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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1931 Baseball Season Headlines

While Philadelphia ran away with the American League pennant, the A's couldn't close the deal against St. Louis in the 1931 World Series. Learn about this and other headlines from the 1931 baseball season below.

Bobby Burke Hurls a No-No

Standing more than 6 feet and weighing barely 150 pounds, Bobby Burke was short on stamina. In ten seasons, he accumulated less than 1,000 innings and figured in only 84 decisions. He had a burst of power in 1931, however, no-hitting Boston on August 8.

Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig Total 347 RBI


Between them, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig tagged 92 homers in 1931 and netted 347 RBI, the most ever by a pair of teammates. With shortstop Lyn Lary and left fielder Ben Chapman kicking in over 100 RBI each, the Yankees averaged more than seven runs a game.

Frankie Frisch Averages .311

Frankie Frisch was a great all-around athlete who jumped directly from the college campus to the Giants' regular lineup in 1919. While at Fordham University, he captained teams in three sports ---football, baseball, and basketball -- and was even chosen at halfback on Walter Camp's All-America team. He hit .311 in 1931, with four home runs and 82 RBI.

Earl Webb Clubs 67 Doubles


Before joining pro ball, Earl Webb lived in the Tennessee mountains, where he drove a mule in a coal mine to earn $1.40 a day. Between long stints in the minors, he played 649 games in the big show, collecting 155 career doubles -- 67 of them in 1931, a major league record.

Lefty Grove Good As Gold

Thanks in part to his glittering 31-4 season in 1931, Lefty Grove finished his 17-year career with 300 wins and 141 losses. Adding in his minor league stats, Grove totaled 411 victories and only 190 defeats for a .684 winning percentage, the best record in the history of organized baseball.

1931 Philadelphia A's Take American League Flag

The 1931 Philadelphia A's were the last pennant-winner for Connie Mack. Philadelphia was solid everywhere except at the shortstop position, which was shared by Dib Williams and a fading Joe Boley. Lefty Grove had another banner year: 31 wins, 27 complete games, four shutouts, and a 2.06 ERA -- all top statistics in the American League that year. George Earnshaw posted 21 victories and 23 complete games. Jimmie Foxx posted a .291 average, 30 home runs, and 120 RBI.

Find highlights from the 1931 baseball season on the next page.

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1931 Baseball Season Highlights

Although the 1931 baseball season was less lively than previous years, players like Lou Gehrig and Earl Webb went on to set major league records in runs produced and doubles hit. Find the highlights from the 1931 baseball season below.
  • The Athletics roar to their third consecutive flag with a franchise record .704 win pct.

  • The Cards win the National League pennant for the second straight year.

  • The Cards take the 1931 World Series in seven games.

    Joe McCarthy
    Joe McCarthy, new
    manager of the Yankees,
    brought the team back
    to hitting form.

  • Joe McCarthy, fired the previous year by the Cubs, becomes manager of the Yankees.

  • Burleigh Grimes and Bill Hallahan both win two games for the Cards.

  • Cardinal Pepper Martin is the 1931 World Series' offensive star, hitting .500 and swiping five bases.

  • The Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) appoints two committees, one in each league, to elect the MVPs.

  • Lefty Grove is selected as the first BBWAA winner in the American League.

  • Frankie Frisch of the Cards wins the MVP Award in the National League.

  • The ball is dejuiced in 1931, and hitting stats, especially in the National League, tumble accordingly.

  • Chuck Klein tops the National League in homers . with 31 and RBI with 121.

  • Klein leads in total bases (347) and slugging (.584).

  • Cardinal Chick Hafey wins the batting title at .349, a tad better than Giant Bill Terry who also hits .349.

  • Hafey is the first batting crown winner to wear glasses.

  • No National League pitcher wins 20 games -- it is the first time the National League or American League hasn't had a 20-game winner.

Learn about more 1931 baseball season highlights in our final section.

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More 1931 Baseball Season Highlights

Following are more highlights from the 1931 baseball season, including Lou Gehrig's American League RBI crown and Babe Ruth's final home run crown.

  • The American League's Lefty Grove becomes the last southpaw to win 30 games in a season, as he cops 31.

  • Grove's .886 win pct. is the best in history by a 30-game winner.

  • Lou Gehrig has a major league record 301 runs produced.

  • Gehrig sets an American League record with 184 RBI.

  • Gehrig also tops the American League in hits (211), runs (163), and total bases (410).

  • Babe Ruth wins his last home run crown by tying with Gehrig (46).

  • Ruth leads the league in OBP (.495), SA (.700), and walks (128).

  • Lefty Grove tops the majors in Ks (175), win pct. (.886), and ERA (2.06), and ties in CGs (27).

  • Bill Walker of the Giants wins his second National League ERA title (2.26).

  • The Yankees have a record six men who score 100 or more runs.

  • The Yankees score a major league record 1,067 runs.

  • Cleveland's Wes Ferrell hits a season record nine home runs while serving as a pitcher.

  • Ferrell ties Grove for the American League lead in CGs (27) and is second in wins (22).

  • The American League rules that all teams must have numbers on their uniforms.

  • On July 17, the White Sox beat the Browns 10-8 in 12 innings; no strikeouts are thrown in the game.

  • The sacrifice fly rule is abolished.

  • Balls bouncing over or going through a fence, heretofore considered home runs, are now ruled doubles.

  • Earl Webb of the Red Sox hits a major league record 67 doubles.

  • Lefty Grove wins an American League record 16 straight games during the season.

  • Bobby Burke of Washington no-hits Boston on August 8.

  • Wes Ferrell no-hits St. Louis on April 29.

  • Lou Gehrig hits a record three grandslams in a four-day period.

  • Brooklyn's Babe Herman hits for the cycle twice during the season -- the first Major League Baseball player to do so.

  • On August 5 vs. Washington, Detroit's Tommy Bridges loses a perfect game with two out in the ninth.
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