The Detroit Tigers enjoyed a very successful run between 1934 and 1950. During that stretch, the franchise won four pennants, two World Series, topped 90 wins five times, won 101 games in 1934, boasted six most valuable players, and finished second six times. Joe DiMaggio's emergence in New York probably prevented Detroit from achieving greater. During the 1940s, the Tigers won two pennants, the 1945 World Series, finished second three times, and fielded three league MVPs. The following are the top ten Detroit Tigers moments of the 1940s.
Floyd Giebell vs. Bob Feller ( September 27, 1940): The Tigers needed one win to clinch the pennant. Tiger manager Del Baker could have opted for star pitchers Bobo Newsom or Schoolboy Rowe. The two had been through baseball wars and would have matched up well against Indians starter Bob Feller. Instead, Baker chose rookie Floyd Geibell. Detroit's starter had a grand total of 10 big league games under his belt when he faced the 27-game winner. In the end, a wind blown Rudy York home run and Geibell's change up defeated the Hall of Fame pitcher and his club 2-0. The Tigers won the pennant for the first time since 1935. Geibell would pitch in 17 games in 1941 and never appear in another big league game again.
Hank Greenberg moves to left field (1940): Hank Greenberg "slumped" to .312 with 33 home runs and 112 RBI in 1939 after challenging Babe Ruth's home run record the previous season. On top of this, Detroit was eager to get phenom Rudy York's bat into the lineup. York proved a defensive liability at third, catcher, and in the outfield. As a result, Detroit management asked Hank Greenberg to move to left field to open first base for York and to take a $5,000 pay cut. Greenberg agreed, but asked for a $10,000 bonus if he made the switch. Greenberg made his fourth consecutive All Star team, won his second MVP, and hit .340. He also led the league in doubles (50), home runs (41), RBI (150), slugging (.670), OPS (1.103), and total bases (384).
Bobo Newsom pitches for his father (October 6, 1940): Bobo Newsom pitched for five teams before landing in Detroit. He went 21-5 in 1940 marking the third time he reached 20 victories in a season. Newsom's father died during the 1940 World Series after watching his son pitch the opener. Bobo promised to win Game 5 for his "daddy." Newsom responded with a 3-hit shutout with just 2 walks and 7 strikeouts. The Tigers took a 3-2 series lead behind the victory. Unfortunately, Detroit dropped the next two games to lose the World Series.
Hank Greenberg is drafted (1940): Hank Greenberg won the 1940 American League MVP award and then received his draft notice. The slugger appeared in 19 games in 1941 before leaving the Tigers. He received an honorable discharge on December 5, 1941. Two days later, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor motivating Greenberg to reenlist. He returned to the Tigers in July 1945.
Trout’s big September week (1945): Between 1943 and 1946, Dizzy Trout won 82 games. In September 1945, he won some of the most important contests of his career. Over a seven day stretch from September 4-September 11, Trout went 4-0. He defeated the Yankees 10-0 on September 4 and 11-4 on September 8. The next day, he beat Boston 6-3. Then, he shutout the Red Sox 5-0 on September 11. All four victories occurred on the road. Overall, he finished 5-2 for the month. Detroit won the pennant by 1.5 games over Washington.
Greenberg’s Grand Slam (September 30, 1945): The army discharged Hank Greenberg on July 1, 1945. The Tigers held a one game lead in the standings on the final day of the season. A win clinched the pennant and a loss could have resulted in a playoff. Detroit trailed 3-2 in the ninth inning against the Browns. Darkness threatened to end the game, but Greenberg assured the umpire he could see. He was not going to allow a bases loaded situation go. As the sun set, Greenberg slammed a grand slam to give Detroit a 6-3 edge. Al Benton pitched the bottom of the ninth for the save and the Tigers won the Pennant.
Hal Newhouser wins the Triple Crown and second MVP (1945): Prince Hal was a middling pitcher for the Tigers until his age 23 season. In 1944, he led the league with 29 wins and 187 strikeouts en route to the MVP award. The following season, Newhouser led the league in wins (25), ERA (1.81), and strikeouts (212) for the Triple Crown and his second consecutive MVP. He also topped the AL in game starts (36), complete games (29), shutouts (8), and innings (313.1). The Tigers did not boast another MVP until 1968 or another Triple Crown pitcher until 2011. Meanwhile, Newhouser led the Tigers to the World Series title in 1945.
1945 World Series Game 7 (October 10, 1945): The Tigers held 3-2 leads in the World Series in 1934 and 1940 and lost both. In 1945, they held a 3-2 lead, lost a heart breaker in Game 6, but came out determined in Game 7. Detroit scored five times in the first and did not look back. They pummeled the Cubs 9-3 behind Hal Newhouser. Doc Cramer had three hits and Paul Richards knocked in 4 runs. The Tigers would have to wait 23 years before another title.
Hank Greenberg sold to Pittsburgh (January 18, 1947): All things must end. Hank Greenberg led the American League in home runs and RBI in 1946, but Detroit decided that it was time to part with their 35-year-old star. Greenberg moved to Pittsburgh for a season and then retired. He finished with 331 home runs, 1,276 RBI, .313 average, and 1.017 OPS. The Hall of Famer missed over four full seasons to military service. As a result, he would have been well over 500 home runs and around 1,800 RBI.
George Kell wins the batting title (October 2, 1949): George Kell and Ted Williams battled for the American League hitting crown in the final weeks of the 1949 season. Williams led toward the end, but surrendered the lead on the season's final day. Kell went 2-for-3 while Williams went 0-for-2. The Tiger defeated the Splendid Splinter by percentage points and finished at .343.