Eldon Auker was born on September 21, 1910, in Norcatur, Kansas. Norcatur High School didn’t have a baseball team, so beginning at age 15, he played on the town team with the men. 

After graduating from high school in 1928, he attended Kansas Agricultural and Mechanical College (today Kansas State) in Manhattan, Kansas. The varsity basketball and baseball coach there, and arranged part-time jobs for Elden so he could pay his way. His goal was to become a medical doctor and he took the appropriate courses in anatomy, physiology, chemistry, psychology, etc., to prepare for that profession.

While in college, he played varsity football (quarterback), baseball (pitcher), and basketball (guard and team captain). He was voted All Big Six in all three sports. Football was his favorite sport but ironically, in his first college football game, he permanently injured his right shoulder. This prevented him from ever throwing overhand. To compensate for the shoulder separation, he learned to pitch with a slightly underhand motion. 

Eldon always took on extra jobs to earn money, which was in short supply in the 1930s. In the summer of 1931 he pitched for pay on a town team, the Manhattan Travelers. Later that summer he played for another town team in Oxford, Nebraska

After graduation in 1932, he was scouted by football great Bronko Nagurski and turned down an offer of $6,000 from the Chicago Bears to play pro football. Instead he signed with the Detroit Tigers for $450. 

He decided to play baseball because he would start getting his paychecks instead of waiting until the fall, when the football season started. His intention was to play pro baseball as a means of earning tuition money for medical school. But he made such good money at baseball that he couldn’t afford to give it up. Besides, the Depression was in full force and both jobs and money were scarce.

Before the 1933 season ended, Eldon, who was 16-10 with Beaumont of the Texas League, was called up to “The Show” by the Detroit Tigers. He started six games and relieved in nine others. In 1934, his fine 15-7 season, helped the Tigers coast to victory with a record of 101-53, seven games ahead of the aging Yankees. Against the Cardinals in the World Series, he started the crucial Game Seven at home, opposing Dizzy Dean. But the final score was 11-0, bringing the championship home to St. Louis.

The Tigers picked up in 1935 right where they left off in ’34, winning the AL pennant with a record of 93-58. Eldon was also better, at 18-7, and led the league with a winning percentage of .720. It was his best season ever. With the Series tied at one game each, he started Game Three against the Cubs and was losing and taken out for a pinch hitter. But in the eighth, the Tigers scored four runs, getting Eldon off the hook and won the game by a score of 6-5. It was his only appearance in the 1935 Series. 

His years in Detroit were happy ones. It was a close-knit team and produced lifelong friendships. But the idyllic situation came to an abrupt end after the 1938 season, when he was traded to the Boston Red Sox. His performance suffered in 1939 as he lost 10 games while winning nine. But on the bright side of this unhappy year, he became lifelong friends with Ted Williams.

Eldon roomed with Jimmie Foxx while on the road in 1939, and came to respect and admire Double-X so much that he named his only child James Emory in his honor. At the end of the 1939 season, Eldon was sold to the St. Louis Browns.

The Browns simply didn’t compare with either the Tigers or the Red Sox. They were not contenders, and finished a dismal sixth in 1940 and 1941. 

Eldon realized that his career as a ballplayer wasn’t going to last forever. In 1938 he began to prepare himself for life after baseball. Offered him a job at his small firm, the Midwest Abrasive Company, he learned the abrasive industry from the ground up, by working in all departments. The next year he moved into the sales department, and then learned how the abrasive was employed in the honing process that removed all the microscopic rough spots from the interior of 20mm and 40mm anti-aircraft gun barrels, a critical step in fabricating accurate gun barrels. 

World War II was now raging, and Eldon felt he had to devote full time to what up until then had been his off-season job. By the end of 1942, he was a vital link in the production of defensive armaments for the Navy and believed his country needed him more than baseball. Although offered a lucrative contract by St. Louis, he decided not to return for the 1943 season. 

Abandoning baseball and committing himself to the war effort was a noble, patriotic decision. It was also a very expensive one, as his annual income was greatly reduced. Ultimately, he was rewarded because by the time he retired in 1975, he had risen to be president of what was then the industry’s second largest firm, and was very well off financially.

In addition to his corporate responsibilities, he became the vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, and president and chairman of the board of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts, a manufacturers’ trade group. 

Immediately after his retirement in 1975, he was hired by Dresser Industries, the parent company of the division from which he had retired, as a consultant to evaluate its Washington office. Eldon and his wife, Mildred became full-time residents of Vero Beach when he completed the consulting agreement in 1977. 

When Tiger Stadium was “retired” at the end of the 1999 season, he participated in the solemn ceremony. As the senior Tiger in attendance, he stood at the head of a line of 60 Tigers players, arranged in order of seniority. Another honor came to him in 2000 when his home town of Norcatur dedicated a park in his name. 

Elden Auker had a long history of heart problems and on August 4, 2006, he died from congestive heart failure, in Vero Beach, Florida. He was 93 years old.