Lemon Pitches No-Hit Victory; Indians 2, Tigers 0
Mike B. | On 04, Dec 2013
June 30, 1948
He has not been a full-time member of the Indians’ starting rotation for very long, but he certainly has asserted himself as the ace of the staff quickly. Wednesday might be the loudest assertion sign yet.
Bob Lemon tossed a no-hitter Wednesday evening in front of 49,628 fans at Briggs Stadium. He allowed just three base runners via walk and benefitted from a fine, running catch by Dale Mitchell in the fourth inning. Lemon’s no-hitter is the first in the big leagues in the 1948 season and his league-leading 11th victory.
“I had as good stuff as I’ve ever had and I got wonderful support.” Lemon said. “You don’t see many catches like that one Mitchell made in the fourth.”
The tension began mounting in the Detroit summer air as early as the fifth inning, but was its thickest in the bottom of the ninth inning when Lemon took to the mound. None of the three walks issued by Lemon had even advanced to second base, but Cleveland still just held to a 2-0 lead. Vic Wertz started the inning, pinch-hitting for Johnny Lipon. After taking a first pitch ball, Wertz laced a one bouncer back up that middle that Lemon stabbed from the air before it could sneak by him and risk being the first for Detroit. After throwing to first, Wertz was retired and Lemon was just two outs away.
Eddie Mayo became the second to last Detroit combatant to try and ruin Lemon’s masterpiece. He fouled off Lemon’s first delivery, jerking it down the left field line. After taking a pitch for a ball, Mayo fouled off another pitch. Finally, down 1-2 in the count, Mayo could not make contact on his final swing of the evening, whiffing for strike three and the second out of the ninth.
The final out, like any no-hitter, was the toughest. To build the drama, George Kell had been the most difficult out all evening. In the first inning, Kell lined a ball down the left field line that landed less than six inches foul, otherwise the game would have had a different storyline. Kell worked a walk in the first inning after his near hit.
In the fourth inning, Kell nearly registered a hit again when he smoked a ball that appeared to be headed to the lower level of the left field seats. However, Mitchell raced toward the ball, making a leap at the very last second. He caught the ball just a step before crashing into the stands, then falling to the ground. For a moment, most fans were not aware Mitchell had caught the ball until he got to his feet and showed the ball from the webbing of his glove.
But in the ninth, the most difficult part in retiring Kell was fighting the nerves. Lemon’s first pitch was dangerously inside, yet still grazed off the bat for strike one. The next pitch was so wild, catcher Jim Hegan could not stab it and it went to the backstop. Clearly Lemon was nervous. His third pitch was a knee-high sinker that Kell swung and bounced high in front of the mound. Lemon fielded the bounder amidst a sudden silence in the stadium. He jogged half way to first base before lobbing the ball, underhand, to first baseman Johnny Berardino for the final out of the game.
“Gee, what a thrill it was when that last out was made,” Lemon said. “The fellows on the bench didn’t talk to me from the sixth inning on. I thought at the time it was funny but wasn’t quite sure what was happening.”
As Berardino caught the ball, the silence was replaced with jubilation on the field and eventually in the Indians’ clubhouse. The victory becomes Lemon’s first no-hitter of his career and third straight season the Tribe has had a no-hitter. Bob Feller turned the trick in 1946 against the New York Yankees and Don Black did a year ago in 1947 against the Philadelphia Athletics. Lemon’s gem becomes the 12th no-hitter in Indians’ franchise history.
“We all knew there was a no-hitter coming,” Feller said. “He had everything.”
Lemon (11-6) is the major league leader in wins, only walked three and struck out three in his shutout and no-hitter of the Tigers. It was his 11th complete game of the season and fourth shutout. His three strikeouts give him 70 on the season and overtakes Feller for the league lead.
Cleveland gave Lemon all the offense he would receive in the top of the first inning, scoring two unearned runs off Tiger starter Art Houtteman. Mitchell reached on a muffed grounder to Lipon to start the game. After Berardino popped out, Lou Boudreau doubled to left field, scoring Mitchell. Kell’s relay throw from the outfield to the plate was wild and allowed Boudreau to advance to third base. Hank Edwards hit a fly ball to left field to allow Boudreau to race home making the score 2-0. The two Tiger errors created the two unearned runs, and were the only scored in the contest.
Houtteman (2-10) was a tough-luck loser, not allowing an earned run over nine innings while giving up just five hits, one walk and one strikeout. The 20-year-old right-hander from the Detroit sandlots have pitched much better in his last four starts.
“That guy pitched a hell of a game,” dejected Detroit manager Steve O’Neill said. “But why did he have to throw it at us?”
Cleveland’s victory is their third straight triumph and gives them a one and one-half game lead over the Athletics and two game lead over the Yankees.
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project