Top Tigers Countdown #38: Heinie Manush

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Manush only spent five years in Detroit, but went on to have a Hall of Fame career as an outfielder.

Known for a short line-drive swing and a shorter temper, Heinie Manush spent the first five of his 17 big league seasons in Detroit. He won a batting title with the Tigers before moving on to play for the St. Louis Browns, Washington Senators, Boston Red Sox, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Pittsburgh Pirates. Though he never won an MVP or a World Series, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1964. After a short stay in the poll, he lands at #38 on our countdown.

1923 358 4 54 3 .334 .406 .471 .409 132 2.1
1924 485 9 68 14 .289 .355 .448 .371 105 1.8
1925 312 5 47 8 .302 .362 .428 .364 98 0.7
1926 563 14 86 11 .378 .421 .564 .450 152 4.9
1927 659 6 90 12 .298 .354 .442 .366 102 1.6
1928* 697 13 108 17 .378 .414 .575 .445 152 6.9
1929* 635 6 81 9 .355 .401 .500 .408 127 3.8
1930** 602 9 94 7 .350 .385 .531 .402 128 4.0
1931** 666 6 70 3 .307 .351 .438 .361 107 1.9
1932** 677 14 116 7 .342 .383 .520 .403 130 5.1
1933** 704 5 95 6 .336 .372 .459 .382 119 4.1
1934** 605 11 89 7 .349 .392 .523 .413 134 4.5
1935** 519 4 56 2 .273 .328 .390 .331 87 0.4
1936*** 334 0 45 1 .291 .329 .371 .325 70 -0.9
1937**** 516 4 73 6 .333 .389 .442 .383 126 2.3
1938***** 71 0 10 1 .250 .324 .375 .324 88 0.2
1939***** 13 0 1 0 .000 .077 .000 .057 -86 -0.3
Career 8416 110 1183 114 .330 .377 .479 .389 120 43.1

*Played for the St. Louis Browns from 1928 to June 1930.
**Played for the Washington Senators from June 1930 to 1935.
***Played for the Boston Red Sox in 1936.
****Played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1937 to May 1938.
*****Played for the Pittsburgh Pirates from May 1938 to 1939.

Henry Emmett Manush was born on July 20th, 1901 in Tuscumbia, Alabama. One of seven boys in a talented baseball family -- six played professional ball with Frank getting a shot at the bigs in 1908 -- Heinie attended the Massey Military Academy in Cornersville, Tennessee before beginning his professional career with the Portland Beavers in the Pacific Coast League in 1920. He only appeared in six games that year, going hitless in nine at-bats. After stops in Edmonton and Omaha, Manush made his big league debut with the Tigers on April 20th, 1923 as a 21 year old.

Manush had a strong rookie season, hitting .334/.406/.471 with 20 doubles and four home runs in 357 plate appearances. He also led the league with 17 hit-by-pitches. He likely would have been a contender for the Rookie of the Year award had it existed, but carving out a role alongside Tigers legends like Ty Cobb, Harry Heilmann, and Bobby Veach was an impressive feat in itself.

Manush's production declined in each of the next two seasons, bottoming out with a .790 OPS and 101 OPS+ in 1925. He only played in 99 games that year and began working on his swing with Cobb, who was having great results with Heilmann. Manush responded in a big way in 1926, hitting .378/.421/.564 with 35 doubles and 14 home runs in 136 games. The .378 batting average won him his first batting title by a nose -- he passed three players on the final day of the season with a 6-for-9 performance in a double header. He finished fifth in the AL MVP voting, tied with Heilmann.

Cobb left the Tigers after the 1926 season, and the transition seemed to affect Manush more than most. He didn't seem to get along with new manager George Moriarty. Also, his batting average dropped by 80 points while his OPS dropped by nearly 200 points. The Tigers traded Manush and first baseman Lu Blue to the St. Louis Browns for outfielder Harry Rice, aging pitcher Elam Vangilder, and Chick Galloway.

Manush quickly turned the trade into a blunder for the Tigers, hitting .378/.414/.575 in 1928. He led the American League with 241 hits and 47 doubles, but finished second in the batting title race to Washington Senators outfielder Goose Goslin in a head-to-head matchup on the last day of the season. This would be the start of a friendly feud between the two Hall of Famers throughout their respective careers. The two wagered $50 and a new suit on their batting averages every season, though neither would win another batting title. Strangely enough, Manush and Goslin were traded for one another in 1930.

Manush continued to be one of the premier hitters in the game, putting up a .900 OPS in four of the next six seasons. He hit for a .300 average 11 times in his career, including all but two years from his debut in 1923 to 1934. From 1928 to 1934, he hit for a .345 average with a 130 OPS+. This stretch included another pair of top-five MVP finishes in 1932 and 1933 and an All-Star appearance in 1934, all of which came with the Senators. He led the league with 221 hits and 17 triples in 1933, but went a lousy 2-for-18 in the World Series and was ejected in Game 3. The New York Giants won in five games.

As quickly as Manush burst onto the scene in 1923, his hitting prowess declined almost as abruptly. After hitting for a .915 OPS in 1934, his age 32 season, he hit just .273/.328/.390 the next year. He followed that up with a .700 OPS in 82 games for the Boston Red Sox in 1936, leading to his release. He had a bounce-back season with the Brooklyn Dodgers the next season, posting an .831 OPS and finishing 21st in the MVP voting. He primarily trekked around the minors for the next two seasons, compiling just 42 plate appearances for the Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates.

After his retirement, he served as a manager for a number of teams in the minor leagues. He served as a scout for the Boston Braves and Washington Senators in the 1950s and early 1960s, and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veteran's Committee in 1964. His health steadily declined over the remainder of the decade, and he passed away on May 12th, 1971.

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