Golden Age of Baseball in Detroit
by Richard Bak
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CHARLIE GEHRINGER: I had a fair year in '41, but in '42 1 didn't hit for much of an average. Jimmy Bloodworth came up from Florida and played a little bit. Guess it was better than me at my age. You get thirty-seven or thirty-eight, it doesn't seem to be too old, but it is in sports, I guess. I'd played eighteen years and it takes a lot out of you. You lose your zip in hitting and you lose a certain amount of speed fielding. I didn't notice any fielding change, except I assume I covered less ground. I'm sure balls got through there that wouldn't have ten years earlier. I suppose the fans and the manager notice.
Infielders are rarely spectacular. I've always said infielders don't win games, they save them. It's all mechanical. If you had to stop and think, "Now how am I going to field this ball?" it'd be past you. Your reflexes take over. You have to think before the ball is hit. That's where a lot of mistakes are made. You've got to see what the potential is beforehand and then say, "Well, I'm going to throw to this base if I get the ball." You can't be thinking, "Gee, what am I going to do tonight after the game?"
I'd say Al Simmons hit the hardest ball to second. He swung late at the ball a lot of times. With that long bat he stayed away until the last second, put his foot in the bucket a little. But he was so strong that you couldn't really throw it by him. He'd hit what we call in golf a "fade." The ball would come at you, and you'd think you were in front of it, and it'd keep going, going towards first base. And he'd hit it hard. No wonder he had the years he did.
We kept up on our stats then, but not like they do today. I don't think anybody thought about getting three thousand hits in those days. In fact, the Hall of Fame wasn't even around till I was finishing up, so you didn't give that much consideration. As it turned out, I needed just a few more hits to reach three thousand. I might've gotten them if I didn't have to go in the service in World War II.
After Pearl Harbor, I signed up for the draft. But instead of waiting to get drafted, I enlisted in the navy. I was thirty-eight at the time, and I wasn't about to go in as a foot soldier at that age. I thought I'd get into something better.
We had enough training to do as it was. But I enjoyed it. In fact, I came out of the service in such good shape that I felt I could've played a few years. But we had a good business going by that time, so I said what the heck. We were selling fabrics to automobile manufacturers. I started that in '38, so when I came back in '45 it was really going good. Rather than get involved in baseball again and more or less start over with new management, I decided to stick with what I got. So I retired.
From Cobb Would Have Caught It by Richard Bak.
Copyright © 1991 by Wayne State University Press. Reprinted with permission.