Oct 20, 2010

Former New York Giant: Wally Berger (1936-1938)

Walter Anton Berger was born October 10, 1905 in Chicago, Illinois. He grew up in San Francisco & was a high school team mate of future Hall of Famer Joe Cronin. He came up with the Boston Braves in 1930 and set a rookie record by hitting 38 HRs that record stood for 58 years until Mark McGwire broke it in 1988. Berger drove in 119 runs, also a rookie record until broken by Albert Pujols in 2001. Berger also hit 27 doubles 14 triples & batted .310, quite a debut.

He hit over .300 over the next three seasons & over .290 the next five. In 1934 he hit 34 HRs with 131 RBIs both third best in the league.


The following season (1935) he led the league in both HRs (34) & RBIs (130) with 39 doubles a .295 batting average & a .355 on base percentage. He hit over 30 HRs three times & drove in over 100 runs four times, making four All Star teams & coming in among the top vote getters for the MVP Award five times. Babe Ruth called him the best centerfielder in the league in 1933. He set Braves all time HR marks that were broken by Eddie Mathews, & in 1933 his 27 HRs were more than half the teams total.

During the 1936 season he suffered a shoulder injury that took a huge toll on his career. He was traded to the New York Giants mid season, and his first Giants HR was the 200th of his career. He hit .291 with 12 HRs & 43 RBIs the rest of the season for New York, as the Giants won the pennant. He only made three pinch hit appearances in the Series going hitless.

He spent the first part of the 1938 season in New York hitting .188 & was traded to Cincinnati after 18 games. He finished the year with 16 HRs & hit 14 the next year before winding down by 1940 in Philadelphia. In his 11 season career he had 1550 hits with 242 HRs 299 doubles 898 RBIs batting .300 in 1350 games played. He was a fine defensive outfielder who led the league in fielding percentage in 1932 & put outs in 1935.

Retirement: After baseball he was a scout & minor league manager. He passed away in 1988 of a stroke in Redondo Beach California at age 83.

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