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1931 Baseball Season

The 1931 baseball season brought the passing of the two fathers of the American League, Ban Johnson and Charles Comiskey. Once best friends, the two hadn't spoken for years due to several bitter disagreements dating back to Johnson's tenure as American League president. Both died unhappy, with Johnson enduring a forced retirement from the league he had founded, courtesy of Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and Comiskey forever brokenhearted after the Black Sox Scandal of 1919.

With the introduction of a less lively baseball, the major leagues returned to somewhat of a balance between offense and defense. Still, 1931 was no pitcher's year by modern standards. Although total major league home runs fell by almost 500, the National League batted .277, the American League rapped .278, and the Yankees and Indians batted over .290.

In yet another American League runaway, Connie Mack's Philadelphia dynasty proved too much for New York and Washington (the only two American League clubs within 30 games of the A's), and it finished 131/2 games out in front at 107-45.

Al Simmons led the American League in hitting at .390 and was fourth in RBI with 128; Jimmie Foxx, age 23, batted .291 with 30 home runs (fourth in the league behind the 36-year-old Babe Ruth and the 28-year-old Lou Gehrig, who tied for the major league lead at 46, and 29-year-old Earl Averill with 32) and drove in 120.

Lefty Grove
Lefty Grove, the American
League's best pitcher,
won 16 straight games
and was voted MVP
for his stellar year.

The real strength of the A's, however, was pitching. George Earnshaw won 21 games while Rube Walberg took 20, and the staff compiled the American League's lowest
ERA at 3.47.

Again the league's best pitcher, Lefty Grove went 31-4 to spearhead the league in wins (by a margin of nine), strikeouts with 175, complete games with 27, shutouts with four, and ERA at 2.06 (more than half a run
better than runner-up Lefty Gomez of New York). Grove was voted American League MVP over Gehrig.

The A's were a team of streaks; Grove won 16 straight to tie the record shared by Walter Johnson and Smokey Joe Wood, and the team put together win streaks of 17 and 13 games.

Under new manager Joe McCarthy, the Yankees returned to hitting form, scoring a league-high 1,067 runs on a .297 team batting average. Gehrig led the American League in runs with 163 and RBI with an all-time American League record 184, and Ruth had the greatest season ever by a player his age with 149 runs, 163 RBI, 46 homers, and a .373 batting average. The starting pitching after the 21-9 Gomez unfortunately was far from pennant-caliber.

In the National League, 101-53 St. Louis repeated, thanks to an MVP year from second baseman Frankie Frisch (who scored 96 runs and led the league in stolen bases with 28) and 27-year-old Pepper Martin (who hit .300). Hard-hitting Chick Hafey won the batting title by a fraction over Bill Terry, .3489 to .3486, and led the team in homers with 16.

One of the heroes of 1930, Hack Wilson slumped to a .261 batting average with only 13 homers; another, Chuck Klein, proved that it was always a hitter's year in the Baker Bowl by hitting .337 with 121 runs, 121 RBI, and 31 home runs, all firsts in the National League.

A pair of Giants, Bill Walker and Carl Hubbell, led the league in ERA at 2.26 and 2.65, but New York could only manage an 87-65 record and finished in second place, 13 games out.

Once again, Earnshaw and Grove pitched superbly in the 1931 World Series, compiling ERAs of 1.88 and 2.42 in a combined 50 innings, and the A's outscored their opponents. The underdog Cardinals prevailed, however, thanks to Martin's inspired base-running, .500 Series average, and great catch that preserved Burleigh Grimes's 4-2 Series-clinching victory in game seven.

Check out the next page for some of the headlines from the 1931 baseball season.

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