Parnell and 1948 Indians Forever Tied Together
By Vince Guerrieri
To fans in Boston and the Bronx, Mel Parnell was known as a Yankee-killer. He won 15 games against the Bombers, including four shutouts in 1953. To Red Sox fans of a different generation, Parnell was the voice of the Sox, following them during their Impossible Dream season of 1967 and popularizing the name of the foul pole in right field at Fenway Park as the “Pesky Pole,” named for Sox shortstop Johnny Pesky.
But to Tribe fans, Mel Parnell – who died last week at the age of 89 – might be best known for the game he didn’t pitch.
In 1948, Parnell went 15-8 for the Red Sox, one of three pitchers with at least 15 wins that season. But Boston finished in a tie with the Indians, and the two teams would have to play a one-game tiebreaker. The Red Sox would have home field advantage.
Parnell was rested, and had already beaten the Tribe three times that season. But Red Sox manager Joe McCarthy bypassed him – as well as Ellis Kinder, Joe Dobson and Jack Kramer – in favor of Denny Galehouse.
Parnell recalled later on that McCarthy was playing the percentages. Parnell was a lefty, and the wind was blowing out toward the Green Monster in left field. Galehouse was a righthander – and got rocked. The Indians ended up winning the game 8-3, to go on to the World Series, which they also won, in six games against the Boston Braves. The winning pitcher was Gene Bearden, a lefthanded knuckleballer pitching on a day’s rest.
The following year, the Red Sox ended the season at Yankee Stadium. They needed one win, but lost two games in a row – one with Parnell getting the loss – and the Yankees went on to win the first of five straight World Series.
But Parnell said that not getting the start in the 1948 tiebreaker was the biggest disappointment of his career.
Photo: Associated Press
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