The Tigers had come so close to another World Series title in 1940, yet it eluded them in heartbreaking fashion.
All the key players were pretty much back: Hank Greenberg, Rudy York, Charlie Gehringer, Bobo Newsom, and a new lefthanded pitcher who was not even 20 years old when the season began: a fellow by the name of Hal Newhouser.
But Greenberg wouldn't be with the Tigers for very long.
Drafted by the U.S. Military in 1940, Greenberg became the first American League player to be drafted. His last game with the Tigers in 1941 was in early-May. Hank wasn't off to a great start, but still, to lose a player of his magnitude was a huge blow for the Tigers.
Not much went right for the Tigers in 1941. Greenberg left to serve his country, which he was proud to do. Gehringer struggled mightily, and whispers began that his 38-year-old body was starting to fail him. Even Bobo Newsom had a tough time on the mound, losing games in rapid fashion.
The Tigers managed to climb to 27-23 and stay within four games of first place, but that was only good enough for fifth place in the tightly-packed American League standings. Things quickly unraveled from there.
By the end of July, the Tigers were 43-51 and buried. Gehringer continued to struggle in a year in which he would hit an unsightly .220. In fact, Gehringer's average would only get as high as .258 all year, in early-May; most of the time he wasn't much higher than .215.
Newsom led the league---in losses, with 20. The Tigers rode in at 75-79, never a factor in the American League race.
The Tigers couldn't have done a much poorer job of defending their pennant as they did in 1941. And what was worse, they had no idea when they'd get Hank Greenberg back from military service.By GregEno
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- Bobo Newsom, Charlie Gehringer, Detroit Tigers, Hal Newhouser, Hank Greenberg, Rudy York, World War II