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100 greatest Detroit Tigers #37: Goose Goslin

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Goose Goslin helped teach the Tigers how to win. The outfielder played on three World Series teams with the Washington Senators before moving to Detroit. Goslin provided veteran leadership for a young Tiger team ready to win. Detroit appeared in two World Series during Goslin’s tenure. The heavy hitting outfielder reinforced a strong Tiger lineup, provided a veteran example, and helped Detroit finally win a title.

Leon Goslin joined the Washington Senators in 1921.He earned the nickname “Goose” based on his inability to judge fly balls. Basically, he looked like a goose chasing routine flies. Despite this, he was not a total defensive liability. Goslin could throw and led the league in assists twice before an arm injury limited his ability.

Defense might have been an adventure for Goslin, but he could hit with the best. He hit .316 for his career with a .887 OPS, and 1,610 RBI. The outfielder won the 1928 batting crown with a .379 average and led the league in triples twice and RBI in 1924. Goslin hit over .300 in ten separate seasons and knocked in 100 or more runs eleven times. He also had 99 RBI in 1923.

Goslin’s offensive skills helped Washington win three American League pennants. Goose hit .344, .308, and .250 in the Senators’ three World Series. The team defeated the Giants in 1924, but fell to Pittsburgh in 1925 and the Giants in 1933. Goslin’s experience appealed to Tiger management. They had a young core that appeared on the verge of something special. Detroit simply needed leadership.

Despite three consecutive pennants from 1907-09, Detroit had never won a World Series. By 1934, the city starved for a title. Management accumulated talent such as pitchers Tommy Bridges, Elden Auker, and Schoolboy Rowe to toe the mound. Additionally, the Tigers boasted Hank Greenberg, Billy Rogell, and Charlie Gehringer in the everyday lineup. However, the team needed direction and experience. As a result, the Tigers traded for two veteran winners to change the franchise’s fortunes.

Mickey Cochrane joined the Tigers as player-manager. He would catch, handle the pitching staff, and run the club on the field. Detroit also acquired Goose Goslin from the Senators to play outfield and teach the younger players. His veteran presence settled the young Tigers down and added thump to a potent lineup. Goslin batted .305, .292, .315, and .238 from 1934-37. He also knocked in 100 runs three times and posted a .826, .770, and .930 OPS.

Gehringer, Greenberg, and Goslin became Detroit’s “G-Men” named after J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI stars that hunted down gangsters like John Dillinger and Al Capone. The G-Men, Cochrane, and the young pitching staff helped Detroit to 101 wins in 1934. They won the pennant, but lost the World Series in seven games to the St Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals had won the World Series in 1931 and knew what it took to reach the pinnacle. Most of the Tigers were still learning.

In the 1980s, Billy Rogell boasted the 1934 Tigers were a better team than the Cardinals. As evidence, he pointed to the 1935 championship. Detroit repeated as pennant winners, but the Cardinals fell short. Detroit beat the Cubs in the World Series. The Tigers led the series 3-games-to-2 and were tied in the ninth inning of Game 6. Stan Hack led off the inning for the Cubs with a triple, but Bridges pitched out of the jam. The score remained tied in the bottom half of the the frame when Goslin came to bat with two outs and Cochrane on second. Goslin rapped a single to right driving in Cochrane and winning the game. Goslin’s walk off hit clinched Detroit’s first World Series victory. The two men brought in to help the Tigers win, Goslin and Cochrane, provided the difference in the World Series. Interestingly, Cochrane and Goslin were the only two non-Yankees to appear in five World Series between 1921 and 1964.

Goslin batted .241 and .273 in his two Tiger World Series appearances. He was a bit of a disappointment in 1934, but his hit in 1935 made up for it. The Tigers did not appear in another fall classic until 1940. Goslin had left the team by that point. However, he did enjoy his finest Tiger season in 1936. He batted .315 with 24 home runs, 125 RBI, .403 OBP, .526 slugging, 33 doubles, 8 triples, 122 runs, 180 hits, and .930 OPS. The following year, he slumped to .238 in 79 games. He returned to Washington for the 1938 campaign and retired from the majors. He did serve as player manager in the Interstate League in 1939.

Goose Goslin played four seasons in Detroit. Despite the short tenure, he left a lasting impact on the franchise. He batted .297 with 50 home runs, 369 RBI, and .832 OPS. However, his main impact came with the two pennants. Goslin helped teach the Tigers to win and led by example with his bat. In the end, Goslin had the most important hit in Tiger history with his walk off single in Game 6 of the 1935 World Series. Detroit had not won a championship since 1887. The single relieved nearly 50 years of frustration.

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