Tribe Washed Out in St. Louis, Carry July 4 First Place Burden
Mike B. | On 23, Dec 2015
July 4, 1948
Lead the American League on the Fourth of July and you are likely to be in the World Series in October. Unless you are the Cleveland Indians.
In the 47-year history of the American League, the team on top on July 4 has appeared in the World Series 30 times. Since 1941, the July 4 benchmark has proved flawless. The New York Yankees did it in ’41, ’42, and ’43, the St. Louis Browns in ’44, the Detroit Tigers in ’45, the Boston Red Sox in ’46 and the Yankees again last season when they led by seven and a half games on the Fourth.
However, the Indians are the exception to the rule. Five times they’ve led the American League on Independence Day – 1906, 1918, 1921, 1938 and 1940 – yet they did not win the pennant in any of those seasons. In 1920, the only year the Indians won the pennant, they trailed the Chicago White Sox on the Fourth of July.
But now, having been rained out in St. Louis and the Philadelphia Athletics getting stomped 19-5 in Boston today, the Indians find themselves alone in first place on the Fourth of July. Cleveland led 1-0 after three innings when the rains washed away the lead and the twinbill. The Mackmen and Red Sox were washed out of their second game. Philadelphia is one game behind and the New York Yankees are one and a half games back. After a terrible start, Boston has come from seventh place up to fourth and above .500, but still is eight games back.
For Indians manager Lou Boudreau, he disregards the July 4 adage – or curse for the Tribe – because the race is far too tight this year.
“In the first place, the season is not half over,” Boudreau said. “We have 89 more ballgames left, and in 89 games, anything can happen. The race is too close this year. Any one of three or four teams could easily win out.”
Boudreau has reason to believe the hypothetical midway point does not mean anything because the Tribe has yet to reach their midway point. Today’s rainout marks the ninth game that Mother Nature has washed away on the road. The Tribe has had at least one game rained out in every town except Detroit. Luckily, the Tribe has played much better on the road this season than at home.
They’ve had three games rained out in St. Louis and two in New York. Cleveland will have to play eight games over the next five days they spend in St. Louis to make up the rainouts. Today’s game one starter, Gene Bearden, will miss a turn in the rotation. He pitched two shutout innings. After walking Browns’ leadoff man Bob Dillinger, he retired the next six hitters before the rains came.
But before Cleveland can worry about their road makeup games, they will first need to address their subpar home play if they are going to dispel their own history and prove American League theory correct. The Indians open an eight-game homestand over the next seven days. The three western AL teams will all appear in Cleveland this week as the Tribe tries to finish strong in the last week before the All-Star break.
Today’s rainout means Bob Lemon (11-6, 2.38) will take the mound tomorrow at home against the Detroit Tigers. It will be his first start since no-hitting the Bengals last Wednesday. He’ll be opposed by the same Detroit starter from Wednesday, Art Houtteman (2-10, 3.80). Lemon will be looking to retake sole possession of the majors lead in wins. Detroit’s Hal Newhouser tied him at eleven on Saturday.
In the second game, Cleveland likely will start southpaw Sam Zoldak (4-5, 4.07). Both he and Bob Muncrief were sent back early from St. Louis to get a good night’s rest, instead of an all night train ride. Zoldak has won both of his starts since being acquired by the Tribe from the Browns. He’ll be opposed by Detroit’s right-hander Fred Hutchinson (3-3, 4.33).