Indians Get Their First Look at the Boston Braves
Bob Toth | On 25, Mar 2016
October 5, 1948
For the first time since 1920, the Cleveland Indians are in the World Series. They will take on the National League’s best, the 91-62 Boston Braves, in the 45th World Series.
The Indians were victorious in Boston against the Red Sox on Monday in a one-game playoff for the American League pennant, one day after Bob Feller was unable to secure the title during the regular season. They remain in Massachusetts to begin their pursuit of a world championship at Braves Field against the Braves.
Boston has been the cream of the NL crop for the final three and a half months of the season. After moving to the top of the division on a six-game winning streak in early June, they grabbed the top spot for good with a second six-game streak in the month and never looked back. They briefly lost a hold of the top spot when in the last week of August, they dropped three of four to the Chicago Cubs and three straight to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
After the sweep at the hands of the Pirates, the Braves won 17 of the next 20 to cement home the NL pennant. This season will mark their first appearance in the championship series since they swept the 1914 World Series from the Philadelphia Athletics.
Skipper Billy Southworth is at the helm of the Boston ship. He is in his third year as the manager of the Braves. He won three straight NL pennants with the St. Louis Cardinals from 1942 to 1944, including World Series titles in 1942 and 1944.
Right-hander Johnny Sain (24-15, 2.60 ERA) has been the ace of the Boston staff this season. The 30-year-old earned his second straight NL All-Star team nod this season. He made 39 starts, threw 28 complete games, and won 24, all tops in all of baseball.
It marked the third consecutive season for Sain with 20 wins or more, all coming after missing three years of action while committed to military obligations. He established new career bests in strikeouts (137), innings pitched (314 2/3), games (42), starts (39), and shutouts (4). Left-handed batters (.289) fared better than righties (.220) in the batters box against him.
Southpaw Warren Spahn (15-12, 3.71) had a down year compared to his stellar 21-10 season of a year ago. He allowed nearly a run and a half more per nine innings this season in 35 starts. He threw three shutouts and had 16 complete games on the year.
Like Sain, he missed three years of action due to the war after making his Major League debut in 1942. He was roughed up in his final two outings, giving up 13 earned runs in 12 innings. He lost two of his final three decisions after winning four straight complete games, including his 14 inning effort on September 6.
Rookie Vern Bickford (11-5, 3.27) may work the third game of the series. He spent time as both a starter and a reliever, but ended the season in the rotation. He was perfect in the months of September and October, finishing with a 4-0 record in five starts with a minuscule 1.05 ERA logged in 43 innings of work. He pitched nine innings in all but one of those starts.
Bill Voiselle (13-13, 3.63) was a key member of the rotation early on in the season, but slowed down the stretch and has seen more action out of the bullpen of late. He made just one start in September, a loss on the 4th against the Phillies. He did not appear again until the 28th in a relief role, and in each of his final three outings, he worked two innings out of the bullpen.
Southworth’s regular offensive and defensive lineups have looked as follows:
Tommy Holmes starts in right field and bats leadoff. He batted .325 on the season and made 94 starts at the top of the Braves order.
Rookie shortstop Al Dark has been the primary number two hitter for Boston. He had an impressive rookie campaign for the Braves, shoring up the middle infield with Eddie Stanky at second base, prior to Stanky’s injury. Dark hit .322, good for fourth in the National League.
First baseman Earl Torgeson has spent his time hitting third and batted just .253 on the season. He was second on the team with 81 walks to give him an on-base percentage of .372 for the year. He was the team leader in stolen bases with 19.
Reigning National League MVP Bob Elliott starts at third base and bats cleanup in Southworth’s lineup. He started 150 times in the heart of the Braves lineup. The offense moves through Elliott, who led the team in home runs (23), runs batted in (100), and walks (131).
When in the lineup, former Indians outfielder Jeff Heath had manned left field and batted fifth for the Braves, providing plenty of pop in the lineup behind Elliott. He will not play in the series after suffering a broken ankle after the Braves had already clinched the NL pennant, severely hurting Boston’s chances. The Braves were granted permission by Commissioner A.B. Chandler to add Marv Rickert, a minor leaguer purchased from their Milwaukee affiliate of the American Association, to their roster. He will replace Heath in left. He batted .286 for Milwaukee with 27 home runs and 117 runs batted in this season.
Mike McCormick and Clint Conatser have split time in center field of late. Jim Russell, a regular center fielder with the team early on in the season, has been out of the lineup while dealing with heart problems.
Stanky spent time this season in the one, two, and eight holes in the lineup. The second baseman, if healthy enough to play, will bat in the eight hole in the postseason. He missed 60 days after an injury in early July, but returned to play in five of the Braves’ final six games. Sibby Sisti is the backup option for Stanky.
Sain, Spahn, and company will occupy the final spot in the lineup.
Game one in Boston is scheduled for 1 PM Wednesday, in front of an expected crown of 40,000 at Braves Field. Sain will be opposed by Feller for the favorites to win, the Cleveland Indians.
Photo: Boston Public Library