City of Brotherly Slug
For a time in 1933, Philadelphia was the batting capital of the baseball world, as that year, two players in the same city won the Triple Crown. Jimmie Foxx of the American League’s Athletics and the Senior Circuit’s Chuck Klein of the Phillies swept the titles. It is the only time in baseball history that players from the same city in the same year each won a Triple Crown.
At the time there were five cities with teams in each league. Now there are only three, so chances of the players duplicating the Foxx – Klein feat are even smaller. But Philadelphia fans didn’t have much a chance to enjoy the distinction. Shortly after the season, the Phillies, battling bankruptcy, sent Klein to the Chicago Cubs for $65,000 and three players.
“Deal Breaks Up Philadelphia Batting Dynasty” ran a heading in the The Sporting News that November.
“They were heroes in the city,” says Phil Darrow, then a devout A’s fan who often went to see the Phillies when the Athletics were on the road. Darrow was 16 that season, and recalls Klein being a line drive hitter, while Foxx sent towering shots out of the park. “There was no real rivalry between the two,” he says. “Both were celebrities, but Foxx might have been a bit more popular because the A’s had winning teams then.”
Foxx led the league in home runs with 48, in RBI’s with 163, and with a .356 batting average (one baseball scribe remarked that it was the lowest title figure in many years).
In 1932, Foxx barely missed the Triple Crown. He led the league in home runs and RBI, but finished second to Boston’s Dale Alexander in batting, even though Alexander had 180 fewer at-bats.
Some argued Foxx should have won the batting title, but the league’s official scorer determined that Alexander had enough plate appearances.
From the Philadelphia Inquirer, 1932
For his 1933 feats, Foxx won the Most Valuable Player Award for the second consecutive year.
“He is the greatest all around ball player in the game today,” said Joe Cronin, player manager of the pennant-winning Washington Senators.
Klein batted .368, knocked in 120 runs, and hit 28 home runs that season. He won the batting title in front of his teammate, Virgil Davis, who hit 349. Klein battled Wally Berger of the Boston Braves for the home run title, edging him by one. Berger also finished second in RBI with 106.
The Phillies right fielder became only the third hitter in National league history to win a Triple Crown. Heinie Zimmerman did it with the Chicago Cubs in 1912*, and the St. Louis Cardinals’ Rogers Hornsby did it in 1922 and 1925. In 1937, Joe Medwick won the crown with the Cardinals. No National Leaguer has won a Triple Crown since.
“Both were celebrities, but Foxx might have been a bit more popular because the A’s had winning teams then.”
Klein finished a distant second to New York Giants’ pitcher Carl Hubbell for the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. Klein had owned the award the year before.
In that era, the batting title was the most important of the three categories. Press accounts seemed to note that Foxx and Klein won the other titles almost in passing.
From The Sporting News: “Detailing the miscellaneous phases of offense not shown in the regular batting table of the American League reveals that Jimmie Foxx, the A’s powerful young first baseman, led in runs batted across the plate with 163.” RBI weren’t made an official category until 1920.
Winning the batting title probably meant the most to Foxx in in 1933, says Mark Milliken, author of a biography of the Maryland-born slugger. “It was his first batting championship, so I imagine that he was most excited about that,” says Milliken. “He had a real chance to win it in 1929, but slumped in September, and then in 1932 he came so close. He must have been satisfied to win it in ’33.”
Chuck Klein (left) and Jimmie Foxx were the toast of the town for a good chunk of the 1930's.
In a Philadelphia Inquirer column, James C. Inseminger wrote, “Foxx really earned the battling championship in 1932, but it will be recalled that he was nosed out by a short margin by Dale Alexander of the Red Sox, who played in less games. Alexander was granted the championship, but it was obviously a fluke, and this season he did not hit above the .300 mark. Foxx’s right to the title this season was clear.”
And he wanted to get a word in about Klein’s achievements. He wrote, “Carl Hubbell, the Giants’ famous lefthander, was chosen as the outstanding National League player (MVP) because of his remarkable pitching feats. He was picked over Chuck Klein of the Phillies, who won the National League batting championship, hit the most homers and batted in the most runs. Nevertheless, the committee voted Hubbell the more glamorous figure on the National League awn.”
Some historians have suggested that Klein benefitted from a short right field at Baker Bowl. It was 272 feet deep with a 60-foot wall. When Klein was sold, a Cincinnati writer discovered that he hit .468 at Baker Bowl in 1933, but only .270 on the road.
Klein had solid years with the Cubs in in 1934-35, although he played in only 119 and 115 games respectively. He hit .301 with 20 home runs and 80 RBI in 1934 and .293 with 21 home runs and 73 RBI in 1935. In 1936, he returned to Philadelphia and hit .309, and the following year hit .325. His average plunged when the team moved into Shibe Park during the 1938 season, where its right field depth was 331 feet. He was voted in the Hall of Fame in 1980, yet some writers didn’t vote for him as they felt his stats were inflated by Baker Bowl’s short porch.
While the 1933 season had Philadelphia players leading the top offensive categories, the off-season was a benchmark for the teams. Each made moves that produced second division finishes for almost 20 years. Not only did the Phillies sell their best talent, so did the A’s.
In 1932, owner/manager Connie Mack sold batting champion Al Simmons, Mule Haas and Jimmy Dykes to the Chicago White Sox. After Klein was sold, Mack sold Mickey Cochrane to the Detroit Tigers and Lefty Grove, Max Bishop and Rube Walberg to the Red Sox. The A’s finished fifth in 1935.
Virgil Davis was also sold to the Cubs in a separate deal. The Phillies finished seventh in in 1934, and wouldn’t post another winning record until 1949.
After breaking up his club, Mack had only three more winning seasons until he sold the team and the A’s left for Kansas City after the 1954 season.
Mack maintained he’d never sell Foxx, but in 1935, he was sold to the Red Sox for $150,000.
*Since RBI was not considered an official statistic until 1920, Zimmerman’s Triple Crown is not officially recognized in the MLB record books. However, from 1907-1919, researcher Ernie Lanigan tracked RBI unofficially and his totals resulted in two more unofficial 20th Century Triple Crown winners: Heinie Zimmerman in 1912 and Ty Cobb in 1909. – ed.