- Charlie Gehringer: A Biography of the Hall of Fame Tigers Second Baseman
Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s feats, moniker, and given name ultimately roll into one and the same in baseball history and mythology, the way we are used to with our larger-than-life heroes: a John Henry of the diamond, beating back all comers, hammer in hand. Similarly so for someone like Walter Johnson, whose “Big Train” nickname is evocative and imposing enough to imagine a generation of batters cowering in the box like John Kruk at the 1993 All-Star Game. But what of someone known—albeit complimentarily, for his perceived flawless fielding—as “The Mechanical Man” and as baseball’s answer to (silent) Calvin Coolidge: what to do with the Charlie Gehringers of the world? We celebrate them just the same, for their brilliance on the field, regardless of their star power or aspirations outside the baselines.
This is the design of John Skipper’s Charlie Gehringer: A Biography of the Hall of Fame Tigers Second Baseman, and for someone who actively sidestepped the spotlight, Gehringer’s career is well documented and researched in this quick, but thorough, study. Notably, Skipper intimates that while Gehringer’s still waters may not necessarily run deep, they were also not shallow. It is doubtful, for example, that many other Hall of Fame inductees curiously hinted at ambivalence as Gehringer did, when he answered that he “probably would” on his biographical questionnaire to the prompt, “If you had it all to do over, would you play professional baseball?”—a complexity underscored by Gehringer’s skipping his Hall of Fame induction altogether, choosing to bypass the spectacle and focus instead on his imminent nuptials. Clearly, then, Gehringer is not in the mold of most decidedly iconic and godlike Hall of Famers about whom we read. In this work, Skipper [End Page 345] gives voice—or at least biography—to one of those underappreciated heroes, whose stories are less of myth or legend, and more that of human experience and accomplishment. It is a nice, and well-told, change of pace.