CHARLIE GEHRINGER: Mickey Cochrane turned it all around in 1934. We were that close and we needed a catcher badly. We got Cochrane from Philadelphia and then we got Goose Goslin from Washington; in both cases it worked out well. Mickey was a super guy and we needed him so badly, what with these young pitchers we had coming along, like Schoolboy Rowe and Tommy Bridges. It was like getting a good quarterback in football. You're dead without one, and it's the same way with a catcher.
He helped straighten Schoolboy Rowe out. He would've had some great records if he hadn't hurt his arm. He was off to a super start and then he ran into some problems. We'll never know just how great he could've been.
Schoolie was a great all-around athlete. He'd played football, basketball, everything in high school. I remember he once hit a golf ball 315 yards on the fly at Lakeland. He could hit a baseball as far as Ruth. He hit one in the center-field bleachers in batting practice in the Polo Grounds later when he was with Philadelphia, and I think only two or three other guys have done that. A great athlete. Died young. Only fifty-one when he had a heart attack. You'd think a guy like that would last forever.
Schoolie almost broke [Lefty] Grove's record for most consecutive wins. Grove had won sixteen in a row, and Rowe had sixteen going on seventeen [in 1934] when he pitched against the Philadelphia A's. He'd won his last outing in Washington in the ninth inning on a home run by Greenberg, tying the record, and he looked like he was going to be the guy to break it.
But the newspapers were driving him crazy. He wasn't getting any sleep. They were in his room and calling him at all hours of the day and night. The A's wound up clobbering him. As I remember it, we were never in the game. It started off badly, but Cochrane left him in. In those years we had such good hitting we figured we were never beat until the final out. We'd come from behind so many times. I don't know how long Rowe stayed in, but it was pretty obvious that he didn't have it that day.
I always thought Schoolie had a fastball as good as Grove's. He was so tall, that when he'd stand on that mound and start his delivery from way up here, from second base you'd swear that the ball was going to hit the ground before it reached the plate. Just sizzle. Never saw anyone throw harder than he did when he first broke in with the Tigers. He hurt his arm in spring training trying to field a bunt. He pitched quite a while after that with the Phillies, but never with the arm he once had. It's sad when you go that route.
Tommy Bridges? I was always glad that he was on our side. A super little pitcher. In fact, I'd have to say he was as good as Hal Newhouser. Maybe his record wasn't as good, but he had some great years. He had probably the best curveball I ever stood behind. I've seen him throw that curveball at a guy's head, and the batter would fall flat on his rear end thinking it was going to hit him, and then the ball would go over the plate for a strike. You think he didn't make the batter look silly?
Billy Rogell came over from the Red Sox in 1930 and he left in '39. Those ten years were fine. Got along great. Before that I'd played with something like twenty-two different shortstops. It was fantastic the way they were coming and going. It was Bill Rigney and Jackie Tavener when I first got here, but then it was a constant stream. I don't think anyone stayed a year until Rogell came.
Billy was pretty good to play with. We would get along great until the scorer made a bad call and gave him an error on a ball that got by him. That would upset him badly. With a runner on first, I used to give the signs on who was to cover second [on a steal attempt]. But Billy wouldn't even look at me, he'd be so mad and cussin'. He wouldn't look my way, so I'd have to holler at him. Even then I was never sure that he'd heard me. So maybe a time or two Cochrane would throw the ball down and nobody'd be covering. So that'd set Mickey off. You can imagine the turmoil.
Rogell and Cochrane were two of a kind -- they were both a little short-fused. I'll say one thing about Billy: I don't think I ever got to the ballpark but where he wasn't already there. I don't care how early I got there, he was always ahead of me. That's how eager he was to operate. He was a real nut for baseball.
From Cobb Would Have Caught It by Richard Bak.
Copyright © 1991 by Wayne State University Press. Reprinted with permission.