Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
It’s week two of Motor City Bengals presentation of our All-Time Detroit Tigers team. Last week we named our all-time Tigers first basemen, Hank Greenberg. This week, we name the organization’s top second sacker, Charlie Gehringer.
We’ve lamented Lou Whitaker‘s Hall-of-Fame problems, but as great as he was, Charlie Gehringer was truly one of the best players in baseball history, and certainly one of the best second basemen of all time.
Gehringer had a long and distinct career in baseball, all with the Tigers. Born in Fowlerville, he is the only Tiger on this list who was a native Michigander, the place he’d live all of his life.
In the early 1920’s, Gehringer lettered in basketball, not baseball, at the University of Michigan, but his skills on the diamond were solid enough to grab the attention of Tiger Bobby Veach. In 1923, Veach brought Gehringer to Navin Field for a workout in front of player-manager Ty Cobb. The Tiger legend loved what he saw and convinced the club to tender him a contact.
In his second full season in the big leagues (1927), Charlie became a star under new manager George Moriarty. In the years of Lou Gehrig‘s consecutive games streak, Gehringer was the Tigers’ Iron Man, playing every game from 1928 to 1930, 1933 to 1934, and 1936. He led the league in runs (131), hits (215), doubles (45), triples (19) and steals (19) in 1929.
On the defensive side, he was a very good defender and spent more than 1,000 games forming a keystone combination with shortstop Billy Rogell.
Gehringer was the lone Tigers’ representative in the very first All-Star Game, held at Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1933, and led the league in average in the pennant-winning seasons of 1934 and 1935. He hit .371 in 1937, which was a career high and earned him the MVP.
Gehringer remained a force for the Tigers through their pennant winning season of 1940, hitting .313. In 1941, he hit nearly 100 points off his average and found himself on the bench in 1942. Following that season, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy until 1945. He considered making a comeback at the age of 41, but ultimately decided against it.
In 16 full-seasons in the majors, Charlie hit under .300 just four times (his first full year and his final two). In the peak of his career, from 1927 to 1940, the only sub-.300 season was 1932 when he hit .298. He finished with a career average of .320, 2,839 hits, 184 homers and 1,427 RBIs.
Charlie was a six-time All-Star, won three pennants, one World Series, an MVP, and batting title. His number two was retired alongside Greenberg’s number five in a ceremony at Tiger Stadium in 1983, and he was elected to the Baseball Hall-of-Fame in 1949 with more than 85 percent of the vote.
It is for all these reasons that Charlie Gehringer is named to the Motor City Bengals’ All-Time Detroit Tigers team, and was another unanimous pick by staff.
Honorable mention goes to Whitaker (of course), and Dick McAulliffe.
Next week, we’ll look at all-time best shortstop. That should be a tough choice, right?