The Yearly Reader

Leaders and Honors, 1938

Our list of baseball’s top 10 hitters and pitchers in both the American League and National League for the 1938 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, 1938

Bold type in brick red indicates league leader.

1. Mel Ott, New York

Key Numbers: .311 average, 116 runs, 36 home runs, 116 RBIs, 118 walks, .442 on-base percentage.

Ott’s one-year move to third base not only shored up a Giant weakness, but failed to distract him at the plate—reaching .300, 30 homers, 100 runs, 100 RBIs and 100 walks for the fourth and final time in his career.

2. Johnny Mize, St. Louis

Key Numbers: .337 average, 179 hits, 34 doubles, 16 triples, 27 home runs, 102 RBIs, 74 walks, .614 slugging percentage.

The Big Cat had his first two of six career three-homer games—seven days apart.

3. Joe Medwick, St. Louis

Key Numbers: .322 average, 100 runs, 190 hits, 47 doubles, 8 triples, 21 home runs, 122 RBIs.

One of baseball’s most ornery men of the moment led the NL both in doubles and RBIs for a third straight season.

4. Dolph Camilli, Brooklyn

Key Numbers: .251 average, 106 runs, 25 doubles, 11 triples, 24 home runs, 100 RBIs, 119 walks.

The Dodgers sent $45,000 and Eddie Morgan to the Phillies for Camilli. For the Phillies’ sake, the $45,000 hopefully was well spent—because Morgan never made it to the majors.

5. Ival Goodman, Cincinnati

Key Numbers: .292 average, 103 runs, 27 doubles, 10 triples, 30 home runs, 92 RBIs, 63 walks, 15 hit-by-pitches.

With Cincinnati’s Crosley Field becoming more of a hitter’s park after years of keeping pitchers happy, Goodman took advantage and became the first Red to hit 30, let alone 20, home runs; he actually led the NL in four-baggers into August before Mel Ott overtook him down the home stretch.

6. Johnny Rizzo, Pittsburgh

Key Numbers: .301 average, 97 runs, 167 hits, 31 doubles, 9 triples, 23 home runs, 111 RBIs.

The latest in a long line of 1930s rookies who enjoyed the honeymoon before pitchers quickly figured them out, Rizzo became the first player in Pirates history to hit 20 homers.

7. Arky Vaughan, Pittsburgh

Key Numbers: .322 average, 88 runs, 174 hits, 35 doubles, 5 triples, 7 home runs, 68 RBIs, 104 walks, 14 stolen bases.

Six did the trick for Vaughan, who batted .406 in the 47 games he was placed in the #6 spot of the batting order; otherwise, he had a relatively mundane .289.

8. Stan Hack, Chicago

Key Numbers: 152 games, .320 average, 109 runs, 195 hits, 34 doubles, 11 triples, 94 walks, 16 stolen bases, 15 caught stealing.

To show how lead-footed baseball had become, Hack’s 16 steals set an all-time NL low for a league leader.

9. Ernie Koy, Brooklyn

Key Numbers: .299 average, 29 doubles, 13 triples, 11 home runs, 76 RBIs, 15 stolen bases.

Stuck in the Yankees’ minor league system because too many stars on the parent team blocked his progress, Koy finally found major league freedom at Brooklyn as a 29-year-old rookie.

10. Frank McCormick, Cincinnati

Key Numbers: .327 average, 640 at-bats, 89 runs, 209 hits, 40 doubles, 5 home runs, 106 RBIs.

One way or another, the Reds’ breakout first baseman was going to make contact with the ball—walking just 17 times and striking out 18 over 671 plate appearances. He was one of the primary reasons the Reds finished over the .500 mark for the first time in 10 years.

The American League’s Top 10 Hitters, 1938

1. Jimmie Foxx, Boston

Key Numbers: .349 average, 139 runs, 197 hits, 33 doubles, 9 triples, 50 home runs, 175 RBIs, 119 walks, .462 on-base percentage, .704 slugging percentage.

Foxx had a full season’s worth of stats at Fenway Park alone, with 35 homers and 104 RBIs—but also showed that he wasn’t all downtown by winning his third batting title.

2. Hank Greenberg, Detroit

Key Numbers: .315 average, 143 runs, 175 hits, 58 home runs, 146 RBIs, 119 walks, 15 intentional walks.

Foxx was robbed of a second triple crown thanks to Greenberg and his pursuit of Babe Ruth’s season home run record; 39 of Greenberg’s blasts were hit at Tiger Stadium, and he had 11 multi-homer games overall to set an MLB record which still stands.

3. Joe DiMaggio, New York

Key Numbers: .324 average, 129 runs, 194 hits, 32 doubles, 13 triples, 32 home runs, 140 RBIs.

Missing nearly the first two weeks of the season due to his fabled contract holdout, DiMaggio ended up justifying his fight for a raise.

4. Harlond Clift, St. Louis

Key Numbers: .290 average, 119 runs, 25 doubles, 7 triples, 34 home runs, 118 RBIs, 118 walks, 10 stolen bases.

The Oklahoma native hit his career peak and especially came alive after the All-Star Break with 23 of his 34 homers—including 15 in August alone.

5. Jeff Heath, Cleveland

Key Numbers: .343 average, 104 runs, 172 hits, 31 doubles, 18 triples, 21 home runs, 112 RBIs.

The 22-year-old rookie kept Jimmie Foxx sweating to the end in the batting race, collecting 19 hits over his final 43 at-bats to finish a close second.

6. Charlie Gehringer, Detroit

Key Numbers: .306 average, 133 runs, 174 hits, 32 doubles, 5 triples, 20 home runs, 107 RBIs, 113 walks, 14 stolen bases.

The Mechanical Man played his last All-Star Game at age 35; he was the only player to see action in each of the first six Midsummer Classics.

7. Bob Johnson, Philadelphia

Key Numbers: .313 average, 114 runs, 176 hits, 27 doubles, 9 triples, 30 home runs, 113 RBIs, 87 walks.

The underrated Johnson showed he was more than just power by putting together a career-high 26-game hitting streak in midsummer.

8. Rudy York, Detroit

Key Numbers: 135 games, .298 average, 85 runs, 27 doubles, 33 home runs, 127 RBIs, 92 walks.

As if the Tigers didn’t need another hammer in their lineup, along came York, the burly slugger who powered on a year after smacking 35 taters over 375 at-bats.

9. Lou Gehrig, New York

Key Numbers: 157 games, .295 average, 115 runs, 170 hits, 32 doubles, 6 triples, 29 home runs, 114 RBIs, 107 walks.

Though slipping in overall productivity—a symptom perhaps related to the tragic events that lay ahead—Gehrig still managed to score and knock in 100 runs each for the 13th straight year.

10. Bill Dickey, New York

Key Numbers: 132 games, .313 average, 84 runs, 27 doubles, 27 home runs, 115 RBIs, 75 walks.

The Hall-of-Fame catcher belted 23 of his 27 homers and knocked in 84 of his 116 RBIs at Yankee Stadium.

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The National League’s Top 10 Pitchers, 1938

1. Bill Lee, Chicago

Key Numbers: 2.66 ERA, 22 wins, 9 losses, .710 win percentage, 44 appearances, 37 starts, 19 complete games, 9 shutouts, 291 innings.

Four of Bill Lee’s NL-high nine shutouts came consecutively and, along with the majors’ two longest consecutive scoreless inning streaks (39 and 35.1) on the year, helped secure his only NL ERA title.

2. Danny MacFayden, Boston

Key Numbers: 2.95 ERA, 14 wins, 9 losses, 19 complete games, 5 shutouts, 219.2 innings.

After spending the bulk of his career solely using a fastball that seldom got his ERA below 5.00, MacFayden wrapped up his third straight year south of 3.00 thanks to a more successful mix of deliveries.

3. Russ Bauers, Pittsburgh

Key Numbers: 3.07 ERA, 13 wins, 14 losses, 40 appearances, 34 starts, 243 innings, 29 grounded into double plays.

The tall southpaw had a second straight solid campaign despite a lack of support, but it would all fall apart for him over the next couple of seasons due to a series of unfortunate events off the field that revealed a certain clumsiness about him.

4. Clay Bryant, Chicago

Key Numbers: 3.10 ERA, 19 wins, 11 losses, 44 appearances, 30 starts, 270.1 innings, 125 walks, 19 intentional walks, 135 strikeouts.

The closest thing to a NL version of Bob Feller, Bryant performed a September surge (6-1, 1.97 ERA in eight starts) that helped lift the Cubs to the pennant as much as Gabby Hartnett’s dusk-time homer.

5. Paul Derringer, Cincinnati

Key Numbers: 2.93 ERA, 21 wins, 14 losses, 41 appearances, 37 starts, 26 complete games, 307 innings, 49 walks.

Derringer clicked into his peak years with a workhorse effort that yielded a second 20-win campaign.

6. Freddie Fitzsimmons, Brooklyn

Key Numbers: 3.02 ERA, 11 wins, 8 losses, 202.2 innings, 43 walks.

Following in the footsteps of Rube Marquard over two decades earlier, the 37-year-old Fitzsimmons moved from tireless times with the Giants to a less oft-used yet more effective existence across town in Brooklyn.

7. Bob Klinger, Pittsburgh

Key Numbers: 2.99 ERA, 12 wins, 5 losses, .706 win percentage, 159.1 innings.

Having escaped from the Cardinals’ voluminous minor league system, Klinger got his major league break at 29 and excelled for the Bucs.

8. Charlie Root, Chicago

Key Numbers: 2.86 ERA, 8 wins, 7 losses, 8 saves, 44 appearances, 11 starts, 160.2 innings, 30 walks.

When it came time to go to the bullpen in Chicago, the reliever of choice was the 39-year-old former ace, who pitched better than ever.

9. Jim Turner, Boston

Key Numbers: 3.46 ERA, 14 wins, 19 losses, 35 appearances, 34 starts, 22 complete games, 268 innings, 54 walks.

Turner’s follow-up to his terrific major league debut of a year earlier encountered less luck as he was infrequently supported; giving up a NL-high 21 home runs didn’t help.

10. Johnny Vander Meer, Cincinnati

Key Numbers: 3.12 ERA, 15 wins, 10 losses, 225.1 innings.

Besides his two straight no-hitters, Vander Meer also won the All-Star Game for the NL.

The American League’s Top 10 Pitchers, 1938

1. Lefty Gomez, New York

Key Numbers: 3.35 ERA, 18 wins, 12 losses, 20 complete games, 4 shutouts, 239 innings, 30 grounded into double plays.

Lefty didn’t commandeer the marquee statistical categories, but he got the critical outs when he needed to in order to reach the top of this chart.

2. Red Ruffing, New York

Key Numbers: 3.31 ERA, 21 wins, 7 losses, 22 complete games, .750 win percentage, 247.1 innings.

First there was Three Finger Brown, and then there was One Toe Red Ruffing, making it work for the Yankees despite his handicap brought on by a mining accident in another life.

3. Lefty Grove, Boston

Key Numbers: 3.08 ERA, 14 wins, 4 losses, .778 win percentage, 24 appearances, 21 starts.

Like Jimmie Foxx above, home would be a good thing for Grove, who won his last eight straight decisions at Fenway Park as part of a 20-game home streak that would last three years; an arm injury while fielding a bunt in July shortened his season.

4. Mel Harder, Cleveland

Key Numbers: 3.83 ERA, 17 wins, 10 losses, 4 saves, 38 appearances, 29 starts, 240 innings.

The veteran hurler won the same number of games as supersonic teammate Bob Feller with less than half the strikeouts—but also less than a third of the walks.

5. Thornton Lee, Chicago

Key Numbers: 3.49 ERA, 13 wins, 12 losses, 18 complete games, 245.1 innings, 26 grounded into double plays.

The big left-hander was unfairly starting to earn a reputation as a .500 pitcher and nothing more.

6. Dutch Leonard, Washington

Key Numbers: 3.43 ERA, 12 wins, 15 losses, 223.1 innings, 53 walks, 11 wild pitches.

The knuckleballer had to wonder how he could have had a worse record and far better ERA than veteran teammate Wes Ferrell (13-8, 5.92 ERA).

7. Bob Feller, Cleveland

Key Numbers: 4.08 ERA, 17 wins, 11 losses, 39 appearances, 36 starts, 20 complete games, 277.2 innings, 208 walks, 240 strikeouts.

In his second full season, the 19-year-old Feller became the first pitcher to walk 200 batters, but made up as opponents hit an AL-low .220 against him.

8. Spud Chandler, New York

Key Numbers: 4.03 ERA, 14 wins, 5 losses, .737 win percentage, 172 innings.

A modest full-time debut for the guy who’d go onto a career 109-43 record; a sore arm ended his season early in September.

9. Bobo Newsom, St. Louis

Key Numbers: 5.08 ERA, 20 wins, 16 losses, 44 appearances, 40 starts, 31 complete games, 329.2 innings, 192 walks, 226 strikeouts.

After finishing 16-20 in his previous one full year with the Browns, Newsom reversed the record in 1938—despite an ERA that was a full run higher. His 192 walks would have also broken the AL record had Bob Feller not conceded even more passes.

10. George Caster, Philadelphia

Key Numbers: 4.35 ERA, 16 wins, 20 losses, 42 appearances, 40 starts, 20 complete games, 281.1 innings.

The recipient of this year’s baseball’s Purple Heart goes to the righty who was given the ball often and tolerate a bad A’s team; this, on the heels of a 19-loss campaign the year before, and another two years down the line.

1938 Baseball History
The 1930s: Dog Days of the Depression
TGG Lists: The 10 Best Pitchers of the 1930s
TGG Lists: The 10 Best Hitters of the 1930s