Seventy-five years ago tomorrow at Navin Field in front of 48,420 fans, the Detroit Tigers won their first world championship with a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs after the most thrilling and significant ninth inning in the history of Tigers baseball.
The Tigers, led by their manager and catcher Mickey Cochrane, the “Battalion of Death” infield of Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Billy Rogell, and Marv Owen, and an impressive starting rotation of Schoolboy Rowe, Tommy Bridges, and Elden Auker were desperate to win the club’s first World Series, especially after losing the 1934 World Series in seven games. Prior to that, the Tigers lead by Ty Cobb, had lost the ‘Series in 1907, 1908, and 1909.
In the middle of the Great Depression, fans throughout Detroit and Michigan looked to this loaded ballclub to give them something to cheer about.
And boy did the Bengals deliver.
With a series lead of 3 games to 2, their small but scrappy right hander Tommy Bridges, who led the AL in strikeouts and who sported a 21-10 record faced Chicago lefthander Larry French.
In what was a nail biter that only took just one hour and 57 minutes to play, the Tigers’ Marv Owen slapped a single to score Billy Rogell to tie the game 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth.
However in the top of the ninth, Chicago’s first batter Stan Hack tripled over the head of center fielder Gee Walker, as the heart of every Tiger fan sank knowing that just a sacrifice fly could end up tying the series and taking it into a seventh game. (The previous year the Tigers had lost games six and seven in the World Series to the Cardinals after having a similar 3-2 game lead.)
However little Tommy Bridges threw what turned out to be one of the gutsiest clutch pitching performances in Tiger history. Behind the plate, Iron Mike had complete confidence in Bridges.
The next hitter Billy Jurges struck out on three pitches, French tapped softly back to Bridges for the second out, and Augie Galan lifted a lazy flyball to Goose Goslin as Tiger fans stood up giving Bridges a thunderous standing ovation.
In the bottom of the ninth, Flea Clifton struck out but then Cochrane singled off of Billy Herman’s glove. Cochrane took second after Gehringer was out at first after hitting a sizzler to first baseman Phil Cavaretta. (now the lone surviving player from the ’35 Series.)
The next batter was Leon “Goose” Goslin, one of the “G-Men” (the others being Greenberg and Gehringer) who had batted .292.
A few years ago, Elden Auker, who at the time was the lone surviving member of the ’35 Tigers and who died in 2006 told me the following in a Detroit Free Press interview.
“At one point during the game Goose and I were standing on the dugout steps and he turned to me and said, ‘I have a feeling I’m going to be up there with the winning run on base.’”
Reportedly when Goslin stepped to the plate he turned to home plate umpire Ernie Quigley and said:
“If they pitch that ball over this plate, you can take that monkey suit off.”
The Cubs pitched the ball over the plate.
Sure enough Goose Goslin slapped a single to right as Cochrane rounded third and headed home with the winning run that set off a wild celebration.
Auker told me:
“When I ran onto to the field Goose threw his arms around me and yelled, “what I’d tell ya, what I’d tell ya, what I’d tell ya.’”
Long time baseball writer Frederick Lieb wrote:
“Detroit’s first modern World’s Championship set off the greatest celebration ever seen in baseball…..It started in Navin Field, almost with the last play. They yelled themselves hoarse in the ball park, and after forty-five minutes most of those were still milling around. Repeatedly they yelled for Cochrane. Eventually somebody got the loudspeaker in the clubhouse and Mickey said: ‘This is the happiest day of my life. It was the most sensational series I ever played in. My greatest thrill in baseball was scoring that winning run.’”
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