Entering the 1931 season, the Tigers had been in the American League for 30 years and had three pennants to show for it---and none since 1909. Their superstar player Ty Cobb had been gone for several years and baseball in Detroit was becoming a chore rather than a pastime.
The Philadelphia Athletics and New York Yankees had taken control of the league, the Yankees' duo of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig leading a ferocius offense that was the best in a new era that was shaking free from the shackles of the Dead Ball one.
The Tigers trudged to spring training in 1931 hoping to reverse the trends of losing baseball and being out of contention before Memorial Day.
Manager Bucky Harris's youth movement wasa painful work in progress, as proven by the Bengals' paltry records in the two years under Harris. But supporters pointed to the team's five-game improvement in wins (70 to 75) from 1929 to '30 as reason to be hopeful.
Harry Heilmann was gone from the outfield, now manned by (from L to R) John Stone, Hub Walker and Roy Johnson. Ray Hayworth at catcher and Dale Alexander at 1B were becoming mainstays. But the one player the Tigers could least afford to lose to injury was the one they did: 2B Charlie Gehringer.
Gehringer missed half of May and almost all of June to injury, along with about 10 days in early-September. Gehringer, the Tigers' best player, would only suit up for 101 of the team's 154 games. Gehringer hit .311 in those 101 games, and Tigers fans and players and Bucky Harris were left to wonder what might have happened if Gehringer was healthy.
The Tigers were 16-16 when Gehringer went down on May 19, and by the time he returned, they were 24-41 and hopelessly buried. The Tigers lost a staggering 25 of 33 games with their superstar second baseman out of the lineup.
Once again, the Tigers played out the string---another dreary baseball season in the Motor City.
On the mound, Earl Whitehill and Vic Sorrell led the team in wins with 13 each. There was some hope for a young righthander named Tommy Bridges, who led the staff in strikeouts with 105. Maybe Bridges could be the Tigers' first star pitcher in many years.
But that was in the future. In the present, the Tigers were, once again, nothing more than also-rans. They finished the 1931 season at 61-93, in seventh place and a whopping 47 games behind first place Philadelphia.By GregEno
- Bucky Harris, Charlie Gehringer, Dale Alexander, Detroit Tigers, Earl Whitehill, Hub Walker, John Stone, Ray Hayworth, Roy Johnson, Tommy Bridges