With the Great Depression taking its toll on
America’s psyche in the ’Thirties, baseball
sought—in the words of a popular song from the
following decade—“to accentuate the positive”.
Three institutions focused on recognizing
accomplishment were launched in the 1930’s: the
Most Valuable Player Award in 1932, the All-Star
Game in 1933, and the Royal Ricketts Award in
1937; a fourth, the Hall of Fame, would generate
much discussion and public interest in the ’30’s
before opening its doors in 1946. One other
notable innovation occurred in this decade: night
baseball. The first game played “under the
lights”was in 1935 at Cincinnati. The Packers
played seven such games that season. By the end of
the decade, a handful of teams were scheduling a
handful of night games each season. It would not
be long before night games became the norm.
The offensive upswing that began a decade earlier
reached its zenith in 1930, as the league averaged
.297 and hit almost 1200 home runs. The long ball
totals would remain high throughout the 30's, but
batting averages were about to recede.
In the midst of all the flying baseballs was a
terrific donnybrook of a pennant fight in the
Eastern Division, where perennial non-contenders
Baltimore and Buffalo slugged it out all season
for the top spot, with Brooklyn and New York hot
on their heels. The Lords and Beavers were tied
going into the final three-game set of the year;
Buffalo took two of the three to earn the
divisional crown, and Baltimore finished one game
back, New York two games back, and Brooklyn three
games back. In the West Chicago and Pittsburgh
stayed close to St. Louis for most of the season
but the Explorers pulled away late to win their
eighth consecutive divisional title.
Cleveland finally joined the modern age,
unveiling the spectacular Lakefront Stadium on
Opening Day. The park held 36,250, but it was
generally not a banner year for the fifth-place
Bobcats, although those who did purchase tickets
got to see Bill McGonagil in action. Big Bill
crushed 31 home runs, tops in the league. The
batting title was claimed by Cincinnati’s Al
Bruning, who hit .392, while Ed Wall of New York
took the RBI title with 143. St. Louis’ Brock
Rutherford had another great year, but this time
only topped the circuit in wins (27) and
strikeouts (227), losing the ERA title to
Philadelphia’s Patrick Monday. Rutherford posted
an outstanding 1.62 ERA but Monday’s was an even
more pristine 1.52.
Buffalo had won the first official World Series
back in 1886—when the team was known as the
Colts—and hadn’t made another appearance in the
tourney since. As they returned to the big stage
they faced a hungry St. Louis team, which had been
no stranger to championship bouts in recent years
but had come up on the losing end of the last four
straight. The clubs gave the crowds their money’s
worth. Buffalo took the first game but St. Louis
roared back to take the next three. Facing
elimination, the Beavers took the next two to
force a Game Seven, which the Explorers won to
secure their fifth league crown.
Fearing that runs were starting come a little too
cheaply, the league made an effort to deaden the
baseball a little for the 1931 season. The result
was a 17-point drop in batting average (from .297
to .280) and a dramatic decrease in home runs,
from 1189 to 846. The batting average decline was
in the neighborhood of what was intended; the home
run drought was not. Further experimentation would
Whatever mixed success the league had in
fine-tuning the game, the fans were treated to
terrific three-team pennant races in both
divisions for the first time in years. Chicago,
Pittsburgh, and St. Louis fought for the top spot
in the West for most of the season before the
Traders and Industrials pulled away in September.
Pittsburgh wound up on top, two games ahead of
Chicago and ten ahead of St. Louis. In the East
Brooklyn, Buffalo, and New York traded first place
every few days until the Knicks’ late surge earned
them the division, with the Bluebirds finishing
four back and the Beavers finishing five back.
Philadelphia’s John Davis was the batting champ
with a .370 average; Cleveland’s Bill Elliott hit
21 home runs to lead the league; Chicago’s Ron
Fricker was the RBI king with 122. St. Louis’
Brock Rutherford led the way in ERA (1.54) for the
ninth time and strikeouts (204) for the twelfth,
but he fell one win short of the Triple Crown as
Chicago’s George Culver paced the circuit with 23.
Pittsburgh’s last appearance in the World Series
had been in 1904; their last World Series win had
been in 1903. Both of those tilts had been against
New York, and once again, the Industrials found
themselves facing the Knicks for the title. Having
ended the Explorers’ eight-year dominance of the
West, the Ironmen were not intimidated by New
York’s recent championship run either, and
polished off the Knicks in six to earn their
fourth world title.
Home runs made a comeback: the league hit over a
thousand round-trippers, with four teams hitting a
hundred or more and only two hitting fewer than
Buffalo ran away from the pack in the East at
mid-season, beating Philadelphia by nine games.
The Western Division race nearly went down to the
wire, as Chicago edged Pittsburgh by two games.
Big Bill McGonagil of Cleveland won the batting
championship with a .362 average. St. Louis’ Tom
McMullin was the home run king, belting 27. Ed
Wall of New York drove in 127 runs to pace the
circuit. Brock Rutherford of St. Louis won another
pitching Triple Crown, his eighth, but while he
won the ERA (1.62) and strikeout (246) titles
outright, he had to share the top spot in wins
with two other pitchers, Buffalo’s Pete Bailey and
Chicago’s Phil Cartlidge. All three hurlers posted
The league had pondered establishing an annual
Most Valuable Player award for some time, and
various newspapers and other publications had
sporadically issued unofficial awards since the
’Teens. Finally it was agreed to make it official;
the question remained whether to make pitchers
eligible for the award, or to give them their own,
separate award. Amidst the confusion, in 1932 the
pitchers were left out completely; ineligible for
the MVP award, but with no award of their own. Tom
McMillan of St. Louis took home the first Most
Valuable Player trophy after a 27 HR/110 RBI/.333
Perhaps invigorated by their season-long street
fight with Pittsburgh, Chicago took Buffalo by
storm in the World Series, defeating the Beavers
in four straight. Third baseman Mel Harrison hit
.625 and drove in five runs, but the real star of
the Series was the Traders’ pitching staff, which
turned in three compete game victories by three
different pitchers and gave up just seven runs in
the four games.
Home runs dipped back to 1931 levels, and the
league batting average dropped to .266. It wasn’t
quite what one might call a pitchers’ year, but
for at least one season the hitters and pitchers
were more or less on equal footing.
The first annual All-Star Game took place at
Boston’s Atlantic Avenue Grounds, with the East
All-Stars clipping the West All-Stars 1-0 thanks
to Doc Moore’s sixth inning RBI double.
The Western Division race was over by mid-season.
Defending champion Chicago roared out of the gate
and finished 109-49, 23 games ahead of
second-place Cleveland. The East featured a
tighter race, but New York appeared to have it
wrapped up by the first of October, holding a
five-game lead over Philadelphia with seven games
to play. That’s when fate planted its pivot foot:
the Knicks dropped six straight at home to
Baltimore and Brooklyn, while the Quakers took
five of six on the road at Boston and Buffalo.
Both teams won their 158th game, setting up a
one-game playoff for the division. It was one for
the ages: trailing 7-0, the Quakers scored seven
runs in the bottom of the sixth to tie it and won
it on Del Ayres’ run-scoring single in the bottom
of the 10th.
Buffalo’s Jim Lee hit .358 to take the batting
title. Dick Whitney of Chicago won the home run
crown with 21 and the RBI crown with 119.
Chicago’s Phil Cartlidge (1.59) edged St. Louis’
Brock Rutherford (1.61) for the ERA title, while
Rutherford led in both wins (26) and strikeouts
(182). With pitchers now eligible for the Most
Valuable Player Award, it was widely speculated
that Rutherford would win it, but Cartlidge beat
him out in a close vote.
Philadelphia had one more card to play in their
season of surprises: a World Series sweep. Chicago
had led the league by wide margins in wins, runs
scored, and fewest runs allowed, but seemed
somehow ill-equipped to handle a Philadelphia
freight train that closed out an 11-1 October to
take the league title for the first time since
Offense was on the increase again, and so was
competition, at least in the Eastern Division,
where no fewer than four teams remained strongly
in contention well into September. New York took
the flag, with Buffalo finishing two back,
Baltimore finishing three back, and Philadelphia
finishing seven back. The West was again no
contest, this time with Pittsburgh the dominant
club, 15 games ahead of Chicago and St. Louis.
The second All-Star Game, played at Cleveland
this year, was another exciting affair as the East
All-Stars overcame a 5-0 deficit to win 7-5 and
take a 2-0 edge in the annual exhibition.
Philadelphia’s Art Cook hit .374 to claim the
batting crown, while Jim Payne of Cincinnati hit
21 home runs to lead the league and Orange Koon of
Buffalo topped the circuit with 115 RBI. John
DeLodge of Detroit won the ERA tile with a 2.42
mark, while Frederic Isaac of Baltimore was the
top winner with 23 triumphs. St. Louis’ Brock
Rutherford was the strikeout king for an
incredible 15th consecutive season, fanning 195.
Rutherford was honored as the league’s Most
Valuable Player after the season, an award he
would have won many more times had it existed
during the prime of his career.
After back-to-back years of World Series sweeps,
Pittsburgh and New York brought a competitive edge
back to the Fall Classic, slugging it out for the
full seven games. Birdie Deaton pitched two
complete game victories and Dick Thomas delivered
key pinch hits in four games to lead the
Industrials to their fifth world championship.
Pittsburgh and Buffalo led their divisions for
most of the year but in the waning days of the
season found themselves having to fight off
charges by Chicago and New York; the Industrials
and Beavers prevailed, both winning their
divisions by a single game.
Brooklyn’s Big Bill McGonagil hit .349 to win the
batting title; Long Lew Lydell of Detroit was the
home run king with 26, and Cincinnati’s Tom Riley
was the RBI champ with 121. Brock Rutherford of
St. Louis, 37 years young, won both the ERA title
(1.66) and the strikeout title (214). Pittsburgh’s
Birdie Deaton was the top winner with 26
victories. Rutherford was the runaway choice for
Most Valuable Player.
The West won the All-Star Game for the first
time, beating the East 5-2 in ten innings at
Brooklyn’s Flatbush Park.
Cincinnati installed lights in the Roman Arena
and received permission from the league to
schedule five night games—one against each
divisional opponent—during the regular season. The
games were well-attended, and other the clubs took
The Eastern Division’s western-most team faced
the Western Division’s eastern-most team to decide
the championship. Pittsburgh took a 3-1 lead, but
this being a season in which nothing came easy to
anyone, saw their lead gone after Game Six. They
beat Buffalo in the finale, 4-2, however, to
repeat as world champions.
The pennant races were thrillers, but for one
team, there was a feeling that they’d been through
this before, and would have preferred not to
relive it. New York had a three-game lead over
Philadelphia with ten to play; the Knicks
sputtered to a 4-6 finish, while the Quakers, as
if channeling the 1933 world champions, went 9-1
to win the Eastern flag by two games. In the West,
Chicago saw a sizable lead over St. Louis dwindle
down to one game by season’s end, but the Traders
wrapped up the division with two games to spare.
The Explorers were no doubt disappointed to
finish second, but they nearly swept the Triple
Crown categories. Third baseman Gene Metcalf led
the league in hitting with a .370 average, and
right fielder Bruiser Brusatti topped the circuit
both in home runs (31) and runs batted in (131).
Brock Rutherford led the league in strikeouts (for
an unbelievable 17th consecutive season) with 187
and tied Chicago’s Phil Cartlidge for the lead in
wins, with 26; the only Triple Crown category an
Explorer failed to win or share was ERA, in which
Cartlidge beat Rutherford by a slim margin, 1.67
The West won the All-Star Game at Detroit’s
Wolverine Field, 6-3, to even the annual series at
two games apiece.
Jason “Jaybird” Wall of New York needed five home
runs to pass Fennimore McCaffree (who retired in
1931) as the league’s all-time home run leader.
Wall hit 18, finishing the season with 249.
Wall’s ex-teammate and double-play partner, Doc
Moore, hung up his spikes after the season. The
Hamilton Hammer could still hit when he was in the
lineup—.351 in 1935 and .366 in 1936—but he had
battled injuries for four frustrating seasons in a
row. Moore retired as the league’s all-time
leading hitter, at .363.
Most Valuable Player Award voters gave Cartlidge
the nod over Rutherford, just as they had in 1933.
With pitchers walking away with all four MVP
awards for which they had been eligible, the
league decided it was time to give them their own
award and leave the MVP to the position players.
Beginning in 1937 the Royal Ricketts Award would
be bestowed upon the league’s top moundsman.
Eastern champions Philadelphia, winners of 92
games, squared off against Western champions
Chicago, winners of 103, with a chance to enact
one more instance of 1933 déjà vu. On paper the
Traders looked like the stronger team by some
margin, but the Quakers again played like a team
of destiny, wrapping it up in five, with
back-to-back shutouts by aging vets Joe Hinman and
Clay Easton providing the icing on the cake.
It was not a banner year for those who liked
close pennant races, nor for those who were not
nostalgic for the postseason pairings of the
previous decade; but it was a great year
for the fans of the St. Louis Explorers, and a
pretty good one for the fans of the New York
Knickerbockers. St. Louis won 112 games and won
the West by 12 games; New York won 97 and took the
East by 14.
New York’s Prince Hal Scarlet hit .375 to edge
St. Louis’ Gene Metcalf (.373) for the batting
crown. St. Louis’ Jim Payne out-homered Detroit’s
John Oberg by a single round-tripper to win the
home run title with 28; Scarlet led in RBI with
120. Brock Rutherford of St. Louis, clearly
unaware that at age 39 he was supposed to be
making retirement plans, instead turned in one of
the greatest seasons of his incomparable career,
winning his eighth Triple Crown with a 1.40 ERA (a
career best), 28 wins, and 240 strikeouts.
Obviously, Rutherford was an easy choice for the
first Royal Ricketts Award, while teammate
Metcalf, with a .373/21/102 line, was a runaway
winner of the MVP Award.
The East broke their two-game losing streak in
the All-Star Game, winning 4-3 at Baltimore, to
take a 3-2 edge in the all-time series.
St. Louis had beaten New York only once in five
consecutive Fall Classic match-ups in the 1920’s,
but these were by and large different teams, and
this edition of the Explorers took their 112-win
regular season momentum into the Word Series,
where they triumphed in six for the franchise’s
sixth world title.
New York won the Eastern Division title in a
walk, finishing 101-57, 17 games ahead of Buffalo.
St. Louis repeated in the West, but their road was
rockier, fighting a hot Chicago club the whole
way, and finishing with 99 wins and a 3-game edge
over the Traders.
Philadelphia’s Art Cook flirted with a .400
season, but had to settle for a .397 average and
the batting title. Cook also hit 23 home runs,
sharing the lead with New York’s Frank Wells. Tom
Riley of Cincinnati was the RBI champ with 132.
Philadelphia’s Hugh Zipp posted a 2.03 ERA to lead
all hurlers, while Brock Rutherford of St. Louis
posted 28 wins and 208 strikeouts to pace the
circuit in those categories. Rutherford also
notched his 500th career victory during the
season. The Royal Ricketts Award went to
Rutherford unanimously while Cook took home the
Most Valuable Player trophy.
Jaybird Wall called it a career, retiring as the
league’s all-time home run champion, with 274
round-trippers. Wall also retired with the career
record for walks, 1465, nearly 200 more than any
The All-Star Game, played at defending champion
St. Louis’ Castle Point Field this year, was a
romp for the East All-Stars, who won 9-3 to
improve their all-time record in the mid-season
clash to 4-2.
The East would not find St. Louis as hospitable
in the fall. With Rutherford tossing shutouts in
Game One and the clinching Game Five, the
Explorers made quick work of the Knickerbockers in
the World Series and secured their second
consecutive league title and seventh overall.
Pittsburgh stormed out of the gate, winning their
first nine games and spending the entire regular
season in first place in the Western Division,
ultimately finishing 111-47, 19 games ahead of
second-place Chicago. New York won the Eastern
Division title for the third consecutive season,
winning 94 games, 7 more than Brooklyn and
To many observers, though, it was the year of the
Beaver—not the Buffalo variety, but the Cincinnati
variety. Packers second baseman Winslow Beaver hit
.417—the highest single-season average of all
time—becoming only the second player in history to
break the .400 barrier and the first since 1894.
The other offensive titles went to Detroit’s John
Oberg, who topped the circuit with 29 home runs,
and Pittsburgh’s Pepper Wirtz, whose 132 RBI led
the loop. Chuck Munson of Pittsburgh won the ERA
crown with a 1.82 mark, while Hugh Zipp of
Philadelphia led the league in wins with 29 and
strikeouts with 172. Beaver was the Most Valuable
Player while Zipp claimed the The Royal Ricketts
The name Brock Rutherford was, for the first time
in just short of two decades, missing from the
leaderboards in the pitching Triple Crown
categories. Rutherford injured his elbow in his
first and only start of the season and was lost
for the remainder of the year.
The Eastern Division won the All-Star Game, 2-1,
giving the Easterners a 5-2 in the all-time
Pittsburgh scored 842 runs during the season,
tops in the league, while giving up just 560, more
than a hundred less than any other team. During
the World Series, however, New York right fielder
Elmer Davis battered the Industrials’ mound staff
at a .615 clip while the Knicks’ pitchers limited
the Steel City hitting machine to three runs in
four games, pulling off a surprising sweep for
their tenth world title.