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Hank Greenberg: 1935 AL MVP

Hank Greenberg broke out in 1934 and won MVP in 1935.
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Hank Greenberg is an all-time baseball great. He won his first Most Valuable Player award at age 24 in 1935. Greenberg led the league in home runs, RBI, and total bases while the Tigers repeated as American League champions. Additionally, the first baseman tallied an amazing 103 RBI at the All Star break. In the end, his efforts led to his unanimous MVP selection.

The Tigers signed Hank Greenberg in 1929. He made one appearance in 1930 before returning to the big leagues in 1933. Greenberg posted respectable numbers in his rookie campaign, but the real breakout came in 1934. Hammerin' Hank hit .339 with 26 home runs, 139 RBI, 1.005 OPS, and led the league with 63 doubles. The Tigers won the pennant, but lost the World Series to the Cardinals.

Detroit entered 1935 on a mission to win the World Series. Once again, Greenberg led the Tigers' charge. He began the season modestly with just 2 home runs and .788 OPS in April. The slugger heated up in May and improved as the season wore on. In early May, he homered in three straight games and four of five. His bat ignited the Tigers after a slow start. The club did not reach .500 until May 19. On May 28, Greenberg hit two long balls and went 4-for-5 against the Yankees. Detroit won 8-3 in a contest that saw Billy Rogel also hit two home runs. Detroit ended May 20-17 with Greenberg hitting .286 with 11 home runs, 44 RBI, and .952 OPS.

Detroit and Greenberg heated up as the weather warmed. The Tiger hit 12 home runs in the month and knocked in 47. Greenberg totaled four 3-hit games in June. He had two 4-RBI games and a 3-RBI game in the month. By the beginning of July, Greenberg was at .320 with 23 home runs, 91 RBI, and 1.071 OPS.

The MVP continued the torrid pace in July as the Tigers overtook New York for first place. They began the month 3.5 games out of first and grabbed the top spot on July 24 for good. On July 5, Greenberg went 4-for-4 with 4 runs and 5 RBI in a 16-1 victory over the Browns. He reached 100 RBI for the season in the next game and 103 at the All Star break. Despite the torrid season and record number of RBI, Greenberg did not get selected to go to the midseason classic. Still, the first baseman continued to hit at an amazing pace. He finished July at .333 with 28 home runs, 125 RBI, and 1.076 OPS.

The Tigers began August with a 58-37 record in first place. Greenberg slapped four 4-hit games in August. He hit two home runs on August 3 against Cleveland. On August 29, Greenberg hit home run #34 and knocked in 5 against the Browns. By September 1, the Tiger MVP was hitting .342 with 34 home runs, 157 RBI, and 1.086 OPS. Meanwhile the Tigers were 81-44 fully entrenched in first place.

Despite the big lead, Detroit struggled to the pennant in September. The squad finished the month 12-14. However, the Tigers swatted away the competition when necessary. They defeated the second place Yankees on September 13 with Greenberg collecting his 35th home run and 4 RBI. In the end, Detroit won the pennant by three games over New York.

Hank Greenberg carried the pennant winning Tigers offense in 1935. He tied Jimmie Foxx for the league lead in home runs with 36. The slugger led the league outright in RBI (170), extra base hits (98), and total bases (389). He finished second in slugging (.628) and doubles (46). Additionally, Greenberg scored 121 runs, knocked 203 hits, 16 triples, walked 87 times, and hit .328. The MVP posted a .411 OBP, .628 slugging, and 1.039 OPS.

Detroit needed to defeat the National League champion Cubs without Greenberg in the World Series. He broke his wrist in Game 2 and missed the rest of the series. The Tiger great only batted 6 times, but hit a home run and drove in a couple of runs before exiting the series. As a result, he finished the 1935 World Series batting .167, but posted a 1.042 OPS in 8 plate appearances.

Despite missing their key cog, the Tigers won the World Series. However, Greenberg led the team to the Fall Classic. His unanimous MVP season put the Tigers into the World Series and positioned for the city's first world title since 1887. Greenberg might have been the most important player in Tiger history. Detroit won four pennants, and two World Series, during his tenure. To date, no other Tiger great can boast as much success.