Red Sox Clinch 1946 Pennant in Weird Way at League Park
Vince Guerrieri | On 21, Sep 2016
League Park served as home for an NFL Champion, a Temple Cup Champion and a Negro World Series Champion, but only once did the Indians win a World Series during their time at the ballpark at East 66th and Lexington – the 1920 Fall Classic, which was clinched in seven games at League Park.
But shortly before it met its end as a major league venue, it served as the spot for the Boston Red Sox to clinch their only pennant in a nearly 50-year span, 70 years ago. And the Red Sox did so in a strange way.
In July 1946, Indians manager Lou Boudreau had started employing a shift against Ted Williams, stacking the right side of the field to stymie the Splendid Splinter, then known as a pull hitter. But on Friday the 13th of September, 1946, Boudreau outsmarted himself.
Red Embree took the hill for the Indians. He’d played two years before retiring for the 1944 season, but returned in 1945. Dom DiMaggio grounded out to third baseman Don Ross, and Embree struck out Johnny Pesky. Williams strode to the plate and Boudreau put the shift on. The only player on the left side of the field was left fielder Pat Seerey, who was playing on the edge of the grass near the shortstop’s position.
League Park’s right field wall was 290 feet away, an inviting target for many hitters. But left field was an enormous expanse of grass, 375 down the third-base line and out to 460 feet in deep center field. Williams hit the ball over Seerey, known as “Fat Pat”, and it went all the way to the wall, about 415 feet, before it was grabbed by center fielder Felix Mackiewicz. Williams, meanwhile, had turned on the afterburners and slid into home ahead of the relay. It was his 38th home run of the year – and ultimately the only inside-the-park homer of his career.
Embree only gave up one more hit, to Pesky in the eighth inning, but took the loss. “The loss of that game would have been enough to turn the young man redheaded – if he hadn’t been born that way,” the next day’s Plain Dealer wrote. It was his final decision of the year, and possibly the most agonizing for a pitcher who went 8-12 while holding batters to a .221 average.
The 1-0 win clinched at least a tie for the Red Sox, who celebrated that night after the Tigers beat the Yankees to clinch the pennant for Boston.
Photo: AP Photo