Introducing… Wally Gerber

The injury-prone shortstop of the high-powered St. Louis Browns offense during the Lively Ball Era, Spooks Gerber was regarded as a good glove man who was often among the leaders at the position in putouts.  As a long time Brown, Wally toiled in relative obscurity but he also had his problems staying on the field.  First the military took him for the First World War then the injury bug found his flesh appealing.

A shortstop with the Pirates in 1914, Gerber was blocked at the Major League level by the greatest shortstop of them all, Honus Wagner, as a rookie.  But ol’ Honus was aging so Spooks, with his decent glove, was regarded as a possible successor.  But when he couldn’t muster even a .200 batting average in 1915, Wally fell out of favor in Pittsburgh.  He resurfaced at the Major League level in 1917 with the Browns and hit .308 in 14 games.  Unable to build off his solid sojourn, Wally was inducted into the military in 1918 during WWI.

Gerber became a regular player in 1919 for the first time at the age of 27.  He finished second in putouts at the shortstop post but didn’t enjoy his breakout season until 1920, the advent of the Lively Ball era, when dozens of other players also enjoyed their breakout seasons.  Wally raised his batting average 52 points in 1920.  He, Hall of Fame first baseman George Sisler and ballhawk center fielder Baby Doll Jacobson appeared in every game for the Browns that season.  Gerber’s 163 hits led all shortstops. 

The injury bug bit Spooks first in 1921 when he missed a chunk of the season with a broken hand.  Healthy again in 1922, Wally came back and banged out 161 hits for the Browns who narrowly missed making their first World Series appearance when they finished a game behind the New York Yankees. 

Wally’s finest year came in 1923 when he finished fourth in MVP voting.  The Browns shortstop posted a career high .281 batting average and led American League shortstops in putouts.  The Browns were a good team during this time but not quite good enough to catch the powerful Yankees of Babe Ruth.  Gerber’s problem with injuries didn’t help matters any as the dependable middle infielder missed half of the 1925 season due to a broken leg. 

Although Wally was able to return to his .270 batting average after the broken leg, his speed was down.  The plucky shortstop only managed eight extra base hits as the Browns regular shortstop in 1926; good for a measly .290 slugging average.  When his batting average tailed off in 1927, the Browns lost interest in Spooks and traded him to the lowly Red Sox.  Gerber played two years with the Red Sox before ending his career.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,522/R 558/H 1,309/2B 172/3B 46/HR 7/RBI 476/SB 43/BB 465/SO 357/BA .257/SA .313/OBP .323

www.wikipedia.org

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1 comment
  1. brettkiser said:

    A Lively Ball era shortsop who didn’t hit nearly as well as HOFer Travis Jackson, a HOF selection widely panned by experts, Gerber’s chances at eventual enshrinement are very weak.

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