Red Sox: Boston’s 1932 squad is as bad as it gets in franchise history

ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - MARCH, 1932. Yankee pitcher Wilcy Moore works out at the New York Yankee's spring training site in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images)
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA - MARCH, 1932. Yankee pitcher Wilcy Moore works out at the New York Yankee's spring training site in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Mark Rucker/Transcendental Graphics, Getty Images) /

The 1932 Red Sox were the definition of awful

In 1932 the nation was rolling forward into the Great Depression and the Red Sox were in their own depression finishing the season at 43-111 (.279) and last among the eight American League teams. If there was any possible good news is the 1932 Red Sox were not last in attendance, but seventh with 182,150 wasting away watching managers Shano Collins (11-44) and Marty McManus (32-67) move around players far better suited for the minors.

The Red Sox managed to finish an incredible 64 games behind the New York Yankees who they somehow beat five times during the season.  The Red Sox did humble one other team – the seventh place White Sox – by winning 12 games and losing a mere 10. The Red Sox were consistent as they were equally inept with offense and pitching.

They were last in the American League (AL) in batting average (.251), runs (566), doubles (253), OBP (.314), Slugging (.351), OPS (.664), and last by being hit by a pitch (12) since it is doubtful anyone on offense needed the occasional dusting.

Pitching was another sad tale as the Sox were an AL last in ERA (5.02), Complete Games (42), Walks (612), FIP (4.66), WHIP (1.605), and Strikeouts (365). And defense they sparkled with a seventh-place  .963 Fielding Percentage – slightly ahead of the dreadful Pale Hose (.957).

Fenway Park had all the attraction of a landfill as the park was rapidly deteriorating with still unrepaired damage from a 1926 fire. The Red Sox – impacted by Blue Laws – still played the occasional Sunday contest at an equally depressing Braves Field. The Braves were far more an attractive baseball option with a .500 record (77-77) and an attendance slightly over 500,000.

Who was in charge of this debacle? Enter owner Bob Quinn who led a consortium to purchase the Red Sox in 1923 and return the franchise to its glory years. Quinn’s baseball roots ran deep from being a former catcher, manager, minor league president, and general manager at the MLB level. Quinn had the smarts, the baseball savvy, and no money. The good news is Quinn sold the team the following spring to Tom Yawkey.

Let’s take a walk – as depressing as it may be – down memory lane and take a look at a few of the more memorable (or forgettable) players that will never have “Their Day” at Fenway Park or numbers hanging from the rafters.

The 1932 squad had a batting champion which is always a nice place to begin a positive. By the standards of the day right-hand hitting, Dale Alexander was substantial in size hence being called “Moose.” The Red Sox in a moment of management clarity picked up Alexander from the Tigers for Earl Webb – he of doubles fame. Then comes as Paul Harvey would say – the rest of the story.

Alexander suffered a severe burn the following season and that led to a series of medical issues that ruined his MLB career. Never a speedster, the lack of mobility at first base and no designated hitter confined the once-promising Alexander to a career in the minors that ended in 1942.

The name McManus was previously mentioned as manager but that was player-manager for 1932-1933. The right-handed infielder had an extensive and moderately successful career before arriving in Boston in 1931.

McManus once led the AL in doubles (44) while with the Browns and in steals (23) while playing for the Tigers. McManus left the Red Sox after the 1933 season but not Boston as he signed on with the Braves hitting .276 before moving to the minors for a career as a manager and often player-manager. A good and sometimes very good player.

The Red Sox did have some noted power in left-handed slugger Smead Jolley a career .305 hitter.  In 1932 Jolley led the team in home runs (18) and RBI (99). The following season was Jolley’s last with Boston and MLB as it was back to the Pacific Coast League (PCL) where he stayed until 1941.

Jolley is representative of a long list of players best defined as good hit and no field. Jolley once made three errors on a single play and each and every ball hit to the outfield was the potential for a new adventure and to add to the legend of Jolley. Jolley was inducted into the PCL Hall of Fame in 2003 and it was not his glove that gained him entry.

Rabbit was a popular nickname usually reserved for smaller players and the Red Sox had a fairly good one in Rabbit Warstler. Rabbit’s issues are rather clear – a career .229 average in 11 seasons as Warstler becomes the mirror opposite of Jolley with good field and no-hit. Rabbit hit .211 for the Red Sox before moving on after 1933.

Urbane Pickering played only two seasons of MLB ball and both with Boston. The right-hand hitting Pickering’s claim to fame is in trivia as the first Red Sox player to wear the uniform with the number one. Pickering arrived late as a 32-year-old with an extensive minor league background including several seasons in the PCL. Pickering later became police chief of Modesto, California.

I see the name Roy Johnson occasionally surface in various Red Sox and SABR books and he could hit.  Johnson became the first rookie ever to collect 200 hits (201) when he started up with the Tigers in 1929.  A left-handed line-drive hitter with a career .296 average who according to reports had quite an arm from the outfield.

Johnson played four seasons with the Red Sox hitting .313 with 31 home runs and 313 RBI.  His reward for suffering was being shipped to the Senators who then traded Johnson to the Yankees where he got into the 1936 World Series. Johnson finished off his MLB career with a return to Boston only with the Braves (Bees).

In 1932 the regular second baseman was a 25-year-old right-hand hitter named Marv Olson. Olson had briefly played with the Red Sox in 1931 and was still considered a rookie. Olson hit just .248 with no power and after a brief stay in 1933 was banished to the minors where he played for several teams until 1947.

Occasionally a player does little except take up roster space for several years and then puts it together and that is the case for lefty Bob Weiland. Weiland could be considered the “Ace” of the staff (6-16, 4.51) and that is quite a stretch. Weiland played a few more seasons with Boston and then the Indians and Browns before spending a season in the minors.

Weiland’s one season with Rochester was impressive (23-13, 3.50) and earned him a return to MLB with the Cardinals. For the next three seasons, Weiland was a dependable starter going 41-37 and posting a 3.60 ERA. Weiland found his game for three seasons.

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Leading the staff in wins was a young righty Bob Kline who filled any role necessary from starter to closer. Kine had 11 wins against 13 losses with a 5.28 ERA. Kline eventually was packaged in a deal with the Athletics that brought Lefty Grove to Boston. Kline played five seasons of MLB ball before becoming a fixture in the International League for several years.

Wilcy Moore was a right-hander on the 1932 team who was shipped to the Yankees and had been a member as a rookie with the great Yankees team of 1927.  That introductory season Moore posted a 19-7 record and an AL best 2.28 ERA. Moore also led the AL in saves that season with 13 and in 1931 with Boston (8).

Moore flipped his six MLB seasons between Boston and New York with 49 saves and a 51-44 record. Moore was one of the first in a lengthy list of pitching swing men – a forerunner of Boston’s Ellis Kinder.

Biggest takeaways from initial roster pool. dark. Next

The Red Sox low point was also the turnaround as Yawkey and his bottomless pocketbook took over the franchise. Yawkey refurbished both the park and the lineup and the Red Sox by 1934 reached the .500 mark (76-76).