The Tigers of the early-1900s were among the best teams of the Deadball Era. Unfortunately, there were even better teams standing in their way. The club won three straight American League pennants from 1907-1909 and came close to avoiding the dubious distinction of becoming the first team to drop three consecutive World Series during the latter campaign. On the brink of elimination in Game 6 of the ’09 Series and trailing the Pirates 3-1 after the first inning, the Tigers rallied for a 5-4 win. Game 7 was a blowout with Pittsburgh handing Detroit a humbling 8-0 defeat. The Tigers would not return to the World Series until 1934.
Ty Cobb- Outfield
It can be convincingly argued that Cobb was the greatest outfielder of his generation or possibly of all time. In 1907, he began a string of nine consecutive AL batting titles. Surprisingly, he was less than stellar in postseason play, compiling a very ordinary .262 World Series batting average. He was particularly ineffective against the Cubs in ’07, managing just 4 hits in 20 at-bats. The ’09 Fall Classic was billed as a showdown between the game’s greatest players: Cobb versus Honus Wagner. Not only did Wagner’s Pirates come out on top, but Cobb’s .231 mark paled in comparison to Wagner’s .333 performance. Cobb later remarked: “That goddamned Dutchman is the only man in the game I can’t scare.”
Sam Crawford- Outfield
Hailing from Nebraska, Crawford carried the colorful nickname of “Wahoo Sam.” He holds the all time mark for lifetime triples with 309 and inside-the-park homers with 51. According to multiple sources, Detroit manager Hughie Jennings played Crawford in center field because Ty Cobb and Matty McIntyre disliked each other and refused to call for fly balls hit between them. Cobb was jealous of Crawford’s popularity, but tolerated him fairly well. The two were the core of the Tiger offense for more than a decade. Like Cobb, Crawford fizzled in World Series play, managing a pedestrian .243 batting mark.
George Mullin- Pitcher
The right-handed Mullin had a good fastball and effective curve. He won 66 regular season games for Detroit from ’07-’09. He made six postseason starts in that span, going 3-3 with a 1.86 ERA. In all, he spent twelve seasons in Detroit, gathering over 200 victories.
Wild Bill Donovan- Pitcher
Donovan was not the only “Wild Bill” in baseball history. “Wild Bill” Hallahan was staple in the Cardinal rotation during the 1930s. The right-handed Donovan won 25 games for the Tigers in 1907 and 18 the following year. Plagued by a sore arm in ’09, he was used sparingly during the regular season. The Tigers averaged just 2 runs per game in his 6 World Series starts and he ended up with a 1-4 postseason record.
NEW YORK GIANTS
Manager John McGraw had enough talent at his disposal to steer the Giants to three consecutive pennants, but his team couldn’t close the deal against the A’s and Red Sox in the World Series. After dropping the 1911 Fall Classic to Philly in six games, the New Yorkers were back in business against Boston the following year. The BoSox carried one of the greatest outfield trios in major league history with Tris Speaker in center, Harry Hooper in right and Duffy Lewis patrolling the left field perimeter. The combination proved to be too much for New York as a tenth inning rally in the final contest put Boston over the top, 4 games to 3. A ten-inning shutout by staff ace Christy Mathewson in Game 2 was the high point for the Giants in the 1913 Series as they bowed to the A’s in five games. The Giants would remain in contention throughout the decade, dropping another World Series to the White Sox in 1917.
Christy Mathewson- Pitcher
As legend has it, John McGraw kept two photos on his desk during his long career in New York. One of them was of Mathewson. Nicknamed “Matty” or “The Big Six,” the durable right-hander has been widely hailed as the greatest pitcher of the Deadball Era. He won 30 or more games four times and captured a pair of triple crowns (in 1905 and 1908). From 1911-1913, he started eight World Series games for the Giants and won just two of them despite his 1.33 ERA.
Rube Marquard- Pitcher
The Giants paid a sizeable sum to obtain Marquard’s contract in 1908 and, when he got off to a poor start in his first few seasons, he was labeled “the $11,000 Lemon.” By 1911, the Hall of Fame southpaw was at his peak, winning 73 games for New York over a three-year span. Like Mathewson, his regular season success didn’t translate into October glory. He made seven appearances in the Fall Classic between 1911 and 1913, emerging with a 2-2 record and 2.33 ERA.
Larry Doyle- Second Base
Doyle was given credit for the famous quote: “It’s great to be young and a Giant!” It wasn’t so great for “Laughing Larry” between 1911 and 1913, however. Though Doyle compiled a .308 regular season batting average in that span and captured MVP honors in 1912, his World Series efforts were wasted every year. In three Fall Classics, he reached base consistently against some of the toughest pitchers of the era, including Eddie Plank and Smoky Joe Wood.
Chief Meyers- Catcher
In Meyers’ era, contemporaries weren’t terribly discreet in their designation of nicknames. A Native American, Meyers was branded with the handle of “Chief.” From 1909-1914, he was among the best offensive catchers in the majors. He kept his batting average above .300 in each of the Giants’ pennant-winning efforts, peaking at .358 in 1912. He was one of McGraw’s most productive October hitters, going 16-for-52 with 5 RBIs in fifteen games.
In their first two decades of play, the Senators finished in fifth place or lower on fifteen occasions. Fans stayed away from the ballpark in droves. Even when the club captured the first pennant in franchise history during the 1924 slate, half the teams in the majors generated higher attendance figures. The Giants were heavily favored to win the World Series that year and, when the Senators evened things up at three games apiece on October 9, tickets for the deciding contest at Griffith Stadium in Washington had not even been printed yet. The game meandered into the twelfth inning and ended in the Senators’ favor when a succession of defensive mishaps (a dropped foul pop by catcher Hank Gowdy, a bobbled grounder by shortstop Travis Jackson and a bad-hop double play ball over the head of Freddie Lindstrom at third) gave Washington a world championship. The team won another pennant the following year and carried a 6-3 lead into the fifth inning of Game 7, but critical errors by MVP shortstop Roger Peckinpaugh allowed the Pirates to clinch the series with a 9-7 victory. In 1926, the Senators won 81 games and finished in fourth place despite a ten-game winning streak in late-August and an 8-2 run in mid-September. The championship in 1924 was the last for the old Senators. In 1961, the club moved to Minnesota and became the Twins.
Walter Johnson- Pitcher
Johnson holds a prominent place among the all time greats with 417 lifetime wins, 110 shutouts and more than 3,500 strikeouts. Ty Cobb once remarked that “his fastball looked about the size of a watermelon seed and it hissed at you as it passed.” Johnson made six postseason appearances in ’24 and ‘25, including a valiant 4-inning relief stint on short rest in Game 7 of the ’24 Fall Classic. He deserved much better overall, emerging with a 3-3 record.
Sam Rice- Outfield
Rice’s spectacular catch in Game 3 of the 1925 World Series remains one of the most controversial moments in postseason history. With the Senators leading the Pirates, 4-3, in the bottom of the eighth, Rice flipped over the outfield barrier into the stands while chasing down a drive off the bat of Pittsburgh’s Earl Smith. When Rice reemerged several seconds later, the ball was in his possession and Smith was called out. Rice collected 12 hits in that series—tops on either club. He ended his twenty-year career with a lifetime batting mark of .322.
Goose Goslin- Outfield
The dependable Goslin spent time with three different teams in an era when many players stayed put. In later years, he insisted that he was never influenced by money. “I’d have paid them to let me play,” he said. “It was more than just fun. It was heaven.” Goslin helped two of his clubs to World Series berths and won a pair of championship rings. He was the Senators’ principal power source in the ’24 and ’25 Fall Classics, slamming 6 homers while driving in 13 runs. He eventually landed in the Hall of Fame.
Joe Judge- First Base
Judge had a long career in Washington, occupying first base for the Senators from 1915-1932. He was a first-stringer for fifteen consecutive seasons. Adept with a glove, his lifetime fielding percentage was an AL record that stood for more than thirty years. He was pretty reliable with a bat as well, retiring with more than 2,300 hits and a .298 batting average. In the ’24 and ’25 Series, he made 122 putouts at first base. He also fashioned a commendable .388 on-base percentage in fourteen games.
Before the Yankees began a four-year run of dominance in the late-‘30s, the Tigers were the team to beat in the American League. With the Great Depression putting the squeeze on owner/manager Connie Mack, the Athletics were forced to sell off most of their best players, including superstar catcher Mickey Cochrane. The addition of Cochrane to the Detroit roster in 1934 was the spark that had been missing as the Tigers captured back-to-back pennants for the first time since 1909. Though they couldn’t slip past St. Louis’s “Gashouse Gang” in the ’34 Series, Cochrane’s resilient crew overpowered the Cubs the following year, bringing a championship to Detroit for the first time in history. By 1936, the Yankees had assembled a virtually unbeatable squad led by newcomer Joe DiMaggio. Detroit would return to the October stage in 1940, losing to the Reds in seven games. A war-torn Series victory in ‘45 was followed by two decades of mediocrity in Detroit.
Hank Greenberg- First Base
Perhaps the greatest Jewish player of all time, Greenberg didn’t consider himself to be particularly religious. Still, he captured national attention when he refused to play on Yom Kippur in 1934. He later sacrificed portions of five seasons to military duty during WWII. Before then, he appeared to be well on his way to shattering every RBI record ever established. The quickest player to reach 1,200 RBIs, he still holds the AL single season mark for runs batted in by a right-handed batter (183 in 1937). In four World Series with the Tigers, he slammed 5 homers and drove-in 22 runs. He sprained his wrist in Game 2 of the ’35 Fall Classic and sat out the last four games.
Charlie Gehringer- Second Base
Gehringer was known as “The Mechanical Man” for the way he quietly and efficiently handled his duties at second base. Teammate Doc Cramer once said; “You wind him up on opening day and forget about him.” From 1932-’38, he was among Detroit’s top RBI men, reaching the century mark six times. He was also among the most gifted defensive players in the majors. In 1934, he led the club with a .379 World Series average. The following year, he finished second with a .375 mark. In all, he appeared in three Fall Classics, gathering 26 hits and 7 walks in twenty games.
Mickey Cochrane- Catcher
Acting as player/manager, Cochrane's deeply competitive nature inspired the Tigers to fully realize their vast potential. He became so popular in Detroit that sportswriters began to speculate that he might one day take over as team president. When the Tigers clinched the ’35 Series in Detroit, Cochrane said it was the biggest thrill he ever experienced during his playing days. “The screeching at the ballpark did not stop until the sun came out over the downtown streets the following morning. No town was ever more deliriously happy over a baseball triumph.”
Schoolboy Rowe- Pitcher
Lynwood Rowe reportedly received his nickname after an enthusiastic fan at a church league game bellowed: “Don’t let that schoolboy strike you out!” Born in rural Arkansas, Rowe was perceived by fans as a bumpkin. He enhanced the stereotype during a radio interview one day, when he shouted out to his fiancée: “How’m I doin’, Edna?!” He enjoyed his best seasons with the Tigers during the mid-‘30s, averaging 21 wins per season in a three-year span. He fared pretty well in the ‘34/’35 World Series, compiling a 2.76 ERA. He didn’t benefit in the win column, however, posting a 2-3 record. An excellent hitter, he later posted a .318 average as a pinch hitter during the ’43 slate.
Goose Goslin- Outfield
Some say that Goslin got his nickname because he flapped his arms while chasing fly balls. Others contend that his big nose and long neck led to the sarcastic moniker. Either way, he was a natural hitter. “I could always swing that bat real quick,” he once said. “Never had to train or practice a whole lot. Good eyes, quick reflexes, strong arms—oh, did I ever love to get up there and hit.” Traded to the Tigers before the 1934 campaign, the self-promoting outfielder drove-in 100 runs for Detroit in three straight seasons. His clutch single in the final game of the ’35 World Series chased the winning run across the plate. It was the last postseason appearance of his career.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Had the Dodgers not been repressed by some of the greatest clubs of the era, they might have attained dynastic status during the mid-to-late-‘70s. In 1974, they were victimized in the World Series by the Oakland A’s. Without the benefit of a Wild Card format, they were held in check by Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine” over the next two seasons. After finally overtaking the Reds and efficiently disposing of the Phillies in the playoffs, they fell prey to the Yankees in ‘77/’78. They avenged their past failures with a stirring six-game victory over their old rivals in 1981. For the Dodgers, it was only the third Series win in eleven tries against the Yankees.
Steve Garvey- First Base
Garvey maintained a wholesome public image until 1978, when he got into a locker room brawl with teammate Don Sutton. He would later be slapped with two paternity suits. Named NL MVP in 1974, he earned four straight Gold Gloves and made eight consecutive All-Star appearances. A steady run producer, he drove-in 80 or more runs eight times with the Dodgers. He had six seasons with at least 200 hits. Later in his career, he helped the Padres to a World Series berth.
Dave Lopes- Second Base
The speedy Lopes led the NL twice in steals while swiping 40 or more bags every year from 1974-’79. He won a Gold Glove at second base in ’78. He had above average power for a leadoff hitter, peaking at 28 homers in ’79. His most memorable power burst came against the Yankees in the ’78 World Series, when he outslugged Reggie Jackson with 3 homers in six games.
Ron Cey- Third Base
Cey was yet another anchor in an infield that played together for the better part of ten seasons. Defensively, Cey has been ranked slightly higher than his Dodger teammates. He finished among the top three in assists eleven times between ’73 and ’82. Still, he never won a Gold Glove. Nicknamed “Penguin” because he waddled when he ran, he had good power, clubbing at least 22 home runs in ten seasons. In 1981, his .350 batting average and 6 RBIs earned him World Series MVP honors. He played in four Fall Classics altogether, collecting 20 hits with 13 runs batted in.
Don Sutton- Pitcher
Sutton is the only pitcher to collect 300 victories with just a single 20-win campaign to his credit. Highly durable, he logged 200 innings of work in fifteen consecutive seasons. From 1969-’76, he won at least 15 games every year. Ejected from a game in ’78 for defacing a baseball, he was put under intense scrutiny in the years that followed. He continued to practice his dark art, earning the nickname “Black and Decker.” Asked if he applied foreign substances to baseballs, he retorted: “Vaseline is made right here in the USA.” Though Sutton pitched moderately well in the ‘74/’77 World Series, he had a pair of rocky outings in the ’78 affair, giving up 10 runs in 12 innings. He retired with 324 regular season victories.
Dusty Baker- Outfield
After a weak showing in his ’76 L.A. debut, Baker came back strong with 30 home runs the following year, helping the Dodgers become the first club to have four players reach the thirty-homer plateau in the same season (Steve Garvey, Ron Cey and Reggie Smith were the others). Baker was MVP of the NLCS in ’77, driving-in 8 runs in four games. He added five more ribbies in the World Series that year. During four National League Championship Series, Baker was a .371 hitter. He was pretty good with the leather too, capturing a Gold Glove in1981.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
In the early-‘80s, the Cardinals developed a style of play that was a throwback to an earlier era. At the time, Busch Stadium had deep dimensions and a hard, artificial playing surface. Without a prototypical power hitter in the lineup, Manager Whitey Herzog relied on speed, pitching, defense and line-drives to carry him to the postseason. During the ’82 World Series, sportswriters coined the phrase “Whiteyball” to describe Herzog’s game plan. Though the Cardinals never built a dynasty, they captured three pennants and a World Series title in a six-year span. Herzog employed his “Whiteyball” strategy throughout his tenure in St. Louis, which ended in 1990.
Ozzie Smith- Shortstop
Nicknamed “The Wizard of Oz” for his defensive excellence, Smith won thirteen consecutive Gold Gloves from 1980-1992. Though he hit for low averages at the beginning of his career, his offense improved over time. He peaked at .303 in 1987. Smith had excellent speed, stealing 580 bases over nineteen seasons. He added 6 more thefts in postseason play. He was MVP of the 1985 NLCS. A fifteen-time All-Star, he holds the record for lifetime assists among shortstops. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.
Tom Herr- Second Base
Herr was a steady hitter for the Cardinals with batting averages ranging from .252-.323 between ’82 and ’87. He stole no fewer than 22 bases three times in that span. His best offensive campaign came in ’85, when he collected 38 doubles and drove-in 110 runs. He led the NL in sacrifice flies that year. Helped tremendously by the defensive wizardry of Ozzie Smith, Herr led the league in double plays turned by a second baseman four times. He had good range and sure hands.
Willie McGee- Outfield
Between 1982 and 1988, McGee’s batting average dropped below .285 just once. Shy and reserved, he generally avoided the spotlight until he captured a batting title in 1985 with a .353 mark. He led the NL in triples that year as well. McGee had speed on the bases, performed well in the clutch and covered a lot of ground in the outfield. In three World Series with the Cardinals, he hit.291.
Vince Coleman- Outfield
Carrying the colorful nickname of “Vincent Van Go,” Coleman appeared to be headed for the Hall of Fame early in his career, leading the NL in steals during his first six seasons. The success went to his head and he later became a malcontent in New York. Despite a slew of injuries, he retired with 752 career steals—sixth on the all time list through the 2015 campaign. He sat out the entire ’85 World Series due to a freak accident. Before Game 4 of the NLCS, he failed to notice that the automatic tarp roller had been set in motion on the field. It rolled over his leg, chipping a bone in his knee. In the ’87 World Series, he stole 6 bases without being caught.
Terry Pendleton- Third Base
Pendleton won two Gold Gloves at third base during his time with the Cardinals. Though he didn’t hit for high averages in St. Louis, he was a consistent run producer, peaking at 96 RBIs in 1987. In two World Series as a Cardinal, he fashioned a .300 batting average. He signed with the Braves before the ’91 campaign and reached the peak of his career, leading the NL in hits for two straight seasons. He won a batting title and MVP Award in ’91. In all, Pendleton appeared in five World Series, all of which were losing causes.