Prolific Writer Pens Book on ’48 Tribe
Vince Guerrieri | On 08, Apr 2014
Like most writers, Lew Freedman roots for the story. And he found a good one in the saga of the 1948 Indians, the last Tribe team to win a World Series.
Freedman grew up in Boston, a fan of the Red Sox, the team vanquished by the Indians in the only American league playoff in the pre-division era. His career as a journalist has taken him to Philadelphia, Alaska, Chicago and now central Indiana. He’s written more than 50 books covering a broad spectrum of sports.
“From the time I was in sixth grade, I always wanted to be a writer,” he said. “I never planned to write nonfiction until really the first book came out.”
He describes himself as a baseball fan as well as a fan of history, and was really drawn to the subject matter by the people he would write about.
“I try to do things that interest me,” he said. “I’m always looking for a good story and a good subject. I was most attracted to the cast of characters.”
Looming large was Bill Veeck, in his first foray as a major league owner. Freedman was interested in Veeck’s championing of fan entertainment – as well as his desire to integrate baseball.
“Nobody ever tried to make coming to the ballpark as much fun as he did,” Freedman said.
Veeck was supportive of – even if he didn’t always agree with – Lou Boudreau, who put up MVP numbers as a player and managed the Indians to a World Series.
“We’re probably never going to see another player-manager again, and he had probably the best year a player-manager has ever had,” Freedman said.
Also in the cast of characters was ageless Negro League wonder Satchel Paige; Bob Feller, who remains the preeminent figure in Indians history; Russ Christopher, who had nothing to offer but heart, and a bad one at that, and Don Black, who had a cerebral hemorrhage at the plate during a game in September.
“The guy almost died,” Freedman said, “And it didn’t even derail the team.”
Freedman read old Cleveland newspapers and spent time at the archives of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, where he read national accounts, including the pissing contest Veeck got into with the Sporting News. The “Bible of Baseball” decried Veeck’s signing of ageless Negro League wonder Satchel Paige as a publicity stunt. Veeck, who was unafraid of engaging people on the topic of integration, fired back. Paige went 6-1 for the Indians, prompting Veeck to suggest that he might be a rookie of the year candidate.
Freedman has already set his sights on his next project: a book about the Chicago Bears’ 73-0 shellacking of the Redskins in the 1940 NFL Championship. But in the meantime, it’s baseball season.
“It was a glorious time,” he said of the 1948 Indians. “It was a highlight for the franchise and the characters were great.”