Golden Age of Baseball in Detroit
by Richard Bak
Buy it from Amazon from Barnes & Noble
« 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 »
We won again in 1935, even though we were in sixth place as late as May. We played the Cubs, and [Hank] Greenberg got hurt in that series.
Hank, of course, was our big gun. A strong guy. He had long arms and a big arc to his swing, so even if he was fooled on a pitch he could still hit the ball a long ways. His famous saying to me was, "Just get the runner over to third." Hank loved those RBIs. He had 183 one season. Just get 'em over to third, so Hank could drive 'em in. I told him once, "You'd trip a runner coming around third base just so you could knock him in yourself."
We had to use Flea Clifton in the series to replace Greenberg. Clifton wasn't much of a hitter, but he fielded well and we won in six games. Goslin drove in the winning run, though I thought I was going to, We were tied 3-3 in the ninth, and Cochrane led off with a single. I hit after Mickey, and I lined a pitch down the first-base line that nine times out of ten is at least a double. But Phil Cavaretta, the first baseman, hadn't moved off the bag. He knocked it down in the coach's box and got me, but Cochrane went to second. Then Goslin brought him home. Every time I see Cavaretta I say, "You killed me. You kept me from being a hero."
But winning that first World Series was a big thrill. The entire town was ga-ga. I tried to take a friend downtown, but gaily, everything was blocked up. You couldn't cross the streets, the city was such a mess, First world championship for Detroit. Seemed like everybody was downtown, whoopin'and hollerin'.
Rudy York came up a year or two later. He came up as a catcher, but he wasn't very good. They tried him at third, and he was even worse there. They finally moved Greenberg to left field and put Rudy at first base. They had to find some place for Rudy because he was such a good hitter.
I roomed with Rudy for about a year. He used to like to drink his beer, and he'd smoke cigarettes when he went to bed. If the cigarette burned his fingers, then he'd wake up and put it out. But quite often he'd fall asleep and then he'd drop that burning cigarette. I don't know how many mattresses he burned up. We always said he led the league in burned mattresses. I finally moved in with someone else. I wanted a little better chance of getting out in case he burned the hotel down.
But I liked the baseball life. We traveled by train: two private coaches along with a diner on the back. The food was super and we'd play bridge, pinochle, and hearts en route. We all had our own berths; no upper deckers. I'd prefer to travel that way than fly.
Of course, you couldn't cover the ground you have to cover today. The league was pretty compact then. You could make the four eastern clubs within three hours. Boston to Washington would be the longest trip you'd have. From Washington to Philadelphia and then Philadelphia to New York would be maybe an hour.
In every city we stayed in a nice hotel. You'd eat dinner in style and a good orchestra would play dance music. Gee, it was super. Chicago was a good town. New York was good for a day or two. I didn't care for St. Louis and Washington. They were pretty hot and sticky all the time. They finally got night ball about 1937 or so, which made it better.
Detroit was the last club to install lights, so I never played night ball at home. But there were four clubs that had it in the American League -- Philadelphia, St. Louis, Washington, and Chicago. They could only play fourteen night games a season, though, because that was the limit. I didn't like it too well. I thought it screwed up your eating habits. You never knew when you could eat a full meal. You didn't want to eat before a game and you didn't want to eat too much after a game. You'd just be nibbling off and on, here and there. I thought it was upsetting. Then you got to bed at one or two o'clock in the morning. Of course, you slept in late, but then you had all day to loaf around, looking for something to do. I preferred it the old way -- day games.
From Cobb Would Have Caught It by Richard Bak.
Copyright © 1991 by Wayne State University Press. Reprinted with permission.