One of the top slugging outfielders of the 1930s, Wally Berger set the record for most homeruns by a rookie in 1930 (the mark has since been broken). Playing his glory years for the less than stellar Boston Braves, Berger has gone unnoticed over the years when possible Hall of Fame candidates are mentioned. For many years, he was the Boston Braves.
Berger exploded onto the Major League scene in 1930. He was a force in the Pacific Coast league in 1929, swatting 40 long balls for the Angels of Los Angeles, and he carried his West Coast success to the east, banging out 38 long balls as a freshman. Wally led NL left fielders with 38 homers and 119 RBI as a rookie while also hitting a lusty .310 with a .614 slugging percentage.
Although he raised his average to .323 in 1931, his power numbers dipped. However, Wally did finish second in the league with 44 doubles. His homerun total was cut in half from his rookie season but his 19 dingers topped the Braves roster; no other Braves player had more than four homeruns. Establishing himself as an everyday center fielder in 1932, Berger led NL middle pasture gardeners with 17 homers that year.
Wally made the first of four straight All-Star appearances in 1933 when he finished second in the senior circuit with 27 homeruns and 106 RBI. He led all center fielders in batting average and slugging average and was the lone Major League center fielder to slug over .500. Wally clubbed 34 homers in 1934 and then added another 34 homers to his resume in 1935. That year Wally led the league in homers and RBI with 130, playing for an atrocious Braves team. Wally’s 34 homeruns were just four shy of the total of wins the Braves posted during the season.
Berger led NL center fielders in homeruns and RBI in 1936 while making his last All-Star appearance. Then the nomadic chapter to Berger’s biography began. He began the ’37 season with the Braves but they traded him to the Giants for Frank Gabler and a boatload of cash. The trade worked out well for Wally–he was able to make his first World Series appearance. He would make another World Series as a member of the Reds in 1939, but Wally wasn’t an October performer. He had a career .000 World Series batting average in 18 at-bats.
G 1,350/R 809/H 1,550/2B 299/3B 59/HR 242/RBI 898/BB 435/SO 694/SB 36/BA .300/SA .522