer, and in late-May, Harris dealt with the Yankees, bringing their shortstop Mark Koenig in to be Gehringer's partner at the keystone. With Dale Alexander at 1B and Marty McManus at 3B, the Tigers infield looked pretty well set.
Surprisingly, the Tigers improved slightly on the mound, even in a year where the average team ERA in the league was 4.65. In fact, it was the Tigers pitching that improved while the hitting dipped, which was unusual for the Bengals.
The league batting average was .288, and the Tigers were a little below that at .284. Leading the way offensively were Gehringer at .330, Alexander at .326 (20 HR, 135 RBI) and McManus at .320.
The young outfield of Stone, Funk and Johnson (left to right) did alright, with Stone finishing at .311 and Funk and Johnson each batting .275.
But a 5-14 start torpedoed the Tigers from the get go, and once again it was a long summer of trying to play catch up. Only, the Tigers never did catch up, finishing 75-79, firmly planted in fifth place.
In late-July, longtime Tigers OF Bob Fothergill, struggling at the plate, was sold to the Chicago White Sox. On September 10, aging catcher Pinky Hargrave was sold to the Washington Senators.
Manager Harris was clearly trying to make the Tigers younger. Whether he was also making them better had remained to be seen.By GregEno
- Bob Fothergill, Bucky Harris, Charlie Gehringer, Dale Alexander, Harry Heilmann, John Stone, Liz Funk, Mark Koenig, Marty McManus, Pinky Hargrave, Roy Johnson, Ty Cobb