Charlie Gehringer, Detroit Tigers
Charles Leonard Gehringer (May 11, 1903 – January 21, 1993), nicknamed “The Mechanical Man“, was a German-American Major League Baseball second baseman who played 19 seasons (1924–42) for the Detroit Tigers. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949.
Widely regarded as one of the greatest second basemen of all time, Gehringer, who batted left-handed and threw with his right, compiled a .320 batting average and had seven seasons with more than 200 hits. He was the American League batting champion in 1937 with a .371 average and was also named the American League‘s Most Valuable Player. He was among the Top 10 vote recipients in the Most Valuable Player voting for seven straight years from 1932 to 1938. He was the starting second baseman and played every inning of the first six All Star Games.
Gehringer’s career totals of 2,839 hits and 574 doubles both rank 19th in major league history. Gehringer also led the Tigers to three American League pennants (1934, 1935, and 1940) and one World Series Championship (1935). Gehringer hit .379 in the 1934 World Series, and .375 in the 1935 Series.
Gehringer was also one of the best-fielding second basemen in history, having led all American League second basemen in fielding percentage and assists seven times. His 7,068 assists is the second highest total in major league history for a second baseman. He also collected 5,369 putouts as a second baseman (the 6th highest total for a second baseman) and 1,444 double plays (the 7th highest total for a second baseman).
From Baseball in Wartime:
Charles L “Charlie” Gehringer was born in Fowlerville, Michigan on May 11, 1903. After a year at the University of Michigan, where he played baseball and football, Gehringer began his pro career in the Michigan-Ontario League. He made his first appearance with the Tigers in 1924.
In 19 seasons with the Tigers, Gehringer was a six-time all-star and led the American League with a .371 batting average in 1937.
Gehringer entered military service with the Navy in September 1942 and was appointed head baseball coach of the St Mary’s Naval Pre-Flight School team in California for the 1943 season. Included on the team was former major leaguer Al Niemiec.
When Gehringer arrived at Jacksonville NAS in 1944, he told his Commanding Officer that he wanted to just coach the baseball team and not play. He was promptly told that he would play, and if he didn’t, he would be sent so far they wouldn’t know where to find him. Consequently, Gehringer played and managed the Jacksonville NAS Fliers.
In Donald Honig’s Baseball When the Grass was Real, Gehringer recalled how seriously the commanding officers took baseball. “Once we had a game scheduled at Montgomery Air Base, in Alabama, and they came and picked us up and flew us to Montgomery for the game and then flew us back again.”
When Gehringer had entered military service in 1942, he was seemingly finished as a player. He was 39 years old and finding it difficult to keep in shape. However, when he came out of the service in November 1945, having attained the rank of lieutenant commander, he was in great shape and, in hindsight, wished he played a couple more years. Instead, he became wealthy through an auto accessories business in Michigan.
Gehringer later served as general manager and vice-president of the Tigers. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1949.
Charlie Gehringer passed away on January 21, 1993 in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. He was 89 years old.