Mitchell Quietly Igniting the Indians Offense
Bob Toth | On 05, Jan 2016
July 17, 1948
After being a regular contributor to the Cleveland Indians lineup last season, Dale Mitchell’s job suddenly was up for grabs.
Somewhat lost in the outfield shuffle in spring training, Mitchell broke camp with the club but was limited in his opportunities to crack the starting lineup consistently. Now, Mitchell is a fire starter at the top of the Cleveland lineup and is not getting nearly enough credit for his contributions to the Indians’ success this season.
Mitchell appeared in eleven games in 1946 as a 24-year-old. The rookie outfielder played errorless baseball in center field. At the plate, he showed plenty of potential, batting .432 in 45 plate appearances while driving in five runs and scoring seven times.
Last season, Mitchell split time between left and center field. Moving around did not seem to hurt him at the plate, as he batted .316 and drove in 34 runs on the season. Primarily a singles hitter, he scattered another 16 doubles, ten triples, and a home run into his tally of 156 hits in 123 games.
Despite his success at the plate, he became lost in the numbers game in the Tribe outfield patrol.
Larry Doby was converted from an infielder into a right fielder and has now transitioned into center. Thurman Tucker, Wally Judnich, Allie Clark, and Hank Edwards all have competed for playing time. Pat Seerey was in consideration before being dealt to the Chicago White Sox. Even Indians Vice President Hank Greenberg was in the outfield mix for a period of time during the spring.
Mitchell did not make his first start for the Indians this season until the team’s eighth game. He played sparingly throughout the month of May in a platoon capacity until injuries started to mount in the outfield. Tucker broke his finger. Doby injured his ankle. An underwhelming Seerey was moved for outfielder Bob Kennedy.
Come June, Mitchell had become a fixture in left field after taking advantage of his increased playing opportunities.
He missed only four games in the entire month and was held hitless in just four other outings. In 24 games (23 starts), he reached base safely via hit, walk, or error in 22 of them. He batted .317 with an on-base percentage of .384 during the month with 16 RBI, all while hitting primarily out of the leadoff spot.
During an early June series against the Yankees, he had seven hits in 15 at bats (.467), drove in four runs, and scored three more while the Indians swept the Bronx Bombers in New York. In only three of his starts, all in a later June series against the same Yankees, did Boudreau insert him outside of the leadoff spot in the batting order.
He put together hitting streaks of three, five, and then eight games in the month.
In 14 July games so far, Mitchell has continued to get on base successfully. His 12 singles and ten extra-base hits have supported a .361 batting average. He has hits in 13 of his 14 July games and has hit successfully in all 13 of his July starts.
In 13 games against the A’s this season, he is batting 20-for-55 (.364) with one home run and 13 runs batted in. He arrived in Philadelphia with a season-high hitting streak on the line and has pushed it to 12 games. His career-best of 22 games, set last July, could be in danger if he continues his torrid pace.
With the Indians three games into their 15-game road trip, Mitchell likely will continue to receive playing time at the top of the order. And why shouldn’t he? His ability to get on base could be key to the Indians’ success for the rest of the season. A potent heart of the order, built around Edwards, Boudreau, Joe Gordon, and Ken Keltner, needs table setters in front of them. If Mitchell continues to hit above the .300 mark, he will be a lock in Boudreau’s lineups the rest of the way.
Photo: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection