There are plenty of feats and accomplishments in baseball that naturally get overlooked throughout the course of time.
We remember players and moments, but feats that are not solitary moments get faded as the decades roll on.
Older Detroit Tiger fans remember Rudy York. Many younger fans have heard of him. But do you know one of his biggest marks in the game came 79 years ago?
In 1937, York had an August for the ages — and it was during his rookie season.
After playing just three games in 1934, York rejoined the Tigers in 1937. He played 104 games that season and packed a wallup.
But it was in August that York really hit his stride, finding a power stroke that quickly put him into double digits for the month as he approached the major league record. But it came down to the final day and York was sitting on 16 for the month — one short of Babe Ruth’s total of 17 in 1927.
York reached the record in dramatic fashion, hitting two home runs on August 31 against the Washington Senators to give him 18 home runs for the month.
York had just 375 at bats in 1937 and had just 115 hits, but he made them count. York slugged 35 home runs and knocked in 101 runs in his first full season. It was the first of four 30-home run seasons and six 100-RBI seasons in his career.
He made seven All-Star teams with his banner season coming in 1943 when he led the American League with 34 home runs, 118 RBIs, a .527 slugging percentage and 301 total bases. York had 277 career home runs and 1,149 RBIs while batting .275 during his 13-year career (10 with the Tigers).
But nothing was quite as legendary as that first August that York put on a Detroit Tigers uniform, which gave him a record that lasted 61 years.
York’s major league record was broken in 1998 when Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa slammed 20 home runs in June of 1998. Ironically, Sosa broke York’s record during an interleague game at Tiger Stadium.
I was actually at that game to watch Sosa break York’s record with No. 19. He hit his 20th of the month the next night. I was a high school student and happy to be on hand to witness history in person. This was in the height of the 1998 home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sosa which captivated the nation.
It was so exciting to see one of those sluggers in Tiger Stadium. Of course, that was then. Looking back, it is a memory that was tarnished by the shadow of performance enhancing drugs.
It also is a shadow that took York off a record he deserves to hold. He still holds the American League record with 18 homers in a month, but whenever someone is having a particularly powerful month and broadcasters are talking about the monthly home run record, Sosa’s name will appear first.
York deserves better. His rookie season of 1937 was amazing.