The Yearly Reader

Leaders and Honors, 1929

Our list of baseball’s top 10 hitters and pitchers in both the American League and National League for the 1929 baseball season, as well as the awards and honors given to the game’s top achievers of the year.

The National League’s Top 10 Hitters, 1929

Bold type in brick red indicates league leader.

1. Rogers Hornsby, Chicago

Key Numbers: 156 games, .380 average, 156 runs, 229 hits, 47 doubles, 8 triples, 39 home runs, 149 RBIs, 87 walks, .679 slugging percentage.

Playing for his fourth team in four years, Hornsby gave journeymen everywhere a good name by finishing a decade in which he averaged a record 209 hits per season.

2. Mel Ott, New York

Key Numbers: .328 average, 138 runs, 179 hits, 37 doubles, 42 home runs, 151 RBIs, 113 walks.

Few, if any players, have produced dominant numbers at age 20 as Ott did in 1929; some fans thought he’d have a crack at Ruth’s season record of 60 home runs after belting 20 through his first 54 games.

3. Chuck Klein, Philadelphia

Key Numbers: .356 average, 126 runs, 219 hits, 45 doubles, 6 triples, 43 home runs, 145 RBIs.

In his first full season at age 24, Klein tipped Mel Ott for the NL home run crown—and in the process set the league season record that would be shattered a year later by Hack Wilson.

4. Hack Wilson, Chicago

Key Numbers: .345 average, 135 runs, 198 hits, 30 doubles, 39 home runs, 159 RBIs, 78 walks, 83 strikeouts.

Most players would be thrilled collecting 350 RBIs over three seasons. This was the first of two seasons in which Wilson would gather up that total.

5. Lefty O’Doul, Philadelphia

Key Numbers: .398 average, 152 runs, 254 hits, 35 doubles, 32 home runs, 122 RBIs, .465 on-base percentage.

A disaster of a pitcher earlier in the decade, O’Doul proved a worthy reinvention of himself by setting the NL record for hits.

6. Babe Herman, Brooklyn

Key Numbers: .381 average, 105 runs, 217 hits, 42 doubles, 13 triples, 21 home runs, 113 RBIs, 21 stolen bases.

Often remembered for his buffoonish play, Herman’s 1929 numbers were otherwise seriously good.

7. Kiki Cuyler, Chicago

Key Numbers: .360 average, 111 runs, 15 home runs, 102 RBIs, 43 stolen bases.

Freed from Donie Bush’s doghouse in Pittsburgh, Cuyler regained his dynamic form that earlier shot him to instant stardom with the Pirates.

8. Chick Hafey, St. Louis

Key Numbers: .338 average, 101 runs, 47 doubles, 9 triples, 29 home runs, 125 RBIs.

The season résumé for Hafey included a run of 10 straight hits, which set a major league record for the time.

9. Paul Waner, Pittsburgh

Key Numbers: .336 average, 131 runs, 200 hits, 43 doubles, 15 triples, 15 home runs, 100 RBIs, 89 walks, 15 stolen bases.

Waner muscled up for a career-high total in homers—most of them probably inside the park, given the spacious dimensions in his home park at Forbes Field—and for the third straight season grouped with “little” brother Lloyd to each collect 200 hits.

10. Bill Terry, New York

Key Numbers: .372 average, 103 runs, 226 hits, 39 doubles, 14 home runs, 117 RBIs.

This was the first of seven straight years in which Terry led the Giants in batting average; during this stretch, he would hit .357.

The American League’s Top 10 Hitters, 1929

1. Babe Ruth, New York

Key Numbers: .345 average, 121 runs, 46 home runs, 154 RBIs, 72 walks, .697 slugging percentage.

For the second time in three years, Ruth hit grand slams in back-to-back games; no other AL player would do it until Bill Dickey in 1937.

2. Al Simmons, Philadelphia

Key Numbers: .365 average, 114 runs, 212 hits, 41 doubles, 9 triples, 34 home runs, 157 RBIs, 20 grounded into double plays.

Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Grove may have commandeered the Athletics’ marquee, but Simmons quietly commanded the most attention from weary opponents.

3. Jimmie Foxx, Philadelphia

Key Numbers: .354 average, 123 runs, 183 hits, 9 triples, 33 home runs, 108 RBIs, 103 walks, 70 strikeouts, .463 on-base percentage.

In his first season as everyday player, Foxx was hitting over .400 into early July—and then he went on a 22-game hit streak, in which his average actually dropped to .392.

4. Lou Gehrig, New York

Key Numbers: .300 average, 127 runs, 32 doubles, 10 triples, 35 home runs, 126 RBIs, 122 walks.

Normally considered a shoo-in to hit over .300, Gehrig had to collect 11 hits over his final 26 at-bats of the year to finish right at that figure.

5. Dale Alexander, Detroit

Key Numbers: 155 games, .343 average, 110 runs, 215 hits, 43 doubles, 15 triples, 25 home runs, 137 RBIs.

Setting a then-rookie record for RBIs, Alexander would have had a more memorable career had it not been cut short by severe mistreatment of his leg four years later.

6. Charlie Gehringer, Detroit

Key Numbers: 155 games, .339 average, 131 runs, 215 hits, 45 doubles, 19 triples, 13 home runs, 106 RBIs, 64 walks, 27 stolen bases.

Gehringer had his first of seven career 200-hit seasons and tied teammate Alexander (above) for the AL lead.

7. Harry Heilmann, Detroit

Key Numbers: 125 games, .344 average, 41 doubles, 7 triples, 15 home runs, 120 RBIs.

The future Hall of Famer finished a decade in which he hit .364 and won four batting titles. So how did the Tigers reward him? By waiving him.

8. Tony Lazzeri, New York

Key Numbers: .354 average, 101 runs, 193 hits, 37 doubles, 11 triples, 18 home runs, 106 RBIs, 68 walks.

Almost quietly, Lazzeri continued to be strong supporting cast member in the Yankees’ lineup, producing a career-high batting average.

9. Lew Fonseca, Cleveland

Key Numbers: .369 average, 97 runs, 209 hits, 44 doubles, 15 triples, 103 RBIs, 7 hit-by-pitches, 19 stolen bases.

Fonseca was one of the first major leaguers to get opposing pitchers caught on camera, studying their deliveries to help win the AL batting title.

10. Earl Averill, Cleveland

Key Numbers: .332 average, 110 runs, 198 hits, 43 doubles, 13 triples, 18 home runs, 96 RBIs, 63 walks.

Arriving from Snohomish, Washington via the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, Averill made an immediate impression by, among other things, homering in his major league first at-bat.

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The National League’s Top 10 Pitchers, 1929

1. Charlie Root, Chicago

Key Numbers: 3.47 ERA, 19 wins, 6 losses, .760 win percentage, 43 appearances, 31 starts, 272 innings.

Rebounding from a mediocre 14-18 mark in 1928, Root got the winning knack back and became the stingiest component of a strong Cubs rotation.

2. Red Lucas, Cincinnati

Key Numbers: 3.60 ERA, 19 wins, 12 losses, 28 complete games, 270 innings, 58 walks.

While performing a star turn from the mound, Lucas had an intriguing side job: Leading the NL in pinch hits. (He would eventually have 80 over his career.)

3. Burleigh Grimes, Pittsburgh

Key Numbers: 3.13 ERA, 17 wins, 7 losses, .708 win percentage.

Still legally riding the spitball after all of these years, Grimes won his first 10 decisions—he was 15-1 by mid-July—in his second and last year at Pittsburgh.

4. Pat Malone, Chicago

Key Numbers: 3.57 ERA, 22 wins, 10 losses, 5 shutouts, .688 win percentage, 40 appearances, 30 starts, 267 innings, 166 strikeouts.

There were 10 games in 1929 where a pitcher struck out 10 or more batters—and Malone was the guy in four of them. His league-leading total ended Dazzy Vance’s seven-year run at the top of the charts.

5. Carl Hubbell, New York

Key Numbers: 3.69 ERA, 18 wins, 11 losses, 39 appearances, 35 starts, 268 innings, 67 walks.

Hubbell’s first full-scale assault on hitters included the first no-hitter thrown by a lefty in 11 years—and the last thrown by a Giant until Juan Marichal in 1963.

6. Watty Clark, Brooklyn

Key Numbers: 3.74 ERA, 16 wins, 19 losses, 41 appearances, 39 starts, 279 innings, 71 walks.

A former batting practice pitcher for the Indians, Clark held his own as Brooklyn’s most reliable pitcher of the moment despite pacing the NL in losses.

7. Guy Bush, Chicago

Key Numbers: 3.68 ERA, 18 wins, 7 losses, .720 win percentage, 8 saves, 50 appearances, 30 starts, 270.2 innings.

Overwork started to work over Bush after taking a 16-1 record into early August.

8. Bill Walker, New York

Key Numbers: 3.09 ERA, 14 wins, 7 losses, .667 win percentage.

Survivor of two heart attacks before the age of 15, Walker began his peak as one of the most unheralded pitchers in Giants history—winning his first of two ERA crowns.

9. Jesse Petty, Pittsburgh

Key Numbers: 3.71 ERA, 11 wins, 10 losses, 42 walks.

You wouldn’t know it from the name, but Petty—whose short four-year tenure as an effective rotation pitcher came to an end in 1929—was a member of the Cherokee Nation.

10. Dazzy Vance, Brooklyn

Key Numbers: 3.89 ERA, 14 wins, 13 losses, 231.1 innings, 47 walks.

Though still effective at age 39, Vance’s drop-off in strikeouts and rise in ERA got him teed off enough that he received the one and only ejection of his major league career.

The American League’s Top 10 Pitchers, 1929

1. Firpo Marberry, Washington

Key Numbers: 3.09 ERA, 19 wins, 12 losses, 9 saves, 49 appearances, 26 starts, 250.1 innings.

Baseball’s ultimate reliever of the day, Marberry was given as many starts as relief roles in 1929—and led the Senators in both wins and saves.

2. Lefty Grove, Philadelphia

Key Numbers: 2.81 ERA, 20 wins, 6 losses, .769 win percentage, 42 appearances, 37 starts, 275.1 innings, 170 strikeouts.

As the live-ball era neared its peak, Grove emerged as the only major leaguer with a sub-3.00 ERA in 1929.

3. George Earnshaw, Philadelphia

Key Numbers: 3.29 ERA, 24 wins, 8 losses, .750 win percentage, 44 appearances, 33 starts, 254.2 innings, 257 total bases allowed, 125 walks.

Long before Bill Skowron and Mike Moustakas, the big right-hander was the first major leaguer to go by the nickname of Moose and led the AL in wins during his first full season.

4. Willis Hudlin, Cleveland

Key Numbers: 3.34 ERA, 17 wins, 15 losses, 40 appearances, 33 starts, 22 complete games, 280.1 innings.

The Yankees had long bugged the Indians to nab the double play-inducing ground ball specialist to New York, and here’s why: He was 5-1 against the Yankees in 1929.

5. Tommy Thomas, Chicago

Key Numbers: 3.19 ERA, 14 wins, 18 losses, 36 appearances, 24 complete games, 259.2 innings, 60 walks.

Thomas finished third in the AL ERA race but tied for fourth in losses; something just didn’t add up.

6. Wes Ferrell, Cleveland

Key Numbers: 3.60 ERA, 21 wins, 10 losses, .677 win percentage, 5 saves, 43 appearances, 25 starts.

Barely 21, rookie Ferrell threw like a star veteran—and kept throwing like one in the first of four years winning at least 20 games.

7. Rube Walberg, Philadelphia

Key Numbers: 3.60 ERA, 18 wins, 11 losses, 40 appearances, 33 starts, 267.2 innings.

Walberg’s continued improvement made him one of many prime talents to slip away from the Giants during the 1920s.

8. Jake Miller, Cleveland

Key Numbers: 3.58 ERA, 14 wins, 12 losses.

Though he barely registers in the minds of even the most noted of Cleveland baseball historians, Miller—who enjoyed his most productive year with the Indians—should get plaudits for establishing a career 3.27 ERA at cozy League Park.

9. Danny MacFayden, Boston

Key Numbers: 3.62 ERA, 10 wins, 18 losses, 4 shutouts.

The year’s hard-luck pitcher award goes to the young Cape Cod native who had to practically earn every one of his precious victories for a lousy Red Sox team.

10. Sam Gray, St. Louis

Key Numbers: 3.72 ERA, 18 wins, 15 losses, 43 appearances, 37 starts, 23 complete games, 305 innings, 4 shutouts.

As Gray went, so went the Browns; after this stellar workhorse effort, he went 29-55 over the next four seasons—and the Browns wouldn’t have another winning season until 1942.

1929 Baseball History
The 1920s: ...And Along Came Babe
TGG Lists: The 10 Best Pitchers of the 1920s
TGG Lists: The 10 Best Hitters of the 1920s