The longtime double play partner of Hall of Famer Charlie Gehringer, Rogell and the Mechanical Man turned over 100 double plays in four separate seasons for the Tigers. A switch-hitting shortstop with a decent stick but superior glove, Rogell is best remembered as the player that skulled Dizzy Dean in the 1934 World Series, which led to headlines across America claiming that X-Rays of Dizzy’s head “revealed nothing.”
Originally brought up with the Red Sox in 1925, the Red Sox of the time were a sad-sack team that had given away such notable talent as Babe Ruth. The BoSox finished dead last in Rogell’s rookie season. When he hit .266 in 1927, Billy was given more playing time in 1928, but his numbers dipped and the Sox gave up on him. Rogell returned to the minors but after a great year with the St. Paul Saints, the Tigers brought him up in 1930. Rogell bounced between Detroit and minor league affiliate Toronto Maple Leafs before breaking out in 1932.
In his first year as a regular with the Tigers, Rogell led Major League shortstops in stolen bases. By 1933, Rogell was beginning to wow the league with his leather. That season, he led shortstops in putouts but his stick was also starting to come around. He tied Hall of Famer Joe Cronin for most triples by an American League shortstop in ’33 and he and Gehringer combined for 84 doubles: the most by a Major League double play duo.
Rogell was at his best in 1934 when he helped the Tigers win the AL pennant. Billy was the only Major League shortstop to post 100 runs scored and 100 RBI during the campaign. A well-rounded talent, he also led American League shortstops in steals and had another terrific season with the glove. Billy posted a .962 fielding percentage (twelve points above league average) and led all shortstops with 518 assists. Billy did more than brain Dizzy Dean in the Fall Classic as he hit Redbird pitchers at a .276 clip and drilled a homerun. But the Tigers fell to the Cardinals.
The Tigers returned to the World Series the following year as Rogell led shortstops in fielding percentage. An adept batsman, Billy walked 80 times during the season with just 29 strikeouts. The Cubs were the Tigers opponent in the 1935 World Series as Detroit bested the Baby Bears in six games with Billy hitting .292.
In 1937, Rogell and Gehringer again led double play partners in combined doubles. Just as good with the leather, the duo also posted back-to-back seasons of 100+ double plays turned in 1937 and ’38. When Billy’s game fell off sharply in 1939, the Tigers traded him to the Cubs for aging shortstop Rowdy Dick Bartell and a year later he was out of the majors and playing in the bushes, managing the Lancaster Red Roses of the Interstate League.
G 1,482/R 755/H 1,375/2B 256/3B 75/HR 42/RBI 609/SB 82/BB 649/SO 416/BA .267/SA .370/OBP .351