by Harold Friend
The Brooklyn Dodgers expected to finish no worse than fourth place in 1935. When he returned his signed contract, catcher Al Lopez included a note, expressing his confidence that the team would finish in the first division. Optimism reigned supreme at the Brooklyn Dodgers' spring training camp despite the fact that the team had finished sixth the year before.
A Solid Brooklyn Infield
Brooklyn had a solid infield, which was one reason for Casey Stengel's bright outlook. Sam Leslie was at first base, Tony Cuccinello was at second, Joe Stripp was the third baseman, and Lonnie Frey played shortstop.
Sam Leslie made his major league debut with the Giants in 1929. He didn't play much because New York had a pretty good first baseman named Bill Terry, who hit .401 in 1930. Relegated to pinch hitting, Leslie set a major league record with 22 pinch hits.
A solid spray hitter, Leslie was defensively challenged. One baseball writer who followed the Giants, described Sam Leslie's skills in a single sentence. "He could hit if you woke him up at two in the morning but couldn't field if you played him at two in the afternoon."
The Dodgers Traded for Sam Leslie
The Giants traded Leslie to the Dodgers in June, 1933, for 37 year-old outfielder Lefty O'Doul and left-handed pitcher Watty Clark. It was a good trade for Brooklyn. In 1933, Leslie batted a respectable .286, with a .340 on base average, but in 1934 he had a break out season, hitting .332, with a .409 on base average.
Brooklyn and Cincinnati Trade Disgruntled Players
Brooklyn second baseman Tony Cuccinello came up with the Cincinnati Reds in 1930. He batted .312 and followed that with a .315 average the next year. But baseball has always been a business, and in 1932, Tony was a hold out. Joe Stripp, who was the Reds' third baseman, was also holding out, which he did every spring.
Babe Herman, who hit .393 with 35 home runs for Brooklyn in 1930, and then hit .313 with 18 home runs when some of the rabbit was taken out of the baseball in 1931, was a Dodgers' hold out. It was so bad that the club was fining Babe $100 a day until he signed. The Dodgers and Reds decided to trade problems.
Tony Cuccinello, Joe Stripp, and Clyde Sukeforth were sent to Brooklyn in exchange for the services of Babe Herman, Walter Gilbert, and Ernie Lombardi. It was a trade that would pay dividends for both teams.
Third baseman Joe Stripp was a spray hitter who didn't strike out much. He joined the Reds in 1928 and became a regular in 1930, hitting .306. He followed that with a .324 average in 1931. He was coming off a 1933 season in which he batted .277, which was considered sub-par.
Lonny Frey was a switch-hitting shortstop who was defensively challenged. Later in his career, Frey was switched to second base after leading the National League in errors by a shortstop twice. A rookie at the age of 22 in 1933, Frey batted .319 with a .378 on base average.
Stengel was Satisfied
A lot was expected from Leslie, Cuccinello, Stripp, and Frey. All could hit, although only Cuccinello and Stripp were adequate defensively. Casey Stengel was satisfied with his infield, but he knew the importance of defense. It was a deficiency that would cost Brooklyn during the upcoming season.
By ROSCOE McGOWEN.Special to THE NEW YORK TIMES.. (1932, March 15). CUCCINELLO, STRIPP INVOLVED IN DEAL :Come to Brooklyn Club Along With Sukeforth -- No Cash in the Transaction. CAREY IS HIGHLY PLEASED Counts Especially on Pair of Infielders to Bolster the Attack of His Men. HERMAN NOW A HOLD-OUT Turned Down $15,000 Pay Offered by York, New York Times (1857-Current file),p. 27. Retrieved July 22, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 105790338).