WHAT IF? LOU GEHRIG’S 1931 SEASON

 

Lou Gehrig, who would turn 28 years old in 1931, was in his seventh full season with the New York Yankees. In 1930, Gehrig batted .379 with 41 home runs and a league-leading 173 RBIs. The Yankees had fallen short to the Philadelphia Athletics in the American League standings for the second consecutive season in 1930. Gehrig and Babe Ruth were by far and away baseball’s most best 1-2 punch as they lead the Yankee offense on the field. Both would have another great year at the plate as the Yankees would set scoring records in 1931.

The Great Depression was taking its toll on America and in the world in 1931 after the market crashed in 1929 as it impacted nearly everyone as well as Major League Baseball.  It was the year the Star-Spangled Bannerwas first adopted as our national anthem.  The state of Nevada would legalize gambling for the first time, and the Empire State Building was completed.  It was also the year the George Washington Bridge was dedicated and Porsche was founded in Stuttgart, Germany.

On my old site, I used to post historical seasons for players before fantasy sports become prominent in our society. Now just imagine if you were around in the 1930s, and you were able to get Lou Gehrig for your fantasy team? Since he had great seasons previously as a first baseman, he would have been a high first round pick in fantasy drafts in 1931.  Though he was often overshadowed by the play and popularity of Babe Ruth, fantasy owners would’ve reaped the benefit of having Lou Gehrig in 1931.  In particular, owners would’ve been thrilled to have him during a 10-game stretch in late August into early September that year. Now let’s take a look at how you would’ve done had you had Lou Gehrig on your team in 1931.

MLB’s Scoring System for Hitters:

Single = 1

Double = 2

Triple = 3

Home Run = 4

Run = 1

RBI = 1

Walk = 1

Stolen Base = 2

Caught Stealing = -1

Lou Gehrig’s 1931 statistics:

Note: Gehrig played in 155 games in 1931.

Single: 119 = 119

Double: 31 = 62

Triple: 15 = 45

Home Run: 46 = 184

Run: 163 = 163

RBI: 185 = 185

Walk: 117 = 117

Stolen Base: 17 = 17

Caught Stealing: 12 = -12

Total Fantasy Points: 880

Points Per Game: 5.68

Gehrig started off the 1931 season by getting a hit in 13 straight games.  In the second game of the season, he scored three runs and drove in three with a homer in an 8-7 win over the Boston Red Sox.

He had another 3-RBI game against the Philadelphia Athletics on April 21 in a 12-1 win.  Six days later, he stole three bases in one game in a loss at Washington.

Even though he had a hit in 13 of 15 games in the opening month, his batting average slipped to .258 by end of April.  He hit three home runs with 16 RBIs and 13 runs scored for the month.

His batting average dipped to a season-low .232 at the end of the game on May 3 after not getting a hit in four straight contests.  In that May 3 game, he went 0-for-4 with what is now an RBI after research was done to show he wasn’t credited for it.

In the game, Gehrig hit into what was supposed to be a double play with runners on first and third.  But Boston second baseman Bobby Reeves threw the ball into left field which allowed Gehrig to reach base and the runner from third to score.  The score keeper didn’t credit him with an RBI per rules at the time, and thus his total of 184 RBIs on that season is actually 185.  This rule changed later which means it would’ve only been an error and no RBI if it existed then.  If it were the fantasy season that year, owners would not have been credited with an RBI since he was only given 184 on the year until research corrected it.

Gehrig broke out of an 0-for-15 slump with a three-hit game on May 4 against Washington going 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs,  This started a seven-game hitting streak, and he would have a big game against the St. Louis Browns during that stretch.

On May 14 against the Browns, Gehrig went 3-for-3 with two home runs, six RBIs, three runs scored, and two walks in a 14-2 win.  His average rose from .278 to .301 at day’s end.  That game would’ve netted owners 20 points that day.

This wouldn’t be the only strong game he would have against the Browns that season either.

He went 2-for-3 with a homer and three RBIs on May 19 against Cleveland and had a 4-RBI game with a homer at Washington in the second game of a doubleheader on May 30.

For the month of May, Gehrig was batting .309 when it ended.  He hit five home runs and had 26 RBIs(adjusted after being credited with an extra RBI on May 3) for the month of May.

After his batting average dipped down below .300 in June, he got on a hot streak and it would stay way above that mark for the rest of the year.

Beginning on June 12, Gehrig began a 13-game hitting streak with a three-hit game in a 11-2 win against the Chicago White Sox.  He had six three-hit games during that stretch including going 4-for-5 against the Browns with a homer, two RBIs, and three runs scored on June 19.  Three days later, Gehrig had another 2-homer game against St. Louis with four RBIs.  His hitting streak was snapped in the second game of a doubleheader against the White Sox on June 25.  However, his batting average rose from .292 before the streak started to .345.

He had a .338 average at the end of June.  In that month, he hit 11 home runs and drove in 33 runs.  He also had 13 multi-hit games and seven three-hit games in June.

Gehrig continued to challenge for the RBI mark and kept up the pace well into July.  On July 9, he drove in five runs by going 2-for-4 with a homer, double and two runs scored in a 9-4 win over the Athletics.

On July 19 in the first game of a doubleheader against the Browns, Gehrig once again terrorized St. Louis by driving in seven runs in the game by going 3-for-4 with a homer, triple, and two runs scored in a 10-9 win.  In the second game, he hit a homer and drove in two more.  On the day, he went 5-for-7 with two homers, nine RBIs, four runs scored, and two walks.  He would’ve had an 18-point fantasy day in the first game and 10-point day in the second for 28 total on the day.

In the second game of a doubleheader on July 26 against Chicago, he had another four-RBI game.

At the end of July, Gehrig was batting .343 on the season and hit 11 homers while driving 41 runs in the month.

He attempted to keep pace with the RBI mark in August as he had another 4-RBI game in the first game of a doubleheader against Cleveland on August 14.

The next day on August 15, Gehrig started a streak of three consecutive games with three hits.  He went 9-for-15 in those games with five doubles, four RBIs, and four runs scored.

On August 23 in the second game of a doubleheader against the White Sox, Gehrig had a 2-RBI performance.  It started a streak of 10 straight games with at least one RBI in them.  It is one of the best stretches of games in baseball history.

During that streak, Gehrig batted in 27 runs and had six consecutive games with a home run as well.  Also, he had five straight games with at least three RBIs with four of them being 4-RBI days.  He had 162 RBIs on the season at the end of his RBI streak.

On August 29, he hit a grand slam off of Athletics star and future Hall of Famer Lefty Grove although the Yankees lost that game.

His strongest game during that RBI streak was on August 30 against the Red Sox.  In that game, Gehrig went 4-for-6 with a double, homer, four RBIs, and he scored three runs in a 14-4 win.  That game would’ve netted fantasy owners 15 points on the day from him.

Gehrig was batting .356 at the end of August and he hit eight homers with 39 RBIs for the month.  He also had 15 multi-hit games with seven of them being with three hits or more.

On the first day of September during his 10-game RBI streak, he played in a doubleheader.  In the first game, he went 2-for-4 with a homer, three RBIs, and three runs scored as the Yankees beat Boston 11-3.  In the second game, he hit a grand slam going 1-for-4 in a 5-1 win.

On September 15, he drove in four runs against Detroit and would have 10 more RBIs to finish short of Hack Wilson’s record of 191 RBIs that had been set the year before.  However, he set the American League record for RBIs in a season with 185.  He ended up batting .341 on the campaign as well.

Here’s a breakdown of the kind of season Gehrig had and how thrilled owners would’ve been had fantasy baseball existed then.

Number of multi-hit games:  59

Number of three-hit games:  26

Number of four-hit games:  3

Number of multi-homer games:  3

Number of three-RBI games:  19

Number of four-RBI games:  12

Gehrig led or tied for the league lead in plate appearances(738), runs scored(163), hits(211), home runs(46), RBIs(185), and total bases(410).

What’s more amazing about Gehrig’s 1931 season was that he put up those kind of numbers in a season in which he played in 27 doubleheader games as he was in the midst of his 2,130 consecutive game streak that would end in 1939.

The 1931 Yankees finished 94-59, but were 13.5 games behind the Athletics in the standings.  The Athletics would go on to win their third straight World Series and what would turn out to be the last for Connie Mack.

However, the Yankees set a modern day record by scoring 1,067 runs and averaging 6.88 a game.  Four Yankee players had 100-RBI seasons with Gehrig, Ruth, Ben Chapman, and Lyn Lary each hitting that mark.  All four also scored 100 runs as well as two other players(Earle Combs and Joe Sewell).

Ruth tied Gehrig with 46 home runs and had 162 RBIs himself while leading the team with a .373 batting average.  Him and Gehrig had another outstanding season at the plate and would’ve made fantasy owners more than happy again that year.

Gehrig would help the Yankees back to the World Series in 1932 as it would be the last one he and Ruth would win together.  But in 1936, Joe DiMaggio came along and would help lead the Yankees to four straight World Series wins.

He continued to put up outstanding numbers until signs of ALS started showing in 1938.  By 1939, his power at the plate was completely diminished and he played his last game on May 2, 1939.  He died two years later after being diagnosed with ALS.

Gehrig is still widely regarded and revered as well as one of the greatest players in the game’s history long after he left us.  While he may have had better all-around seasons in his career, he had some of the best stretches of games of any baseball player ever in 1931.  He was an RBI machine playing along the likes of Ruth and DiMaggio in his career.  But above all else, he was always one of the good guys that didn’t just show up for 2,130 games in a row.  He made those games count and put up some of most prolific statistics the game has ever seen along the way.

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