American League: Detroit Tigers (93-58) - Fifth World Series
National League: Chicago Cubs (100-54) - Eighth World Series (Won in 1907, 1908)
A year after coming up one win short of a World Championship, the Tigers got back to the World Series again in 1935 with mostly the same cast of characters that came so close the year before. After getting off to a slow start to the season - World Series hangover, much? - they put away the rest of the American League, then sat back to see who would win the National League. What they saw must have concerned them; sitting in third place on September 2, the Cubs won 21 games in a row, the greatest September stretch run in baseball history, to storm past the Giants and Cardinals and win the National League pennant.
So the Tigers drew not the Gashouse Gang, but the red-hot Cubs, the franchise that had beaten them in the World Series twice before. But this time, the Tigers were ready. After being so close the year before, they knew what it took to finish the job. So even after the Cubs won Game 1 - with the help of three Tiger errors - they didn't panic. Instead. they won three straight games, the first time in team history they had won three straight World Series games.
Lon Warneke won his second game of the series in Game 5 to help the Cubs avoid elimination, but the Tigers had two straight home games to try to clinch their first title. The teams went into the ninth inning of Game 7 tied at 3, and Chicago's Stan Hack lead off the top of the inning with a triple. The Cubs, however, couldn't capitalize, stranding Hack at third. Emboldened, the Tigers struck back. Player-manager Mickey Cochrane hit a one-out single in the bottom of the ninth. After Cochrane moved to second on a groundout, Goose Goslin hit a single to center. As Cochrane came around third to score, the Tiger fans went wild. After four losses, including two to the Cubs, the Tigers had finally won a World Championship.
Game 2 could have been devastating for the Tigers. Sure, they won 8-3, but at a heavy price, as Hall of Fame first baseman Hank Greenberg aggravated his already injured wrist on a home-plate collision in the seventh inning, knocking him out of the rest of the series. Greenberg's injury was the first bit of adversity the Tigers had face in two years; a year after their starting infield only missed one game between them in 1934, they did almost as good in '35, missing a combined 28 games.
But Greenberg was out now, and if the Tigers wanted to win the Series, they had to figure out a way to win a game in Wrigley Field without him. For a while, it didn't look like Game 3 would be that game, as the Cubs took a 3-0 lead into the sixth inning. It turns out the Tigers were simply waiting for Cubs starter Bill Lee to tire. They got one off him in the sixth, then got to him for good in the top of the eighth, knocking him out with two runs that tied the game. Detroit wasn't done, though, as they kept hitting with Warneke now on the mound, taking the lead on a Billy Rogell single, then adding an insurance run when Rogell got caught in a rundown long enough for Pete Fox to score on a double steal.
Leading 5-3, the Tigers turned to their Game 1 starter, Schoolboy Rowe, to close the door, but he couldn't get it done. Three straight singles and a sacrifice fly helped the Cubs tie the game and send the game to extra innings. In the top of the 11th, it was a Chicago error that opened the door for Detroit. With a runner on first and one out, Flea Clifton - who was only in the game because of Greenberg's injury - hit a sharp grounder to Freddie Lindstrom. Perhaps thinking about a double play, Lindstrom instead bobbled the ball, putting two runners on base. After a strike out - which should have ended the inning - Jo-Jo White singled to center to drive in the go-ahead run for Detroit. Given a second chance to shut the door, Rowe did so, giving the Tigers a vital road victory.
Charlie Gehringer wasn't much of an attention seeker. In fact, Cochrane once said that Gehringer "said hello on opening day, goodbye on closing day, and in between, hit .350." While Gehringer may have been the least known of the four Hall of Famers the Tigers sent out during the 1930s, he may have been the best. He was the star of 1935 series, his second straight great World Series. He had a batting/on-base/slugging split of .375/.423/.500, numbers that were almost identical to his performance in 1934. The biggest difference, of course, was that the Tigers won it all in '35, so Gehringer would have been a deserving MVP.
(Home team shaded; winners in Bold)
I'm ranking all the World Series, from worst to best. Here are the ones I've done so far:
33. 1935 - Detroit (A) def. Chicago (N) 4-2
34. 1934 - St. Louis (N) def. Detroit (A) 4-3
35. 1964 - St. Louis (N) def. New York (A) 4-3
36. 2003 - Florida (N) def. New York (A) 4-2
37. 1977 - New York (A) def. Los Angeles (N) 4-2
38. 1996 - New York (A) def. Atlanta (N) 4-2
39. 1921 - New York (N) def. New York (A) 5-3