The Tigers were never so glad to see a new baseball season arrive, as they were on the eve of the 1937 campaign.
The horrors of 1936 were behind them. Hank Greenberg was back and healthy. Player-manager Mickey Cochrane was recovered from his nervous breakdown. Charlie Gehringer was nearing 34 but was still an All-Star-caliber second baseman. And they had unsung hero Gee Walker in the outfield, a player who flew under the radar but who was a perennial .300+ hitter.
The Tigers were also determined to show the baseball world that, had they not been bogged down with injuries and turmoil, they were still kings of the American League.
Everything was going pretty well from the outset. The Tigers were 16-12, just 1.5 games out of first place, when they visited the Yankees in New York on May 25. Greenberg was hitting .333 with six homers and 35 RBI, Gehringer was at .337. and Black Mike---catcher/manager Cochrane, was on a 9-for-15 streak to lift his average to .302
Then tragedy struck.
Cochrane was beaned by a pitch from New York's Bump Hadley. The beaning nearly killed Cochrane, who spent seven days in the hospital, mostly in critical condition. He recovered, but, sadly, doctors ordered him never to play baseball again. Cochrane was only 34 years old and figured to have many years of playing ahead of him. But it wasn't to be.
To the Tigers' credit, they soldiered on without their catcher and manager, for the second year in a row. Steeled by the loss, the Tigers got hot and on June 12 had a six-game winning streak and were remaining 1.5 games out of first place. Another six-game streak in early-July gave the Tigers a fine 41-29 record, but the Yankees were once again obliterating the league at 46-22.
Coach Del Baker had once again assumed the team's reins in Cochrane's absence, and did a good job. Black Mike returned to the dugout on July 27, but without being able to play, some said that Cochrane lost a lot of his competitive spirit. On September 9, Cochrane again left the team to deal with his personal troubles. But by that time the Yankees had run away with the pennant.
With 15 games to play, Baker also stepped down, allowing fellow coach Cy Perkins to finish the year. Perkins went 6-9.
The bottom line: the Tigers finished 89-65, again in second place, but again miles away from first place---13 games behind the Yankees.
Contributing to the Tigers' woes was the mysterious case of pitcher Schoolboy Rowe, whose arm had been showing signs of wear in 1936. Rowe spent most of the year either injured or in the minor leagues, tossing just 31.1 innings for the Tigers in 1937, posting an ugly 8.62 ERA in the process.
As much as they wanted to put the troubles of 1936 behind them, the Tigers found that 1937 was no picnic, either.By GregEno
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- Bump Hadley, Charlie Gehringer, Cy Perkins, Del Baker, Detroit Tigers, Hank Greenberg, Mickey Cochrane, Schoolboy Rowe