CHARLIE GEHRINGER: My first full season was 1926, Cobb's last season in Detroit. For the next several years we generally had a heavy-hitting ball club, but we couldn't win anything because of our pitching. When I first came up we had Heilmann, Cobb, and Veach in the outfield, and guys like Heinie Manush and Bob Fothergill sitting on the bench, even though they were hitting .350. Now, when you see kids hitting .240 playing regularly, it's laughable.
Fothergill? I don't know if you ever saw a picture of him, but he was about as round as he was tall. Had a terrible weight problem, but he could really run. He came from Massillon, Ohio, where he'd been a great football player. I remember seeing him punt a football once -- golly, he punted it as far as anyone I ever saw.
But he was a great hitter, especially against left-handers. A lefty couldn't get him out without him hitting a line drive. They might catch the ball, but he'd really smash it.
He had a time keeping his weight in shape, but he still ran pretty good. In fact, I remember we were in Philadelphia once and we were getting beat about 13-0 going into the last inning when he hit a home run. He's rounding the bases nice and easy -- and then when he gets to third base he comes running like a freight train and does a complete flip in the air and lands on home plate! Never saw him do that before. Man, he brought the house down!
Fothergill was a funny guy. I remember when the Boston ball park had a little knoll that went up to this short fence in left field. They've taken it out since, but back then, an outfielder had to run up the knoll because you couldn't back up it. One day Fothergill misjudged a fly ball. He ran up the knoll, then he ran down it, and as he started coming down the ball hit him in the head and bounced away. We were going to Philadelphia next. They must have read about it in the papers because before the next game, some guy presented Fothergill with a football helmet at home plate.
Heilmann was another super guy. He played a little first base, but mostly right field. He was a good fielder with a good throwing arm, but he was slow and couldn't cover a lot of ground. But he sure could hit. Seemed like every other year he'd win the batting championship. He'd hit .390, .395, and over .400 one year. A tremendous hitter. Cobb couldn't hit any better than that, so he didn't fool with him. Besides, Heilmann was so big and strong I don't think Cobb would get very nasty with him.
From Cobb Would Have Caught It by Richard Bak.
Copyright © 1991 by Wayne State University Press. Reprinted with permission.