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The son of a country doctor, Bridges graduated from the University of Tennessee and was expected to follow in his father's footsteps. He chose baseball instead, and the only doctoring he did was intended to induce sharp, breaking curves. Bridges's frail appearance was deceptive. Though he had a blazing fastball, his curve was the wonder of the AL for over a decade. He once fanned 20 in a minor league game, and led the AL in strikeouts in 1935 and 1936.
In 1932 Bridges lost a bid for a perfect game in dramatic fashion that either proved the integrity of the game, or was just poor sportsmanship. Walter Johnson was the Washington manager, and his Senators trailed Detroit, 13-0, with two out in the ninth. Young Bridges was doing something Johnson had never done: pitch a perfect game. The Washington pitcher, Bobby Burke, was due up. Instead, Johnson sent gifted pinch hitter Dave Harris to bat. Harris led the AL that season with 14 pinch hits. A notoriously good curveball hitter, Harris out-dueled Bridges, stroking a clean single to left to break up the perfect game. The next batter was a routine out, and Washington still lost by 13 runs.
Bridges won over 20 games for three straight seasons (1934-36) and led the AL with 23 victories in '36. Among his memorable feats was his clutch performance in Game Six of the 1935 World Series. With the score tied 3-3, Stan Hack opened the top of the ninth with a triple. He remained there as Bridges retired the next three batters. The Tigers scored in the bottom of the inning, winning the Series, and Bridges had his second victory.
During the 1930s, Bridges was named to the AL All-Star staff six times, and gained a victory in 1939. With 194 regular season victories, four in the WS, and one in an All-Star game, Bridges had 199 career wins. (JK)