In 1934, Yankee first baseman Lou Gehrig won the American League batting title with a .363 average. It was his only batting title in a 17 year career. Gehrig also led the league with 49 home runs and 165 RBI. At the time, he was only the fourth AL hitter to win the triple crown, a feat that has been matched only five times in the sixty years that followed. Gehrig was in his tenth year as the starting first baseman for New York. During that time, the Yankees had won 4 World Championships and Gehrig had once been designated the league’s Most Valuable Player.
But despite his outstanding season. Gehrig did not win the MVP award in 1934. And he did not finish second in the voting. And he did not finish third in the voting, Gehrig was not even the leading Yankee vote getter. The triple crown winner finished fifth in the 1934 MVP balloting. A look at the players who received more votes than Gehrig:
1 Mickey Cochrane – Detroit (67 points) .320 BA, 2 HR, 76 RBI
Cochrane was in his first season with Detroit after 9 years as the Philadelphia A’s starting catcher. His totals were a significant drop from his previous season’s .322 BA, 15 HR, 60 RBI or his 1932 numbers .293 BA, 23 HR, 112 RBI. Cochrane was clearly on a downward slide and would in fact spend only one more season as a starter. In Cochrane’s favor was the fact that he not
only took over the Tiger’s catching duties but was also their manager. He guided the Tigers to a 101-53 record, their first winning record in seven years and first pennant in 25 years. His Tigers beat Gehrig’s Yankees by seven games for the AL pennant before losing the World Series to St Louis.
2 Charlie Gehringer – Detroit (67 points) .356 BA, 11 HR, 127 RBI
He was the Tiger’s starting secondbaseman. He lead the league in hits and runs that year and finshed second to Gehrig in batting. He was the leading offensive player on the Tigers, but certainly not the only great hitter on a great team.
3 Lefty Gomez – New York (60 points) 26-5 record, 2.33 ERA
Gomez won the pitcher’s triple crown, leading the league in wins, ERA, & strikeouts (158 in 282 innings). He was the 5th AL pitcher to accomplish the feat, which has been done by only 15 pitchers since 1900. He was the ace of an average pitching staff.
4 Schoolboy Rowe – Detroit (59 points) 24-8 record, 3.45 ERA
Rowe was in his first full season with the Tigers. Like Gomez, he was the ace of an average pitching staff. He is the only one of the four players that finished ahead of Gehrig that has not been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
5 Lou Gehrig – New Tork (54 points) .363 BA, 49 HR, 165 RBI
Besides Gehrig & Gomez, four other Yankees from the 1934 squad made the Hall of Fame (Tony Lazzeri, Babe Ruth, Bill Dickey, and manager Joe McCarthy). There must have been some anti-Yankee sentiment among the voters, feeling that Gehrig’s numbers were in part a reflection of his teammates’ skills. But Gehrig was not the only triple crown winner to be overlooked. In total, fifteen players have won the triple crown award. Six of those men played before the MVP award was established. Of the remaining nine, only five won the award.
Triple Crown Winners
American League Player Team Year HR RBI BA MVP Rank Nap Lajoe Phi 1901 14 125 .422 n/a Ty Cobb Det 1909 9 115 .377 n/a Jimmie Foxx Phi 1933 48 163 .356 1st Lou Gehrig NY 1934 49 165 .363 5th Ted Williams Bos 1942 36 137 .356 2nd Ted Williams Bos 1947 32 114 .343 2nd Mickey Mantle NY 1956 52 130 .353 1st Frank Robinson Bal 1966 49 122 .316 1st Carl Yastrzemski Bos 1967 44 121 .326 1st National League Player Team Year HR RBI BA MVP Rank Paul Hines Prov 1878 4 50 .358 n/a Hugh Duffy Bos 1894 18 145 .438 n/a Rogers Hornsby StL 1922 42 152 .401 n/a Rogers Hornsby StL 1925 39 143 .403 1st Chuck Klein Phi 1933 28 120 .368 2nd Joe Medwick StL 1937 31 154 .374 1st Note: The MVP award was established in 1922 for AL, 1924 for NL
Ted Williams won the triple crown twice, but failed to win the award each time. His adversarial relationship with the press no doubt was a significant factor.In 1942, he lost out in a close vote to secondbaseman Joe Gordon of the Yankees (270-249).
Gordon’s numbers were .322 BA, 18 HR, 103 RBI as his Yankees finished in first and Williams’ Red Sox finished second. In 1947, Williams was edged by Yankee Joe DiMaggio , who had captured the nation’s attention with his 56 consecutive game hitting streak.
DiMaggio’s numbers were .305 BA, 21 HR, 114 RBI. The vote was 202-201. The Red Sox finished third behind New York & Detroit.
In 1933, Chuck Klein of the Phillies lost the MVP to New York Giants’ pitcher Carl Hubbell (77-48 points) Hubbell’s numbers were 23-12 record, 1.66 ERA, and 10 shutouts He led the league in wins, innings, ERA, and shutouts. His Giants finished second, Klein’s Phillies third.