He was The Mechanical Man, a player whose remarkable consistency was equaled only by his self-effacing demeanor.
He was so consistent he even played in every inning of the first six All-Star games as the starting second baseman for the American League and hit .500 in 20 at-bats.
“Charlie says `hello' on Opening Day, `goodbye' on closing day, and in between hits .350,” said Hall of Fame player-manager Mickey Cochrane.
Gehringer played his entire 19-year big league career with the Detroit Tigers, breaking into the majors at age 21 in 1924 and retiring after the 1942 season. Of his 2,221 games in the field, only 15 came at a position other than second base.
“I tell you, I used to cuss him – I couldn’t hit a ball past him,” said Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Sewell. “I’m left handed and I just couldn’t get one through there on the ground. He’d just coast around that infield, just like somebody skating.”
At the plate, Gehringer was even better. He batted better than .300 in 13 full seasons, had more than 200 hits seven times, drove in more than 100 runs seven times and won the 1937 American League batting title with an average of .371. He was also the league’s MVP that season – a year when runner-up Joe DiMaggio had 46 home runs, 167 RBI and scored 151 runs.
“I always thought that Charlie was one of the great hitters of my time,” said Hall of Fame catcher Rick Ferrell. “He didn’t have the tremendous power of Jimmie Foxx, Ruth or Gehrig or those guys, but he was tough to strike out and he hit more line drives and met the ball more solidly than any hitter.”
When Gehringer retired, he had scored 1,775 runs, batted .320, posted an on-base percentage of .404 and thumped 574 doubles. His 60 doubles in 1936 mark one of only six times in baseball history a batter has cracked the 60-double barrier in one season.
“You wind him up in the spring, turn him loose, he hits .330 or .340, and you shut him off at the end of the season,” said Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Gomez, whose Yankees battled Gehringer’s Tigers for the AL pennant almost yearly during the 1930s.
In all, Gehringer played for three pennant winners and helped the Tigers capture the 1935 World Series title. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1949.
Gehringer passed away on Jan. 21, 1993.