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The winningest pitcher in Detroit Tigers history, Hooks Dauss was the go-to guy for player/manager Ty Cobb in the early years of the Lively Ball Era.  George Dauss, nicknamed “Hooks” because of his terrific curveball, posted 223 career wins–all with the Tigers.  Although the Tigers had such legendary hitters like Cobb, Crawford and Heilmann when Dauss was playing in Detroit, he never made a World Series appearance due in part to lackluster pitching peers.

The Tigers called up Hooks late in the 1912 season and he tossed two complete games for Hughie Jennings’ squad.  The little holler-guy needed pitching help since his two stalwarts during their heyday–Wild Bill Donovan and George Mullin–were essentially through.  Dauss and teammate Jean Dubuc were billed as their predecessors.  Although Dubuc eclipsed Hooks in innings pitched in 1913, Dauss was the only Tiger pitcher to reach 100 strikeouts. 

Hooks reached the 300 innings pitched mark for the first time in 1914.  He won 19 games and posted a career high 150 strikeouts–a fine total for the Deadball Era when players didn’t whiff in record numbers like they do today.  He reached the 20-win plateau for the first time in 1915 when he sealed 24 victories for the 100-win Tigers.  Despite their lofty wins total, Detroit came in second place–the closest Hooks would ever come to a World Series. 

A steady winner in the latter years of the Deadball Era, Dauss claimed 19 wins in 1916.  Although his wins total fell in 1917 to 17, Hooks enjoyed a career year for ERA and shutouts while fashioning his fourth 100+ strikeout campaign.  In his sixth year at the Major League level, Hooks posted his first losing record in 1918, but World War I had a slight effect on the game that year as Ty Cobb missed some action to service in the military.

Baseball was back to its usual business in 1919 and so was Hooks Dauss.  He posted his second 20-win season by going 21-9 for Detroit.  When ERAs began to swell in the 1920s, Hooks saw his usual sub 3.00 mark reach 3.56 in 1920.  In 1921, it swelled above 4.00 and then leveled off at 4.20 in 1922.  From 1013 to 1919, Hooks only had two seasons with an ERA above 3.00 but with three years of the Lively Ball Era, he had two campaigns with an earned run average above 4.00.

But Dauss wasn’t done yet.  In 1923, skipper Ty Cobb rode Hooks’ hot right arm–working him in 316 innings.  He was one of just three American League hurlers to eclipse the 300 inning plateau.  That year also marked his third 20-win season and the curveball artist finished second in the shutouts department.  But the heavy workload took its toll on his arm and he wasn’t the same in 1924.  Cobb used Hooks almost exclusively out of the bullpen–he made just ten starts–and he tied for fourth in the AL in saves. 

The work out of the pen helped rest up his arm for the 1925 campaign when Cobb again inserted the aging veteran into the rotation.  Hooks responded with his last great season.  He won 16 games for the Bengals on a 3.16 ERA–an amazing stat for the day, given that the Detroit staff ERA was 4.61.  With a worn out arm in 1926, Cobb again used Hooks as a relief arm in his final campaign and Dauss saved nine games–second in the American League.  After his playing career, Dauss worked for the Pinkerton Agency.

THE NUMBERS

W 223/L 182/PCT .551/ERA 3.30/G 538/CG 245/SHO 22/IP 3,391/H 3,407/BB 1,067/SO 1,201

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Although Billy Jurges played in the rock-’em-sock-’em 1930s, he wasn’t the heavy hitter that many of the decade’s stars were.  Billy left the big hitting to his teammates while earning his paycheck with his elite leather.  A three-time All-Star, Jurges was a fixture in the league leader boards.  Granted, he was never near the top in homeruns or RBI, Billy led the league in fielding percentage four times and had ten Top Five finishes in assists. 

The Cubs had a strong team in the 1930s with one of the game’s greatest all-time infields with Charlie Grimm/Phil Cavaretta at first base, Billy Herman at second, Stan Hack at third and Jurges manning short.  Billy joined Grimm’s Cubs in 1931 and by 1932, he was an everyday player.  But that ’32 season was one of turmoil for Jurges.  In July, Billy received a phone call from an ex-girlfriend who informed him that she was going to commit suicide.  Billy rushed to his hotel room and found her there, wrestled the handgun away from her, but was shot twice in the process.  The injuries kept him off the field for a portion of the season.  The Cubs went to the World Series that year and Billy hit a robust .364, but they were trounced by the Yankees.

Able to play everyday in 1933, Billy finished second in fielding percentage among shortstops.  The next two years he wouldn’t settle for second best as he paced his position peers in fielding percentage in 1934 and ’35.  In the latter campaign, Jurges slapped out a career high 33 doubles, while also leading shortstops in putouts and assists. 

Billy’s batting average began to climb in the mid 1930s.  Usually good for about a .250 batting average before 1936, Billy hit and even .280 that season.  When he raised his mark up to .298 in 1937, he was named to his first All-Star team.  But the new-found hitting didn’t stick.  His batting average fell back to the .240s in 1938 and the Cubs dealt him to the Giants for their fiery veteran shortstop Dick Bartell. 

In his first year with the Giants, Jurges set a career high in runs scored.  Named to his second All-Star team, Billy and Hall of Famer Arky Vaughan were the only Major League shortstops to reach double-digits in triples.  Billy paced National League shortstops in RBI.  An All-Star again in 1940, Billy missed half of the season due to a nasty beaning he sustained.  He bounced back from the injury in 1941 by hitting .293.

By this time World War II was underway and Billy, with his advanced age, was able to play through the fighting.  He played regularly for the Giants in 1942 and ’43 (he was second in homeruns among NL shortstops in 1943) but was relegated to platooning and backup duty afterwards.  When the war ended, the Giants released their old infielder and he was signed by his old Chicago chum Charlie Grimm to mentor young Cubs in 1946.  He hung up his spikes after 14 games in 1947.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,816/R 721/H 1,613/2B 245/3B 55/HR 43/RBI 656/SB 36/BB 568/SO 530/BA .258/SA .335/OBP .325

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John “Rocky” Stone is best remembered as the guy the Tigers traded to the Senators to acquire Hall of Famer Goose Goslin.  The Goose became a World Series hero with Detroit shortly after the deal while Stone never played in a postseason contest.  Stone, a left-handed hitter, had a knack for the three-bagger–he failed to reach ten triples in just four of his Major League seasons.

With the Tigers in 1928, Stone, who was called up from the minors that year, led Detroit with a .354 batting average.  Despite his terrific showing, the Tigers weren’t quite convinced he was ready for full-time duty, so they shipped him back to the bushes in 1929.  Rocky wasn’t in the lower regions long as he was summoned back to Motown for 51 games.  He was in the  Majors for good that moment on.

Stone played regularly in 1930 but his breakout year came the following season.  He hit .327 and banged out a career high 191 base hits–seventh in the American League.  Rocky legged out eleven triples in 1930 and had an identical total in ’31.  A coming star, he was given some MVP votes, but showed more run production the next year.  In what was arguably his finest season, Rocky eclipsed 100 in both runs scored and RBI in 1932 and also posted double-digit totals in every extra base hit category.

When Rocky’s batting average fell to .280 in 1933, the Tigers swapped him even up to Washington for future Hall of Famer Goose Goslin.  Washington got the younger outfielder in the deal, but the Tigers captured back-to-back AL flags after the trade.  With that “W” on his cap, Stone returned to the .300 regions in batting average in 1934–he was the only .300 hitting right fielder in the American League. 

Playing in spacious Griffith Park had a negative effect on Rocky’s power numbers.  After three years of double-digit dingers in Detroit, he only swatted seven his first year in Washington and just one in 1935.  Although his homerun total went the way of the dodo, his triples spiked.  He tallied 18 triples in 1935–second in the league.  But his power came back in 1936.

After slugging just one homerun in 1935, Stone blasted 15 long balls in ’36.  He posted career highs in batting average (.341–tops among AL left fielders), on-base percentage (.421) and slugging average (.545).  He kept his torrid hitting in 1937 when he hit .330 and finished tied for second in the triples department.  But his career came to a halt in 1938 when he contracted tuberculosis at the age of 32.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,200/R 739/H 1,391/2B 268/3B 105/HR 77/RBI 707/SB 45/BB 463/SO 352/BA .310/SA .467/OBP. 376

A well-traveled relief pitcher, Ted Abernathy was that type of player who failed in his first big league trial but made good later on.  When he struggled in the 1950s with the Washington Senators, he was banished to the minors.  He didn’t resurface until he was 30 years old, but under the tutelage of the great Birdie Tebbetts, he established himself as a legitimate Major League fireman in Cleveland. 

Abernathy was initially called up by the Senators in 1955 but with an ERA near 6.00, he spent much of the ’56 season back in the bushes.  After a disastrous 1957 campaign, Ted was sent back to the minors and struggled at every stop.  In 1960, Ted was converted to the bullpen in the minors and was able to harness his ability, with succesful seasons in Louisville and Jacksonville.  At the age of 30, in 1963, Ted was dominating the league in Jacksonville with a 0.35 ERA so the Indians decided to give him one last chance at making good at the Major League level… and he didn’t disappoint.

The Indians summoned Ted to Cleveland in ’63 and he saved a dozen games with a winning percentage of .778 under skipper Birdie Tebbetts.  Accuracy always gave Abernathy fits and when his strike-throwing abilities went south in 1964, the Indians sold him to the Chicago Cubs.  Ted found Wrigley Field to his liking by enjoying his breakout year.  With the ’65 Cubs, he led the National League in saves and games played.  He was one of just two NL relief pitchers to reach 100 strikeouts.

But when skipper Lou Klein was replaced the following year, the Cubs gave the managerial post to Leo “The Lip” Durocher–a skunk if there ever was one–and Abernathy’s numbers returned to their Washington era ways.  With an ERA above 6.00, the Cubs traded Ted to the Braves where he got back on track, away from Durocher and his mouth. 

The Braves left him unprotected in the Rule 5 Draft and the Reds astutely plucked him off their roster.  In 1967, his first year with the Reds, Ted had his greatest campaign.  He led the National League in saves and games pitched while fashioning a flattering 1.27 ERA in 106 innings of work.  In top form, Ted’s accuracy wasn’t as bad as usual but it was his terrific hits allowed average that separated him from other firemen.  He averaged just 0.594 hits per inning–far superior to his fireman peers.  Hall of Famer Hoyt Wilhelm averaged 0.652 hits per inning.

The rubber-armed Abernathy again led the National League in games pitched in 1968.  He had a terrific 2.46 ERA and after two years of absolute dominance in the Reds’ bullpen, the Cubs sent three players to Cincinnati in order to reacquire Ted.  His second trial under The Lip was better than his first.  The Cubs finished second in ’69 as Ted posted a tidy 3.16 ERA.  Due to his advanced age, the Cubs traded Ted to the Cardinals in 1970 and a month later the Redbirds sent him to the second-year Kansas City Royals.  For three teams, Ted saved 14 games on a 2.6o ERA.

Abernathy spent his last two years in the Majors with the Royals.  As the graybeard of a young Royals staff (Ted was the only regular pitcher on the roster above the age of 30–he was 38), Ted mentored the Royals’ young arms while still showing the knack for putting out fires.  With the second place 1971 Royals, Ted finished second in the AL with 23 saves.  He spent one final year at the Major League level, departing the game with a 1.71 ERA in 58 innings.

THE NUMBERS

W 63/L 69/PCT .477/ERA 3.46/G 681/SV 148/IP 1,148/H 1,010/BB 592/SO 765

The 1990s is easily the strongest decade in baseball history for first basemen.  Guys like Frank Thomas, Jeff Bagwell, Mark McGwire and Fred McGriff flexed their muscles throughout the decade, which is why the consistent 30 homerun/100 RBI threat of the Dodgers, Eric Karros, never made an All-Star appearance.  But the lack of a Midsummer Classic appearance should not detract from the fact that Karros was a fine ballplayer. 

Eric was originally called up by the Dodgers in 1991, but with Hall of Famer Eddie Murray on the squad, skipper Tommy Lasorda only got Karros in to 14 games.  When Murray left Los Angeles after the season, the door to the first base post was open to Karros.  Eric banged out 30 doubles and 20 homeruns as a rookie which netted him the NL Rookie of the Year Award in ’92.  The following year Eric raised his homerun total up to 23–second best among National League first basemen. 

Although Karros won the 1992 Rookie of the Year Award, he wasn’t seen as a star caliber player until his breakout year of 1995.  Coming back from the player’s strike, Karros had a monster year by leading NL first basemen in homeruns and slugging average.  He hit .298 and posted the first of his five career 30 HR/100 RBI seasons.  The Silver Slugger Award winner at first base, Eric came in fifth in MVP voting.  In ’96, Eric showed that his 1995 campaign was no fluke by raising his run production numbers.  He drove in 111 runs on a career high 34 homeruns.

Showing off remarkable consistency in 1997, Eric played in every game for the Dodgers and fashioned another 30 homerun/100 RBI season–his third in a row.  His run production dipped in 1998 but he was back to his 30/100 ways in ’99.  In what was his career year, Eric and Chipper Jones were the only two players in the National League to reach 40 doubles and 30 homeruns.  He tied his career high with 34 dingers and established a new career peak with 112 RBI. 

His batting average fell 54 points in 2000 but he nevertheless had his fifth 30 HR/100 RBI season for the Dodgers.  His peripheral numbers continued to slide in 2001 but so did his run production and homerun totals.  After clubbing just 13 homers in 2002, the Dodgers traded him to the Cubs with Mark Grudzielanek for power-hitting catcher Todd Hundley and failed top prospect Chad Hermansen.  Although Eric’s run production wasn’t on par in Wrigley with his LA credentials, he helped lead the Cubs to postseason play.  In the Division Series, he clubbed a pair of homers on a .750 slugging average.  He played one final year with the Oakland A’s before calling it quits.

THE NUMBERS

G 1,755/R 797/H 1,724/2B 324/3B 11/HR 284/RBI 1,027/SB 59/BB 552/SO 1,167/BA .268/SA .454/OBP .325