The 1936 baseball season was the first without Babe Ruth since 1913. The 1936 season was also the year that the Yankees discovered another legend: Joe DiMaggio. DiMaggio ushered in a new Yankee dynasty that rivaled, and possibly even surpassed, the great "Murderers' Row" clubs of the late 1920s.
The 21-year-old DiMaggio had been purchased from the Pacific Coast League San Francisco Seals, his hometown team, for $25,000; the Yankees got a bargain when a knee injury lowered the price from $70,000. Breaking into the New York lineup with a triple and two singles against St. Louis on May 3, DiMaggio went on to bat .323 with 132 runs, 44 doubles, 29 homers, 125 RBI, and a league-leading 15 triples.
DiMaggio's Yankees went 102-51 to take the American League flag by 191/2 games, thanks to MVP Lou Gehrig (who hit .354 and racked up a league-leading 167 runs, 130 walks, and 49 home runs), shortstop Frankie Crosetti (who drew 90 walks and scored 137 runs), catcher Bill Dickey (who hit .362 with 22 homers in only 423 at-bats), and George Selkirk (who drove in 107 runs).
Second-place Detroit had its early-season hopes dashed by Mickey Cochrane's breakdown from exhaustion, which came 33 games into the season, and Hank Greenberg's broken wrist, which came after he had opened the month of April with 16 RBI in just 12 games. Tommy Bridges took over to win a circuit-topping 23 games. The bright spot in Cleveland's fifth-place finish was Hal Trosky's league-leading 162 RBI and Earl Averill's second-best .378 average. Luke Appling of third-place Chicago was the major leagues' best hitter at .388.
The 1936 pennant marked the beginning of a record streak of four consecutive World Championships for the Yankees. From 1936 through 1939, DiMaggio led New York to totals of 102, 102, 99, and 106 victories, and a 16-3 record -- including nine wins in a row -- against their World Series opponents.
Another historic debut came on July 7, when 17-year-old Cleveland pitcher Bob Feller struck out eight Cardinals in three innings in an exhibition game; in his first official game on August 23, the fireballing righty created a national sensation by beating the Browns 4-1 on six hits and 15 strikeouts, just one shy of Rube Waddell's American League record set back in 1908.
The 1936 year was a strong hitting season in the American League, whose pitchers recorded an overall ERA of 5.04. (Boston's Lefty Grove had the league's best ERA at 2.81). In both leagues, 1936 was the year of the double, with five of the all-time top 21 doubles seasons. Ducky Medwick of St. Louis tied George Burns's 1926 total for second-place on the all-time list with 64. Charlie Gehringer of the Tigers hit 60 (sixth-best ever), Billy Herman of the Cubs had 57 (tenth-best), Detroit's Gee Walker hit 55 (15th best), and Pittsburgh's Paul Waner had 53 (good for 21st all-time).
In a seesaw National League race, New York overtook Chicago and St. Louis for the flag with a 15-game team win streak and a personal 16-game streak from 26-6 MVP pitcher Carl Hubbell. Hubbell led the National League in ERA at 2.31 and wins; pacing the Giants' attack were Jo-Jo Moore, who scored 110 runs, and Mel Ott, who had 135 RBI (second only to the Cardinals' Medwick with 138) and a league-leading 33 home runs. Medwick also led in hits with 223 and total bases with 367.
Dizzy Dean went 24-13 for the Cards, who finished five games back, tied with Chicago for second. Fourth-place Pittsburgh, tops in the league in runs with 804, was powered by Waner's circuit-best .373 average.
In the first Subway Series since 1923, only the efforts of pitchers Hubbell and Hal Schumacher made for a respectable 4-2 Giants' defeat at the hands of the Yankees juggernaut. The pinstripers batted .302 and outscored Ott and his teammates 43-23.
Check out the next page for some of the headlines from the 1936 baseball season.
To learn more about baseball, see:
- 1935 Baseball Season
- 1937 Baseball Season
- Baseball History
- How Baseball Works
- How the Baseball Hall of Fame Works
- How Minor League Baseball Teams Work
- Babe Ruth