The Yankees have won 27 World Series titles, but the Detroit Tigers have had what is considered the greatest outfield and infield in history. The 1915 outfield of Ty Cobb, Sam Crawford, and Bobby Veach is considered the greatest ever. Their infield counterparts from 1934 are likewise highly rated. The quartet drove in 462 runs in dominating the American League and leading Detroit to its fourth pennant. Their offensive production rates them the greatest infield of all time.
Hank Greenberg anchored the infield at first base. “Hammerin’ Hank” played in 153 games and led the league with 63 doubles. His .600 slugging percentage and 139 RBI ranked third in the AL. He also scored 118 runs, had 201 hits, 26 home runs, and a 1.005 OPS. As Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish New Year, approached, the observant Jew struggled over whether to play. A rabbi found an obscure reference to children playing ball on the holiday and counseled Greenberg. The slugger played, but sat out on Yom Kippur.
While Greenberg missed one game, on Yom Kippur, the rest of the infield played in all 154. Second baseman Charlie Gehringer enjoyed his best season to date. He led the league in runs (134) and hits (214) while finishing second in batting (.356), doubles (50) and on base percentage (.450). He also knocked in 127 runs. The second baseman walked 99 times and only struck out on 25 occasions. Gehringer finished second in the MVP voting to his manager, Mickey Cochrane.
Gehringer would have better seasons and win a MVP award of his own. His double play partner, Billy Rogell never won a MVP and enjoyed his finest season in 1934. The leadoff hitter batted .296 with a .392 OBP setting the table for the thunder behind him. He scored 114 runs, rapped 175 hits, had 32 doubles, and knocked in 100 with only three home runs. He was also tough as nails and played the World Series on a broken ankle.
Marv Owen did not drive in 100 runs like his counterparts, but proved just as tough as Rogell. Despite batting .069 in the World Series, he fought the intimidating Joe Medwick in Game 7. Medwick slid hard into Owen at third precipitating the brawl. Both players remained in the game until Commissioner Landis removed Medwick to protect him from Tiger fans. For the season, Owen hit .317 with eight home runs and 96 RBI.
The infield’s offensive statistics are staggering when compiled. They totaled 769 hits, 462 RBI, 179 doubles, 445 runs scored, and a .327 average. The four missed one game all year. Gehringer and Greenberg made the Hall of Fame. No other infield has ever produced such as season.
The 1934 Detroit Tigers boasted the greatest infield ever assembled. The foursome missed one game in leading the Tigers to the pennant. They punished American League pitching while playing tight defense behind their pitchers. Their effort played a major role in Detroit’s success and has stood the test of time.