May 11, 2017
Who’s Better – Hank Greenberg vs Johnny Mize
Earlier today, I was surfing the website Terry set up to honor Bob and came across a Keltner List Bob had done of Johnny Mize. In his discussion, Bob noted that it was a close call as who was the better player Mize or Hank Greenberg. Well, Bob’s right, it is a close call as to which of these two was the better player. I thought I’d take a close look at the two and see what the BJOL readers have to say about it.
Before I start, below is a link to Bob’s Keltner List for Mize
Let’s start by seeing how these two look in the encyclopedia.
Hank Greenberg 1930, 1933-41, 45-47, Ages 19-36, DET 1930-46, PIT 1947
1394 G 6098 PA 5193 AB 1046 RS 1628 H 379 2B 71 3B 331 HR 1274 RBI 58/26 SB/CS 852/844 BB/K .313/.412/.605 158 OPS+ 3142 TB 66 GDP 16 HBP 35 SH
Johnny Mize 1936-42, 46-53 Ages 23-40, STL 1936-41, NYG 42-49, NYY 49-53
1884 G 7370 PA 6443 AB 1118 RS 2011 H 367 2B 83 3B 359 HR 1337 RBI 28 SB 856/524 BB/K .312/.397/.562 158 OPS+ 3621 TB 99 GDP 52 HBP 20 SH
Now a look at their careers on a season by season basis using Win Shares.
19 00 —
20 — —
21 — —
22 14 —
23 31 26
24 34 34
25 03 28
26 33 33
27 34 33
28 24 26
29 31 32
30 02 — (MS for both)
31 MS MS
32 MS MS
33 MS 22
34 16 32 (MS for 1/2 season for HG)
35 31 30
36 14 12
37 — 12
38 — 11
39 — 04
40 — 03
Tot 267 338
162 31.03 29.06
Not much to choose from in their prime is there? Determining each man’s Raw WS Value (car WS + Top 3 Sea + Top 5 Cons + WS/162) results in the following totals – 121.93 for Mize and 117.52 for Greenberg. I’m not going to do a year by year study under WAR, but I will note their JAWS scores. Mize has 70.8 career WAR and a WAR7 of 48.8 good for a JAWS of 59.9 which is 8th all time among 1B. Greenberg’s career WAR is 57.5, his WAR7 is 47.7 so his JAWS is 52.6 (16th all time among first sackers).
One thing I like to look at is how often players reach some arbitrary OPS+ each year they’re a regular. For Mize & Greenberg I chose 150.
Greenberg 158/ 172,171,170,169,162,156,156
Mize —– 158/ 178,177,176, 173, 162, 161, 160, 156, 156
Greenberg had only 9 seasons in which he qualified for a batting title, and Mize ten, Greenberg’s 7 seasons and Mize’s 10 seasons with an OPS+ of 150 or more is pretty darn impressive.
Let’s see how each player does in relation to his peers;
Black Ink 46 (31)
Gray Ink 171 (62)
HOF Monitor 188 (53)
HOF Standards 46 (111)
The numbers in parentheses are the man’s ranking in that category. Neither Gold Gloves nor Silver Sluggers existed at the time. Greenberg played in 5 All Star Games in his career competing against the top 2 first basemen (Gehrig & Foxx) of all time. Greenberg won 2 MVP’s – one as a 1B for the pennant winning Tigers in ’35 and the other as a LF for another pennant winning Tigers squad in 1940. Overall, he has a MVP Award Share total of 3.69, the 19th best total in baseball history. He received MVP votes in eight seasons, including six top ten finishes. Greenberg was selected to The Sporting News post-season Major League All Star team twice – once as a first baseman in 1935 and once as an outfielder in 1940.
Based on WAR, Greenberg would have been an AL All Star three times (1937 & 1945 as a 1B and 1940 as an OF). Also, per WAR, Greenberg was one of the top 10 players in MLB five times with another two seasons in MLB top 20. His high finish was third which happened three times (1937-38 and 40).
Doing the same exercise using WS also results in 3 AL All Star berths (1935, 38 & 40). He was one of the best players in the majors four times (on a fifth occasion he made the top 20) with high finish of second place in 1938.
Black Ink 50 (26)
Gray Ink 202 (40)
HOF Monitor 175 (61)
HOF Standards 47 (103)
Mize played in 10 ASG. Mize never won an MVP, but he did finish second twice and ended his career with an Award Share score of 2.46 (60th). He received MVP votes in 11 seasons including 6 top 10 finishes. He was The Sporting News post-season major league All Star 1B three times (1942, 47-48).
Doing the same WAR & WS exercise for Mize results in the following;
WAR NL All Star – 7 (1937-40,42,47-48)
WAR MLB Top 10/Top 20 Player – 8 T10, 9 T20 – Hi – 3rd 1940
WS NL All Star – 8 (1936-40,42,47-48)
WS MLB Top 10/Top 20 – 7 & 9 – Hi finish – 2 (1940 & 47)
Both players performed well in the post-season.
Although Greenberg’s career with the Tigers coincided with an era of Yankee dominance, his Tigers won four AL pennants and went 2-2 in the World Series.
Greenberg’s WS stats;
23 G 85 AB 17 R 27 H 7 2B 2 3B 5 HR 22 RBI 13/19 BB/K .318/.420/.624
Mize never played in the World Series during his peak seasons with the Cards and Giants (his Cards finished 2nd three times). He did play in five World Series as a part time player with the Yanks from 1949-53 as the Yanks won five straight championships. Mize contributed to those 5 straight World Championships;;
18 G 42 AB 5 R 12 H 2 2B 0 3B 3 HR 9 RBI 5/3 BB/K .286/.362/548
Now on to the things that are harder to quantify – defense, base-running and intangibles.
My knowledge is that both of these players were considered as adequate defensive first sackers. In his career, Greenberg played 1138 games at first and another 238 games in left field. His career dWAR is -4.3 and he had no season in which he was ranked among the league top 10 in dWAR, while Bill graded him as an A- first basemen in his Win Shares book. His career fielding percentage at 1B is .991 vs a league .990.
In his career, Mize played 1667 games at first and 8 games in RF. His career dWAR is -6.5 and he also never finished among the league top 10 in this category. Bill graded him as a B at 1B. His career fielding percentage at 1B was .992 vs a league .990. Your guess is as good as mine as to which rates the edge as a defensive player.
Baserunning was not a major factor in either man’s game. Greenberg stole 58 bases at a 69% clip in his career (CS totals were kept for his career except for 47 in which he had 0 SB). Mize stole only 28 bags in his career, but until he moved to the Yanks in the AL we have no info on his CS totals. The AL did not keep track of GDP until the 1939 season. From ’39 until the end of hsi career, Greenberg hit into 66 DP’s in 2784 PA or 15.65/660. The NL kept GDP during all of Mize’s career and his GDP rate is a low 8.87 per 660 PA. Each man hit a fair number of triples, but since both were first class power hitters, it’s hard to know how much credit for the triples totals should go into the baserunning category.
From what I know both were fine gentlemen and good teammates.
These two are awfully close as players and they have quite a bit in common. Greenberg, even though he had his first cup of coffee in 1930 vs Mize’s major league debut in 1936, is only 2 years older than Mize. Both started out in the shadow of the two greatest first baseman of all time (Gehrig & Foxx) and both lost a significant portion of their prime seasons to World War II. Greenberg missed almost all of 1941, all of 1942-44 and about half of 1945 to military service. Mize missed three full seasons (1943-45). I thought I’d prorate each man’s pre and post war seasons to figure out career totals with their war service.
First, Greenberg. No one missed more time to military service during World War II than Greenberg. Reviewing the Tiger game logs at Baseball Reference, Greenberg missed 658 games from 1941 through 45. Below are his pro-rated numbers as I see it;
Greenberg Career Totals without military service
2000 G 8725 PA 7380 AB 1519 R 2288 H 513 2B 93 3B 503 HR 1797 RBI 1269/1206 BB/K .310/.411/.609 158 OPS+ 4496 TB
Greenberg ends his career in 1947 with 390 WS and 79.4 WAR
Mize missed three full seasons or 462 games.
Mize Career Totals without military service
2299 G 9163 PA 8001 AB 1414 R 2493 H 450 2B 102 3B 458 HR 1677 RBI .312/.397/.565 160 OPS+
Mize would’ve retired after 1953 with 426 WS 90.4 WAR
Giving each man credit for their war years, both are somewhere in the next group of first basemen below Gehrig and Foxx (and now Pujols).
Greenberg retired the minute his game slipped a notch at age 36 while Mize hung around as a platoon/bench player through age 40. I wanted to see what Mize’s numbers would look like if he hadn’t hung around (and picked up all those World Series winners checks).
Mize through 1949 – 1522 G 6424 PA .319/.405/.577 164 OPS+ with a WS/162 of 32.78 & a WAR/162 of 7.15
As a reminder, here’s Greenberg’s career numbers
1394 G 6098 PA .313/.412/.605 158 OPS+ with a WS/162 of 31.03 and a WAR/162 of 6.68.
Greenberg made the Hall of Fame through the BBWAA in 1956, while Mize had to wait until 1981 when a Veteran’s committee finally saw fit to select him. I can see why Greenberg made the HOF ahead of Mize. He played in the more offensive league and in the best hitter’s park, thus putting up bigger counting numbers (a 58 HR season, a 184 RBI season, 168 RBI, etc). He won 2 MVP’s and his team won four pennants. He was more famous and the bigger star and all that time he lost to military service and his Jewish heritage probably also worked in his favor. That said, there’s very little of separation between these two. If I had to choose though, I’d rate Mize a hair ahead of Greenberg. I think he was the slightly better hitter and the slightly better player at his peak.
What do you think?
I wouldn’t have thought that Mize stacks up so well against Greenberg, maybe even being better.
I’d say Greenberg was better because he had a higher batting average (.313 vs. .312).
Indeed they’re extremely close as hitters. To me, it’s splitting hairs to say on that basis which is better. I have a couple of quibbles with what you say, the main one being that I don’t think it’s meaningful in such a situation to say that one guy is “a hair” better — because such a degree of supposed difference based on what we’re able to know is completely dwarfed (pardon the political incorrect word; honestly I’m not sure why the word has become improper) by whatever differences there may be in the things we can’t know very well, particularly fielding and baserunning. It’s an “order of magnitude” issue; I just don’t think it’s meaningful to say that such a minuscule difference (if any) in offense determines anything when there are those other things that we just can’t assess very well. Unless and until we get a lot better on those, I’d have to say this is too close for us to call. If we wanted to insist on having an answer, I think we’d get a more reliable answer by looking at contemporaneous comments about them and doing our best to assess those.
Also I’m not sure why you say that Greenberg’s being Jewish helped him to be the bigger star. (That was probably riskier than my using the word “dwarf.”)
I think we could just as easily say that being Jewish got in the way of his being regarded as a star.
For what it’s worth, I’ve assumed that Greenberg was better/greater, for several reasons that I realize aren’t necessarily telling.
— The 58 HR season. I’m big on big-big seasons. (Surprise.)
— I think of Mize mostly as a part-time player and pinch hitter late in his career. I know that isn’t fair.
— This other one also probably isn’t that fair; most people here would say it’s totally unfair: Greenberg got into the Hall of Fame much sooner, and he was always a Hall of Famer since I started paying attention, while Mize wasn’t until much later. I tended to think that this means something, even if I had no idea what. In this case, while it’s never like I was comparing the two guys, I guess subliminally I was figuring that Mize either wasn’t that good of an all-around player or that his offense was more 1-dimensional, notwithstanding his very good overall offensive numbers. (I know that this was what I assumed about Ralph Kiner when he didn’t make the HOF for so long, and I did ever after, as the explanation of why it took so long.)
— I give a lot of weight to Greenberg’s 2 MVP wins, and I’d guess the HOF voters did too. Mize did great in MVP voting too, but to me 2nd’s and 3rd’s don’t count nearly as much as 1st, and back then, few if any of the voters had it in their minds who ever finished 2nd or 3rd.
BTW, Greenberg’s 1934 World Series, despite the terrific numbers, seems actually to have been considered poor in some quarters. I remember that around 1960, one of the major magazines, probably SPORT, had a thing about it, maybe even calling him the “goat” of the series, saying that while his numbers were good, he failed in key situations. I don’t mean that I agree, just saying. (From a ‘modern’ perspective, it sure doesn’t sound right, does it….)
Oh, no – I didn’t say Greenberg was a bigger star because he was Jewish. I said he was the bigger star period (for the reasons I mentioned – the bigger numbers, the MVPs and so forth), and that was why the BBWAA voted him into the Hall long before Mize. I probably shouldn’t have even mentioned anything about his being Jewish. As you know, at that time, being Jewish was an obstacle that made things more difficult. However, in Greenberg’s case part of his fame was that he was the great Jewish ballplayer. I think that on balance that may have aided him with the HOF voters only because of the circumstances of his military service. My reasoning is that Greenberg’s counting stats are lower than most Hall of Famers and in his case the voters would’ve also been aware of why that was so – he lost more of his playing career to the war than anybody else (well, except for Feller) and 1) this was well known at the time (that he and Feller lost more time than any other stars), and 2) I think more voters than not may have given him credit for this especially since the most dangerous of those enemies we fought was also responsible for the Holocaust. In any event, it’s just speculation on my part and doesn’t change the basis of his Hall of Fame case.
I initially thought that Mize would have been a better fielder, just because he earned the nickname “Big Cat” because of his smooth fielding. (Before Andres Galarraga came along and shared the sobriquet.) But the stats for both are pretty equal.
Mize got stuck in the minors (behind the Cards’ Ripper Collins) when he was 18, and stayed there for five years, batting .337, .326, .358, .352, and .317. And despite being a power hitter, in the 12 seasons in which he had at least 400 plate appearances he averaged fewer than 40 strikeouts. (Including being the only player to hit 50 homers and strike out less than 50 times.)
Mize was the baseball coach at Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia, after his playing career was over, and he came and spoke to my high school team on a couple of different occasions.
I think that choosing between Hank Greenberg and Johnny Mize is a perfect example of one of Bear Bryant’s “paper bag” choices. Put ’em both in a paper bag, shake it up, and pour one out. I’ll take either the one who falls out or the one still left in the bag and be happy.
My favorite Hank Greenberg story (though I suspect it’s apocryphal): When Greenberg joined the army, he was at the induction station with all the other recruits. While they were all sitting around in one of the army’s notorious “hurry up and wait” sessions, an anti-Semitic redneck from Alabama decided he’d show everyone how “tough” he was. So he stood up, balled up his fists, glared around, and asked: “Anybody here named Goldstein or Goldberg or anything like that?”
Hank stood up slowly and answered, “My name’s Greenberg. Is that close enough?”
The redneck looked at Hank, who was about three inches taller and 30 pounds heavier, and shook his head: “Nah, I said Goldberg. You don’t qualify.”
A tossup on numbers, Greenberg on fame–for whatever that’s worth, which ain’t much but might be more than nothing.
Good comparison, and a great essay Tigerlily. The two are indeed very very close. What stands out the most to me is how shocking it was that it took so long for Mize to get into the Hall of Fame. I mean, Greenberg has the flashier seasons, and maybe folks weren’t paying a lot of attention to park and league context back then, but it’s not like Mize’s stats weren’t impressive …not at all!
If I had to pick one I guess I’d go with the Big Cat.
I went into this thinking Greenberg, but came out thinking Mize. Their career rate stats are reasonably close (BA/OBA/SA/OPS) with Greenberg having about a 3-4% edge in OBA and a 7% edge in SA (and about 6% in OPS):
But if we ended Mize’s career age 36, Greenberg’s edge shrinks considerably (Mize is .319/.404/.577/981 through age 36)…an edge to Greenberg, but smaller, and we’d probably need to start looking at things like fielding, and intangibles, to separate them. Fielding doesn’t help much…through age 36, neither one seems to have been a gifted 1B–they look very similar, so we’re left with intangibles.
After age 36, Greenberg, of course, did not play. But Mize did, albeit at a much lower level of productivity: .264/.340/.464/.804 (OPS+ always above 100). So the question is whether additional 850 PA of diminished (but above MLB average) performance pushes Mize past Greenberg. I voted for Mize, but it’s an incredibly close race…I’d be comfortable with option 3: Who was better,
Greenberg or Mize–or were they essentially tied–I’ pick essentially tied.
My opinion is closest to Marisfan’s. They are too close to call as players; the gray area is larger than any tangible difference between them. Greenberg would have a higher Test score because of the MVPs and higher fame and legacy grades, and I think that’s represented in the their respective Hall of Fame election results. Greenberg wasn’t a better player, but he was part of some big stories, many of which he starred in. Mize was part of some good stories and one great one (Yankees 5-straight), but his Oscar would have been as a supporting actor, while Greenberg would have been up for leading actor trophies in 1934-35 and 1940 and a “best cameo” in 1945.
I think Mize could have been Greenberg, placed in the same place at the same time … and he was unlucky within his own timeline, too. When he should have been a candidate, he (1) was separated from his peak by 20 years and two wars, and (2) had imprinted the public’s brain with visions of a part-time slugger who didn’t hit for a good batting average – a memory that misrepresented who he was at his best.
Mize might have been the unluckiest player ever in this narrow sense – the player whose Hall of Fame path most under-represented his actual Hall of Fame candidate viability. If there was such a thing as an HOF quotient – fundamentally it would be “how many years should it take his doppleganger to get in the Hall of Fame?” – Mize’s number would have been in the 8-15 range. It took him what … 28 years? Who – other than some of the old-timers who predated the Hall of Fame – had to (undeservedly) wait longer?
In 1940 Hank Greenberg a first baseman for years moved to left field to get Rudy York into the lineup. He won the MVP that year and the Tigers won the pennant. Greenberg had the best OPS on the team and York was second. That for me gives Greenberg the edge over Mize.
Didn’t know that! Or actually, probably forgot. I think I came across it years ago.
That’s enough for me to cast the vote for him. I was leaning to him, mainly because of the 2 MVP’s (plus my long-time “assumption”), but thinking that “by a hair” isn’t enough to pick one. I still think the answer is mostly “it depends what you mean by better” and “we can’t tell anyway.” I’d been planning on not voting till the end and then just voting for whoever was behind to try to make it a tie. But if I have to pick one, it’s Greenberg.
Although just by the same margin as their batting averages (wink).
Some more about Win Shares and 1B’s:
In the New Historical Abstract, Bill has Mize ahead. He’s #6, Greenberg is #8. I’m a little surprised that in the bit about Mize, Bill didn’t say anything about it having taken so long (which he almost certainly thought was unjustified) to get into the HOF.
The guy between them is Killebrew.
But check this out: Look who he had ahead of them.
Gehrig, Foxx — OK.
But then — #3: McGwire. Even granting that this was in 2000, before we knew that much about PED’s (some say it was known way before that, but it wasn’t, and even if you think it was, for sure it wasn’t that much discussed and wasn’t viewed as prominently as after that) …..even granting that this was in 2000, I’m very surprised Bill would have seen fit to put him anywhere near that high. It doesn’t even seem justified by the Win Share numbers. Looking at those (and even not taking PED’s into account), I’d put him at about 10 or 11.
And #4 and #5: Eddie Murray, Jeff Bagwell.
On at least one of those guys I’m sure I’m being influenced by certain issues as well as nostalgia (i.e. in favor of the older guys), but also by rationale. I don’t see them that high.
Of course it’s possible that Bill would put them differently now.
(then: Anson, Mattingly, Perez, Clark, Allen, Keith Hernandez)
It’s very hard to see why Bill has McCovey below Killebrew. McCovey is ahead on each and every one of the Win Share categories, yet he’s 2 spots behind.
I think my order would be more like:
3. Greenberg & Mize
(McGwire not in the top 10; granted, with hindsight)
Interesting. I had not realized that there were so many similarities between Greenberg and Mize. But there are also important differences. If you want to understand why Greenberg made the HoF so much more easily than Mize, you must ignore irrelevancies like WAR, Win Shares, and OPS+. By the standards of the time, Greenberg was a much better player than Mize.
Mize never drove in more than 138 runs in a season. Greenberg had 184, 168, 150, 147, and 139. That was in a span of 7 years, in one of which he hardly played. Mize average 115 RBI per 162 games played. Greenberg averaged 148. Cutting off Mize’s career afetr age 36 would hardly make a difference. Greenberg averaged 122 runs per 162 games, Mize averaged 96. A slugger’s job was to produce runs, and Greenberg was far better at that than Mize.
I wonder how seriously we should take Bill’s rankings in specific cases. I think he has evolving methods for judging player careers and has even written that sometimes he will fiddle with them just…well, just because. Didn’t he write that he dropped Quisenberry down a few notches just because he didn’t want to be seen as having a home town bias? I think he also wrote at some point (maybe about middle infielders or catchers) that after the top 25 or so, the next 75 on his list were so close by his methodology that they were virtually indistinguishable…so, what the hell?
Moving along now…I remember Bill once wrote something about how “Everybody’s got a list.” Not meaning to offend anybody, but that is not only true, but tedious. Every time someone wants to measure player productivity in some way, here comes another list. My reaction, probably most reactions, are “whatever.” I think the ranking of players, especially historically, is mostly just an excuse or an opportunity to write about them. What’s left after you take out the ‘mostly’ is an opportunity to discuss some close comparisons.
Stealing a sentence from that baseball card book (“The Great American Card Flipping….”), here’s a real pip for you.
I looked into a few under-the-surface things about Greenberg’s career, including whether it makes any sense to say he was sort of the “goat” of the ’34 World Series despite his good numbers (I think arguably it does….BTW what’s weirder is that he hit SIXTH in the lineup for most of that series; in fact he mostly hit 6th for that season.)
I also noticed that in what I called his “big big year” — 58 HR’s and all that — he was only 3rd for MVP (he won his 2 MVP’s when he hit far fewer HR’s), which I think actually makes sense if for no other reason than that his team only finished 4th, although the team of the guy who won (Foxx) was only 2nd.
But that’s not the thing.
Here’s the thing.
Here are the top 7 for MVP that year, leaving out #5 for now:
4. Ruffing (21-7, 3.31 ERA, 138 ERA+)
The #5 guy for MVP, ahead of DiMaggio and Cronin, both of whom had super years, was:
BOBO NEWSOM: 20-16, 5.08 ERA (below league average, 98 ERA+)
In case you’re thinking, maybe he had some super games that got a lot of press, he was tied for last in the league in shutouts, with 0.
Yes, he had a very good year on Win Shares, but just 2nd on his team — the 7th place team.
It’s one of the oddest little MVP finishes I’ve seen. I’m sure there were reasons for it, but I sure can’t tell what they were.
Oh — I got it — he kept the Browns from finishing last although I’d give more of that credit to Harlond Clift.
P.S. I looked into it a little (looking through articles in NY Times).
I guess the main thing is, this thing that’s sort of the obvious thing: He won 20 with a bad team.
And also, it was noted that unusually few pitchers won 20 games that year. Ruffing was the only other one in the A.L.
Plus, he was a “story” throughout the year, always the focus of the games where he pitched, including the bad ones of which there were many, and including that he did very well against the Yanks (who ran away with the pennant), and he did have several outstanding games although no shutouts. It was a mildly big story when his manager said he’d try having Newsom pitch both games of a doubleheader. He didn’t do well in the second game, but…..it was a story.
He led the league in innings and complete games, by a lot, and tied for the lead in starts. Because of the huge number of innings, he shows well on “WAR” (7th among pitchers, although behind a guy I never heard of) despite the mediocre E.R.A. It was a noteworthy season, and it’s not insane to have wanted to give it recognition, although I think we’d all agree that 5th for MVP is pushing it.
BTW I learned that Bobo wasn’t his main nickname at the time, at least to the NY Times.
They called him Buck Newsom.
Looks like they never called him Bobo till 3 years later.
I think of Newsome as the Rick Reuschel of his time – and if I was choosing sides I’d choose him over a good dozen Hall of Fame pitchers. Maybe more. Newsome, Reuschel … Wes Ferrell … none of them are really strong Hall of Fame candidates by traditional methods, but they were better players than many who were.
That sounds plausible, but…the run environments were remarkably different in the AL and the NL during the period in which their careers overlapped in the 1930s (1936-1941). On average, AL teams scored 5.2 RPG during that period, while NL teams scored 4.45 RPG–16% more.
Greenberg ratio of RBI to PA was 0.222 between 1936 and 1941; for Mize, 0.182. But it you adjust that for the run environment, Mize’s 0.182 RBI per PA is (essentially) equivalent to 0.212. (I’m going to ignore RS, because, other than HRs, neither guy drove himself in, but Greenberg homered in 6% of his PA, while Mize homered in 4.4% of his.) I’m not sure I want to build any sort of case on the difference between those ratios of RBIs to PA, adjusted for run environment…
I looked at every at bat for the series yesterday and will do a write up tomorrow. He did make some clutch outs, but also got a couple of key hits. I noticed he batted 6th after the first couple of games. I thought maybe he got hurt. Interesting.
Why was Newsom traded so much? Was it because he was eccentric, which seems to be the case looking at his online bios? Is eccentric code for he drank a lot? He was quite inconsistent, with full season ERA+s everywhere from 168 to 77. Maybe teams traded for him expecting the MVP candidate and often got an average or below-average pitcher? He was traded twice in the midst of seasons where he eventually got MVP votes, and at least once during a season where he made the All Star team.
Other than Detroit, Bobo didn’t pitch for any good teams (correct me if I’m wrong). I noticed that he didn’t stick until he was on his third team and one of those teams WAS good (1932 Cubs won the pennant), so your theory (drinking) could be it. I don’t know enough to speculate, though … and once a player is traded he’s like a baseball slut, freely passed around like the guitar player’s ex-girlfriend at Burning Man. Bobo was “damaged goods” before he established himself, and his first five years were spent in the nether regions of the league.
This is more of an impression rather than anything else – was the Amercian League the better league during that period? In terms of MVP voting, etc., it sure seems that the AL had the bigger names during their career periods.
I don’t know…you may think a league is better if some of the players have fantastic raw statistics. But that could simply indicate an uncompetitive situation.
Yes, the runs scored per game were very different in the two leagues, but my impression has always been that the AL had a high proportion of the top hitters. Maybe the NL had better pitching? I don’t know that they is any way to tell.
Marisfan said write-ups talk about how Greenberg was the goat of the 1934 World Series. Even though his statistics are good, batting average .321, 1 home run, 7 RBIs, 4 runs scored OPS of .978 he didn’t hit in the clutch when it was needed. I decided to go thru Greenberg’s World Series at bat by at bat to determine if this was true.
Pitching for the Cardinals was Dizzy Dean with Greenberg batting 4th. Greenberg spent a lot of the season batting 6th, but batted clean up at the end of September.
In the bottom of the first the score was 0-0 and Gehringer was on first ahead of him with two outs. Greenberg grounded out. While it would be nice to jump ahead that wasn’t a very crucial at bat.
The Cardinals scored 2 runs in the second and a run in the third to take a 3-0 lead. In the top of the third Greenberg made an error that led directly to the run scoring. When Greenberg came up in the third the Tigers already had scored a run and had men on second and third with two outs. A very critical at bat as a single could tie the game. Greenberg stuck out. The Tigers chance to win went down by 7 percent. Needless to say the 3rd inning wasn’t good for Greenberg.
By the time Greenberg batted in the 6th the Tigers were down 8-1. With one out and no one on base he singled and later scored to make the score 8-2. In the bottom of the 8th he homered to make it 8-3. I remember a story that Dean laid it in there to see how far Hank could hit it.
Pitching for the Cardinals was Bill Hallahan. Greenberg again batted 4th.
In the bottom of the first man on first two outs Greenberg grounded out.
The Cardinals led 2-0 when Greenberg came up in the third with two on and two outs. He struck out. Greenberg must have been hating the third inning.
The Tigers scored a run to make it 2-1 in the fourth. Greenberg came up in the fifth two out and a man on first. He walked to put the tying run in scoring position, but Goslin flew out.
In seventh still down 2-1, again 2 outs and a man on first Greenberg struck out.
In the bottom of the ninth the bottom of the Tiger lineup put together a run to tie the game extra innings.
Bill Walker came in to pitch for the Cardinals in the bottom of the 10th. With a man on first and no outs Greenberg flew out. This out cost the Tigers a 8 percent chance of winning and the Tigers didn’t score.
In the 12th with one out and a man on first Greenberg walked putting the winning run on second. Goslin singled to win the game. So without a hit Greenberg made a contribution to the winning rally.
Pitching for the Cardinals was Paul Dean. Greenberg again batted 4th. The 3rd game was in St. Louis.
In the first Greenberg batted with a man on first and two outs. He fouled out.
In the third, the Tigers came to bat already down 2-0. With one out they had men on second and third when Greenberg came to bat. He stuck out and the Tigers didn’t scored that inning. After the game Greenberg petitioned that they skip the third inning for the rest of the Series.
The score was the same in the fifth when Greenberg led off with a walk and went to third on a single with one out. However, Owen and Fox both stuck out. In the bottom of the 5th the Cardinals scored two more runs.
Greenberg led off the seventh by grounding out.
With two outs in the ninth, Greenberg tripled in the Tigers only run in a 4-1 loss. His only hit and RBI again came too little and too late. He did get a walk to lead off the 5th to try to help put the Tigers back in the game.
Tex Carleton started for the Cardinals. Greenberg batted 6th, maybe because it was less likely he would bat in the third.
The score was 0 – 0 when Greenberg batted with out in the second. He singled, but was stranded on first. The Cardinals scored in the bottom of the second to take a 1-0 lead.
Detroit rallied in the third after the first two men were retired. Four straight men got on base in front of Greenberg. The Tigers led 2-1 with men on first and third. Greenberg singled to left field to increase the lead to 3-1, increasing the Tigers chance to win by 9 percent, a clutch hit.
By the end of the fourth the score was tied 4-4. In the fifth Greenberg came to bat with one out and one on. He flew out.
The score was still tied in the seventh when Greenberg came to bat with men on first and third. Pitching now for the Cardinals was Billy Walker. Greenberg doubled for the lead 5-4. Now this was a really clutch hit. A lead taking RBI in the late innings. I consider 7 thru 9 the late innings. It improved the Tigers chance of winning by 17 percent.
In the 8th with the same score and one out, Billy Rogell hit a two run single in front of Greenberg to make the score 7-4 and put men on first and third. Greenberg followed with a double to make the score 8-4.
The Tigers won 10-4 to tie the series. This was a big day for Greenberg statistically and in the clutch.
Dizzy Dean started his second game of the series and Greenberg again batted 6th. The game was played in St. Louis.
Greenberg with one out in the top of the second in a scoreless game and walked. Pete Fox one batter later knocked in Greenberg for the 1-0 lead.
In the Fourth, Greenberg came up with men on first and third and no one out. A chance to put the game away or at least take a two run lead. Greenberg stuck out and the Tigers didn’t score that inning leaving the score at 1-0.
Charlie Gehringer led off the 6th with a home run to make the score 2-0. Greenberg came up with one out and a man on third. He hit a sacrifice fly to bring home another insurance run and give the Tigers a 3-0 lead.
The Cardinals scored a run in the bottom of the seventh to make it 3-1. With two outs in the 8th and no one on Greenberg fouled out.
Even though Greenberg didn’t have a great day he was directly involved with two of the three Tiger runs. He walked and scored the lead run and later knocked in a second insurance run on a Sacrifice fly. Not a bad day for not getting a hit. The Tigers were now up 3 games to 2, with the last two games at home. Greenberg was a big help in winning both the last two games. He and the Tigers must have been feeling pretty good heading back to Detroit.
Paul Dean made his second start for the Cardinals. Greenberg batted 6th.
The Cardinals jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first. Greenberg struck out with one out in the second.
The Tigers tied the game in the top of third. Greenberg fouled out with two out and nobody on in the fourth.
The Cardinals scored two in the top of the fifth to make the score 3-1. In the bottom of the sixth the Tigers rallied. They had scored one run and had runners on first and third with two outs when Greenberg batted. Greenberg singled to left field to tie the game, another clutch hit.
However, the Cardinals pitcher Paul Dean drove in Leo Durocher who doubled to deep center field to give the Cardinals back the lead. This was a big letdown, as Durocher was never much of a hitter and Dean had 3 RBIs in 87 at bats for the season.
Detroit tried to rally in the bottom of the 8th. With one out Gehringer and Goslin singled putting them on first and third. Billy Rogell flew to center, apparently not deep enough to score Gehringer. Greenberg came up with the game in hand. He fouled out to first base, a big opportunity missed.
The Tigers went down 1, 2, 3 in the ninth.
Dizzy Dean started his third game. Greenberg batted sixth.
In the bottom of the second with a man on third one out Greenberg struck out.
With one out in the top of the third Dizzy Dean doubled. Pepper Martin singled on a ground ball to first. I don’t know if this was a hit that Greenberg could have prevented or not. From what I remember reading Greenberg was not a graceful or great fielder. I don’t remember reading about this particular play. After a Jack Rothrock walk, Frankie Frisch hit a three run double. Dizzy Dean the Cardinal pitcher doubled and score the winning run, a day after his brother Paul drove in the winning run. The Cardinals scored seven runs in the inning, for the most part putting the game away.
Greenberg led off the bottom of the 5th with a single. With one out Pete Fox doubled him to third. However, the pitcher Tommy Bridges came up next and struck out. Why Cochrane didn’t pinch hit for Bridges I don’t know. Greenberg ended up stranded on third.
It was 11-0 when Greenberg struck out in the seventh and still 11-0 when he struck out with men on first and second in the ninth.
In the series Greenberg had both good and bad clutch moments. However, overall I say he had a good series with the bat. I pulled all my data from Baseball Reference.
He (Bobo Newsom) liked to drink, he had little or no respect for authority (although Clark Griffith liked him a lot, it was said Bobo could always find a spot on the Nats because Griffith enjoyed their pinochle games together), he was very much a “character”, maybe more genuinely so than even Ol’ Diz (Newsom once showed up for spring training in a Caddy set up with flashing lights that spelled out B*O*B*O and a couple of blondes in the back seat). It was said by some that he did not regard the game with sufficient seriousness.
He must have had a ton of raw talent though. And he could totally bear down when he wanted to. One time he pitched a complete game even though a line drive had fractured his kneecap in the third. (He lost the game.)
I’d say Greenberg has nothing to hang his head about regarding the ’34 series.
Amazing that Greenberg and Mize ended up with Hall of Fame careers despite both missing 3 full seasons each for World War II. Greenberg also missed most of 1941 and half of 1945; I am not sure about Mize and the seasons preceding and following his 3 years out. Both would be a lot higher up the all-time home run list with that time in the service of their country added back in.
I’m especially impressed that both players started raking immediately upon returning to the majors after three-plus years in the service — almost as if they hadn’t been gone at all. I know other men did this too (Williams, DiMaggio), but it’s still impressive.
Agreed. They would have had to stay in shape in the service, really good shape, and that would have helped some, but I would have thought it would have been a tough transition.