No Rest for the Weary; Indians Schedule Filled — Including Exhibitions
Vince Guerrieri | On 16, Dec 2014
The Indians went 20-12 in their month-long road trip, having left Cleveland clinging to a 1 ½-game lead. In that time, they’d visited every city in the American League , finishing up with a four-game set at the Polo Grounds. The Yankees had took three of four from the Indians, but the Tribe escaped Harlem with a win on July 24, the last day of the series, and held on to a tie for first.
The Indians would start a 21-game homestand before another trip to New York (which would turn out to be a fateful one) with a game against the White Sox. Stan Coveleski took the hill in the friendly confines of League Park on July 25, and got all the run support he needed, with a home run by Tris Speaker and doubles by Ray Chapman, Larry Gardner, Doc Johnston and Steve O’Neill. Coveleski himself doubled as well as the Indians won 7-2. Lefty Williams took the loss for the White Sox, who promptly left town after playing just one game.
The Indians had a doubleheader scheduled against the Senators on July 27, but the 26th would feature an exhibition against the Cincinnati Reds.
At the beginning of the season, baseball fans in the Buckeye State were excited about the potential for an all-Ohio World Series, but the Reds had fallen into second place at the beginning of July. But when the Indians and Reds would meet for an exhibition game at League Park on Monday, July 26, 1920, Reds manager Pat Moran said he would play his starters.
He wanted them to see the field – and who he still thought the potential opponents would be for that year’s Fall Classic. Indians fans were also girding for a potential World Series at League Park, writing about possibly buying World Series tickets. Indians owner Jim Dunn returned any money, and said he’d be making World Series arrangements in another month or so if the Indians’ spot in the standings held.
For the Indians, the exhibition was just a chance to be back home. Indians manager Tris Speaker didn’t appear to take the exhibition game as seriously as his Reds counterpart did, sitting the game out and allowing Jack McCallister to serve as manager. Also on the bench were Ray Chapman and Doc Johnston. In their place were Harry Lunte at short, George Burns at first and Charlie Jamieson in center field. Steve O’Neill didn’t catch, but served as a coach for the team, with Pinch Thomas serving as backstop.
Speaker opted to start George Ellison, a University of California pitcher that had accompanied the team on its most recent road trip. He threw batting practice for them on the road and that day – and then threw batting practice to the Reds, getting tagged early on. Edd Roush singled to right in the second inning, as did Pat Duncan. A sacrifice by Larry Kopf advanced the runners, and Greasy Neale – who would become more famous for his football coaching – singled to score a pair of runs.
In the fifth inning, Heinie Groh and pitcher Ray Fisher both doubled off Ellison. It was believed to be the first appearance in Cleveland by Groh, who was known for his unusual bottle bat – narrow at the handle and wider at the top. Groh singled and doubled that day, which the Plain Dealer said would do wonders for the sale of his bat.
Morrie Rath and Jake Daubert each sacrificed, and Roush singled to stake the Reds to a 4-0 lead. Ellison was done after five innings. He would pitch one major league inning for the Indians that year – the only work in his major league career.
Ellison was relieved by Bob Clark, who had gone to spring training with the Indians and had been kept on the roster essentially because Tris Speaker liked his disposition. Clark, like Ellison, was available to pitch batting practice, and had made one relief appearance, in May when he struck out Maurice Shannon in the ninth inning of a game in Washington.
Clark, a student at Susquehanna University in Pennsylvania, gave up just one hit in four innings of relief. “Clarke (sic) demonstrated most emphatically that an eastern educational course was much superior to the Pacific coast brand,” Henry Edwards wrote in the next day’s Plain Dealer. The Plain Dealer went on to suggest that Clark had earned a spot with the team with his performance in the exhibition.
The Indians’ bats started to come around in the eighth inning, as Jamieson and Elmer Smith singled. Larry Gardner tripled, and Bill Wambsganss hit a sacrifice fly to pull the Indians within a run, but they would get no closer.
The crowd was estimated between 7,000 and 8,000, including former Indians manager Lee Fohl, who had resigned his job in favor of Speaker the year before. The crowd wasn’t large, but described by the Plain Dealer as “an agreeable surprise to the managements of the two clubs, as Cleveland never has thrown many fits over exhibition contests.”
The Indians were back at it the next day, playing a make-up doubleheader against the Senators. The Indians split, winning the first game 5-4. Pitcher Guy Morton got tagged for three runs in the ninth as the Nationals tied the game, but an RBI single by Ray Chapman ended the first game.
Indians pitchers got shelled in the second, with Slim Caldwell getting chased in the second, giving up seven runs – five earned – on as many hits. George Uhle fared little better, giving up five runs – four earned – on four hits and only retiring one batter. He was lifted “when the Indian manager happened to think the Nationals had to catch a boat for Detroit and would never have a chance unless he changed pitchers.” The Indians were thumped 19-6, but the split had put them half a game up on the Yankees with the Red Sox coming into town.