Charlie Gehringer and the Detroit Tigers won the pennant in 1934. It was a magical season for the Motor City and their second baseman. Gehringer finished second in the MVP vote with his best season to date. Amazingly, the infielder enjoyed better seasons later in his career. However, his efforts in 1934 helped turn a second division squad into title contenders.
Fowlerville, Michigan native Charlie Gehringer played his first full season in 1926. Baseball legend Ty Cobb took the youngster under his wing and helped develop Gehringer’s batting skills. The pupil became a major offensive force by the end of the decade.
Gehringer’s offense helped the Tigers, but the team did not win until Mickey Cochrane joined the team as manager and the pitching staff matured. Once the team’s pitching staff developed into a force, the Tigers began winning pennants. Meanwhile, the team’s second basemen kept plugging away. Yankee pitcher Lefty Gomez observed Gehringer was a “Mechanical Man” that “you wind up on Opening Day and forget him.”
The quiet Tiger’s bat spoke volumes in April 1934. He had five multi-hit games in the season’s first ten contests including a three hit game and a 4-for-4 performance against the Indians on April 28. On April 19, Gehringer went 3-for-4 with 3 runs scored, a home run, and a pair of RBIs. The second baseman started May with a .372 average and .888 OPS.
Gehringer did not miss a beat in May. He played 29 games, batted .364 with a 1.076 OPS. Additionally, the Tiger hit 4 home runs, 12 doubles, and knocked in 23 runs. On nine occasions, Gehringer knocked two hits in a game. He also had three games with three hits and went 4-for-4 against the Yankees on May 17. Nearly two weeks later, the Mechanical Man went 5-for-9 with 4 runs, 2 home runs, and 4 RBI in a double header against the Browns.
Detroit’s second baseman tore the cover off the ball in April and May, but that performance did not compare to June’s batting. In 27 June games, Gehringer hit a torrid .435 with 12 doubles, 4 triples, 2 home runs, 35 RBI, .516 OBP, .676 slugging, and 1.192 OPS. He had 14 multi-hit games including seven games with three or four hits. Gehringer went 4-for 5 on June 2 at Chicago, 4-for-5 against the Indians on June 5, and 4-for-4 at home against Chicago on June 8.
The Mechanical Man returned to normal in July. The .320 career hitter batted .319 for the month with a .888 OPS. He continued at his career average with a .320 August. Overall, Gehinger had 22 multi-hit games in the two months. He had three hit games against Cleveland, Philadelphia, and the Yankees. The second baseman slapped four hits against the Indians and A’s.
Gehringer began September with a 4-for-6 performance against the Indians in Cleveland. He had three hit games four other times in the season’s final month. However, his average dipped slightly as the month progressed. He began the month at .363, but finished the season at .356.
Gehringer’s performance helped lead the Tigers to the pennant. Detroit lost the World Series in seven hard fought games. However, the second baseman batted .379 with a home run, 2 RBI, and .955 OPS. He knocked two hits in four of the seven games and got a hit in each contest.
The Tigers’ pennant run helped player-manager Cochrane win the 1934 American League Most Valuable Player Award. Cochrane led the Tigers to the World Series, developed the young pitching staff, and batted .320. Charlie Gehringer finished second in the vote. Detroit Tiger teammates Schoolboy Rowe and Hank Greenberg finished fourth and sixth. Yankee Lou Gehrig won the Triple Crown, but finished fifth in the vote.
The second place MVP finisher led the league in games played (154), runs (134), and hits (214). He was second in average (.356), OBP (.450), and doubles (50). Additionally, Gehringer had 7 triples, 11 home runs, 127 RBI, 99 walks, .517 slugging, 311 total bases, and .967 OPS. He was also the starting second baseman for baseball’s second All Star Game.
The Tigers won the World Series in 1935 with Gehringer manning second base. He continued to improve his play and won the 1937 MVP Award. However, 1934 was a special season in Detroit. The Tigers finally broke through after 25 years of frustration. Gehringer played a major role in that breakthrough with his MVP caliber performance.