Marty Lurie Talks San Francisco Giants Baseball

Interview with Elden Auker

Fans, Elden Auker pitched in the American League during the 1930’s and early 40’s for the Detroit Tigers, Boston Red Sox, and St. Louis Browns. Auker started game seven of the 1934 World Series against Dizzy Dean. Auker is 91 years old, now living in Vero beach, Florida and a tremendous interview. He was my guest on Right Off The Bat. You’ll enjoy it.Elden Auker — Broadcast Portion of Interview

Hello, everybody, and welcome to Right Off the Bat. This is Marty Lurie, and we have a very, very special show for you. We’re going to have Elden Auker with us. Elden Auker is just a wonderful baseball person. He pitched for the Detroit Tigers in 1933, he pitched in the World Series in ’34 and ’35, and he’s a great gentleman. He’s going to be our guest today.

Elden Auker is 91 years old, he’s in Vero Beach, Florida, a great place to be; the home of the Los Angeles Dodgers spring training facility. I’ve been there before. He’s got great stories about baseball history to talk about.

Elden, welcome to Right Off the Bat. I appreciate your being on.

A: Thank you, Marty. My pleasure.

L: A lot of the fans have asked me to ask you about being in the World Series in 1934 with the Detroit Tigers. You ended up pitching the 7th game against Dizzy Dean. Take us through that World Series, and some of the personalities, and what happened.

A: Well, when you said that I ended up pitching against Dizzy Dean, I didn’t pitch long; I only pitched about 3½ innings, I think it was, and they knocked me out. But I had beaten the Cardinals in St. Louis in the 3rd or 4th game, and then I started the last game against Diz. And that’s the one where Medwick slid into third base, Marvin Owen, and they got into a little tussle, and they got me out of there in about the 3rd inning or so, and then they went ahead and, after the fight was all over, they took Medwick out of the game. Judge Landis went out and took him out. And Diz shut us out, 11 to nothing. So it wasn’t much of a game after that.

L: Well, you got to pitch the 7th game of the World Series in 1934, and that pitching staff that you had, with yourself, you’re 15 and 7 that year, you also have Tommy Bridges and Schoolboy Rowe. Tell me about those two.

A: Well, Tommy Bridges, at that time he was my roommate for six years, and Tommy was a little guy out of the University of Tennessee. He probably had the best curve ball in baseball. He was a good little pitcher, and he had a good fastball. Of course, Schoolboy came out of Arkansas, and he was a big rangy guy at about six foot four or five, and he could throw pretty hard. He had a good curveball and great control. The three of us had pretty good years.

L: That year you also had a new manager, and that’s Mickey Cochrane, who was a former Athletic, the great catcher. He became manager of the Tigers. He was somewhat of a psychologist as well.

A: He was the one who really turned the club around. The year before we had Bucky Harris as manager, and of course we were a young bunch of guys. Greenberg, it was his first year up in ’33. Schoolboy Rowe and myself, and there was Jo Jo White and Gerald Walker and Marvin Owen, I guess. But anyway, we finished in about 5th, I think, the year before, 1933, and Cochrane came over, and of course he was the best catcher in baseball. We had another catcher named Ray Hayworth, who was a great catcher. He’s still alive, incidentally. He’s one of the three of us that’s still alive from that team. But they brought Mickey over as manager and catcher, and we were in spring training, just a bunch of young kids, you know, and after we were down there about a week of 10 days, Mickey said, “You know, we’ve got the ability here to win this championship this year.” We didn’t know what he was talking about. He says, “I want to get in another World Series. It’s a great feeling.” And he kept talking about getting into a World Series. And we hardly knew what he was talking about. But he was probably the greatest leader I’ve ever seen as a manager of a ball club. Of course, he was the best catcher in baseball, and he handled Schoolboy and Tommy and myself. He knew just how to handle us, and he was a great asset to us as a catcher, but also as a leader on the field. Mickey was a fantastic individual, a great catcher as well as a great manager.

L: Elden Auker is our guest on Right Off the Bat. In his 10-year big league career, which went through 1942, 130 wins, only 101 losses, and really pitched in some very big games. Elden, you were a submariner, and you, like Carl Mays, who I know you didn’t see pitch, but he was a very famous submariner in those days. The first time you got called into a game in Yankee Stadium, you got to face Babe Ruth. That’s a good story.

A: Well, that was in 1933, when Bucky was managing. The first time I was ever in New York. Bucky put me in the bullpen, and in the third inning, the pitcher who started, by the name of Carl Fisher, got in trouble and Bucky called the bullpen and I came in. And the first fellow I faced was Babe Ruth. I threw four pitches and struck him out. Then I got Gehrig out; I think he probably knocked Greenberg down with a line drive or something. But I got him out, and I went out to start the next inning, and the third base coach was a fellow name of Art Fletcher, one of these old-time baseball players, what they used to call a jockey, you know. And I started warming up, loosening up, and he says, “Hey, Bush, look over here.” A “bush” was a “busher,” you know. He said, “You can hear me.” And I didn’t pay any attention to him. Finally he says, “You’ve got the Bam all upset. He came in the dugout after you struck him out and said he’d been struck out a lot of times but it was the first time a damned woman ever struck him out.” That’s why I remember striking him out.

L: You know, on the Athletics we have a pitcher who’s a submariner, that’s Chad Bradford, and they yelled that at him from the stands. Did they yell that at you a lot from the stands?

A: No, not too much. I never heard it. Fletcher’s the only one who called me a woman, I think. Maybe some of the others did.

L: Elden wrote a great book and I highly recommend it; it’s called Sleeper Cars and Flannel Uniforms. I have thoroughly enjoyed going through it. Elden, you played with Hank Greenberg as well, and he was an outstanding player. I know that he meant a lot to you.

A: Hank was a very, very dear friend of mine. We played together for six years. And in my book, on page 102, I tell about an incident that took place. Today, in Reader’s Digest, July issue, on page 90, there’s a story in there that’s told by his son, Steven Greenberg, who was the former deputy commissioner of Major League Baseball. Well, he got this article in there, and he’s telling about Hank playing on a Jewish holiday. And in my book I tell this story, and today I just opened up the Reader’s Digest and read this. I’ll never forget that day because that day, Hank wasn’t going to play because of the Jewish holiday, but he came out just before we went on the field. He didn’t take batting practice or infield practice, and he went out to first base and he hit two home runs that day. I pitched, and it was against Boston. And I beat a pitcher by the name of Dusty Rhodes, and we won 2 to 1. And Hank Greenberg hit two home runs, and that’s the only runs we got.

L: He took a lot of abuse and once threatened to take on the whole Chicago White Sox team, didn’t he?

A: Well, yes. That was an incident that was a very quiet thing that took place. I tell about it in the book. The story goes that the White Sox under Jimmy Dykes, they had some jockeys over there. Dykes was what we used to call a jockey. We played the White Sox, and after the game was over, my locker was right next to Hank’s, and then Tommy Bridges was the next one to me. We came in and Hank came in and took off his outside shirt and put on his shower slippers and left the clubhouse. Well, I didn’t think anything about it; I just thought he was meeting a friend or something, ‘cuz that happened right along. And he came back a few minutes later and was just as calm as could be, and he took his shower. The next day, Teddy Lyons, who was a very good friend of mine, pitcher on the White Sox, said to me, “Jesus, was that Greenberg burnin’ last night!” And I said, “What are you talking about?” He said, “Did you know he came in our clubhouse?” And I said, “No.” He said, “He came in our clubhouse, opened up the door and walked in, and he said ‘I want that guy who stand up and called me a yellow Jew so-and-so.'” And he said, “He walked completely around our clubhouse, the front of our lockers, and nobody said a word, and he stopped at the door and looked back again, and nobody said anything, and he left.”

L: Boy, what a story. Hank Greenberg.

A: And he never said one word to us about it.

L: Elden, thanks so much for being on Right Off the Bat. It’s great to have you on. We’ll have you on again. There’s so much we can talk about; it’s great to have you on. The book is Sleeper Cars and Flannel Uniforms, by Elden Auker. What a wonderful man.


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