With his 52nd double on Tuesday Brian Roberts knocked Beau Bell out of the franchise’s top spot for doubles in a season. Roberts tied Bell’s record 51 doubles in 2008.
Nevertheless, you won’t hear Bell’s name much in relation to the record because he played for the St. Louis Browns – “perhaps history’s worst Major League franchise” – before they moved to Baltimore in 1954.
This week’s Flashback Friday revisits Bell’s record-setting 1937 season.
Roy Chester Bell was a 6’2″, 185 pound right fielder who occasionally logged time at the infield corners.
He played a total of seven seasons in the majors and posted his best numbers in 1937 when he led the league in hits (218) and doubles (51) and posted career-highs in home runs (14) and slugging percentage (.509). It was his second-best year for batting average (.340) and on-base percentage (.391).
Not surprisingly given his success, he played in a career-high 156 games in ’37.
Bell joined Harlond Clift as the first of 18 St. Louis Browns to be All-Stars. Both players were members of the 1937 American League All-Star team, though neither one appeared in the July 7 game at Griffith Stadium in Washington, D.C.
At season’s end, Bell finished 17th in the MVP race won by Charlie Gehringer of the Detroit Tigers. He ended the 1937 season in the Top 10 among American League players for average, games played, at-bats, plate appearances, hits, total bases, doubles, RBI, singles, runs created, extra-base hits, and times on base.
Bell, like Roberts is currently doing, hit well for a losing team; believe it or not, he had it much worse than does Roberts.
The 1937 St. Louis Browns finished 46-108, 56 games behind the New York Yankees, who won the World Series behind the likes of Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig. The Browns’ problem was pitching, not hitting.
Five Browns players batted .300 or better in 1937: Bell (.340), Clift (.306), Ethan Allen (.316), Joe Vosmik (.325), and Sammy West (.328). The team compiled 10 or more hits for 15 consecutive games, a mark matched this season by the Florida Marlins.
However, the Browns pitching staff posted a 6.00 ERA. Three players – Oral Hildebrand, Jack Knott, and Chief Hogsett – lost 17 or more games that season.
Bell and Roberts also reached their high mark for doubles at similar ages. Bell’s 51 doubles came at age 29; Roberts tied Bell’s record at age 30 and broke it at age 31.
However, Bell was not as consistent as Roberts, who this season joined Hall of Famers Tris Speaker, Paul Waner and Stan Musial as the only players to hit 50 or more doubles three times.
Bell’s next-highest totals were 40 doubles in 1936 and 39 doubles in 1939. He hit 51 doubles in the minors for the Texas League’s Galveston Buccaneers in 1934.
Be sure to check out the St. Louis Browns Fan Club. The group will holds its 25th reunion in October.
Image source: Here.