After two turbulent years following their World Series victory, the Tigers were ready to not only win, but to do so without any drama. They were looking forward to having their catcher/manager, Mickey Cochrane, with them for the whole season. That would be a nice start.
But as had been feared after Cochrane was told not to play anymore, Black Mike's competitive fire waned. Being relegated to strictly manager status was too much for Cochrane; he loved playing so much.
The Tigers, though, still had a lot of talent and they were determined to prove that they were still among the American League's elite. New to the outfield was Dixie Walker, who came over from the White Sox and who was the less famous brother of Harry "The Hat" Walker. Dixie hit .302 in 1937, his first full season in the big leagues after several cups of coffee. In order to acquire Walker, the Tigers traded 3B Marv Owen and OF Gee Walker. Coming to Detroit with Dixie Walker was pitcher Vern Kennedy.
The Tigers still had Hank Greenberg, of course, and any team with Greenberg should be considered a team to be reckoned with. And in 1938, Greenberg authored one of the greatest seasons in baseball history, let alone in Tigers history.
Greenberg's power was unleashed in full force. He slammed a home run on Opening Day, and two in the first three games. That was definitely a sign of things to come. Greenberg kept hitting homers, and as the season progressed, it was becoming evident that one of baseball's most cherished records---Babe Ruth's 60 home runs in a single season---was in jeopardy.
After 75 games, Hankus Pankus had 26 homers. Yet he picked up the pace; in late-July, Greenberg slammed two homers in a game three times in four days!
With five games to play, Greenberg had 58 homers. By this time, the Tigers were out of the pennant race; in fact, Cochrane had been fired after 98 games and was replaced by, as usual, Del Baker. So with the Tigers out of contention, the focus was on Greenberg's assault on Ruth's record.
Alas, Greenberg could hit no more home runs and finished the season with 58. But what a season!
As for the team, Cochrane's firing meant that, for the third year in a row, Mickey wouldn't last a full season. But the Tigers played well under Baker, going 37-19 to finish the season.
The Tigers were, again, done in by their pitching. The team ERA was 4.79, and no pitcher won more than 12 games.
It all added up to an 84-70 record and a fourth place finish. At the end of the year, owner Walter Briggs made Baker the permanent manager.By GregEno
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- Del Baker, Dixie Walker, Gee Walker, Hank Greenberg, Harry Walker, Marv Owen, Mickey Cochrane, Vern Kennedy, Walter Briggs