Once Upon a Time, in 1938
Strange-but-true events dominated SOM’s next classic baseball season
By Glenn Guzzo
Strat-O-Matic has announced that it will re-create the historically significant 1938 baseball season and update the ever-popular 1961 season for release early in 2013.
By releasing 1938 – and bridging the gap between the Deluxe-version re-creations of 1934 & 1941 – Strat-O-Matic permits its fans to relive these incredible events from baseball history:
- Cincinnati left-hander Johnny Vander Meer threw his unequaled consecutive no-hitters.
- Detroit’s Hank Greenberg seriously threatened Babe Ruth’s record of 60 home runs and settled for 58, equaling Jimmie Foxx’ mark for second-best total.
- Foxx (.349-50-175 with a 1.166 OPS), not Greenberg (.315-58-146) was the AL MVP.
- Lou Gehrig played every game in his final full season before his playing career succumbed to the disease that now bears his name.
- Rookie Joe Gordon’s 25 HR and excellent defense fit right in on the 966-run Yankees, whose lineup already featured Joe DiMaggio, Bill Dickey, Tommy Henrich, Red Rolfe and Gehrig.
- While the mighty Yankees won the third of four straight pennants, the National League had a dramatic four-team race won by the Cubs when future Hall of Famer Gabby Hartnett hit his famed “Homer in the Gloamin’. ”
- The Cubs made a controversial pre-season trade for wounded Dizzy Dean (7-1, 1.81), got even better pitching from 22-game winner Bill Lee and had future HOF 2B Billy Herman.
- Two games behind the Cubs, Pittsburgh had future HOFers Arky Vaughan, Lloyd Waner and Paul Waner, plus slugging rookie Johnny Rizzo (.301-23-111).
- Three games behind the Pirates, the defending NL champ New York Giants were led by future HOFers Mel Ott (.311-36-116) and pitcher Carl Hubbell (13-10, 3.07 in an injury-shortened season).
- One game behind the Giants (six behind the Cubs), young Cincinnati boasted future HOFer Ernie Lombardi, whose .342-19-95 season made him the only catcher to win the batting championship; sensational rookies in 1B Frank McCormick (.327, 106 RBIs) and CF Harry Craft (.270-15-83); slugging RF Ival Goodman (.292-30-92); Vander Meer and 21-game winner Paul Derringer. The Reds were one season away from back-to-back pennants.
- Future HOFer Johnny Mize of the St. Louis Cardinals hit .456 over his final 35 games to challenge Lombardi for the batting title.
- Fire-balling young right-hander Bob Feller struck out 18 Tigers, a Major-League record at the time.
- Charismatic veteran right-hander Bobo Newsom won 20 games for the seventh-place St. Louis Browns, while doing so with the highest ERA ever for a 20-game winner (5.08).
- The Phillies played their last game in the Baker Bowl, moving to the A’s Shibe Park on July 4.
- Brooklyn was the second team to install lights. That was the work of GM Larry MacPhail, who in his previous job made Cincinnati first to do so. Brooklyn’s first night game featured the second of Vander Meer’s back-to-back no-hitters. [The extra money from the much higher attendance at night games allowed Cincinnati to acquire talent that elevated it from last in 1937 to fourth in 1938. The Reds won the following two NL pennants in 1939-40. The Dodgers, seventh in 1938, won the pennant in 1941, its first since 1920.]