Join Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to Opening Day!
Countdown to Opening Day – 21
In 1998, Cleveland retired the number 21 in honor of longtime Tribe member Bob Lemon, whose transition from a position player to a quality starting pitcher led to seven trips to the Midsummer Classic, a leading role in the 1948 and 1954 American League champion Indians teams, and ultimately, a spot in Cooperstown in the Hall of Fame.
But while Lemon last wore the number on the field as a player with the Indians in 1958, several big names would honor the work that he had done in the jersey with quality careers in a Cleveland uniform in the years to come.
For the sixth time in team history, the Cleveland Indians will play in a Game 1 on the biggest baseball stage of them all – the World Series.
Strange and inconvenient circumstances have prevented the Indians from owning home field advantage in the series in the past, which makes this year’s World Series opener from Progressive Field the first time in club history that they have hosted Game 1 in Cleveland. In that small sample size, there have been three complete games hurled by Indians starters, a controversial call, a walk-off homer, two games decided by one run, and all five games that were decided by three runs or less.
Baseball fans worldwide could ask for nothing more than that kind of excitement in the 2016 Fall Classic as the Indians host the Chicago Cubs in a matchup of the two longest suffering franchises in Major League Baseball today. Working against the Indians is a 1-4 record in starting the first game of the World Series, but all five games have been road contests. Progressive Field has played as friendly confines for the Tribe this year, both during the regular season and in four straight playoff games to start this postseason.
While the Indians would win their sixth straight game, an 8-3 victory in Cleveland over the Boston Red Sox to reach the 90-win plateau for just the second time in the 20-year history of the franchise, a future component of the team’s next two American League pennant winning clubs, Bob Lemon, is born in San Bernardino, California.
This is the second of three installments of “After the Cleveland Indians’ 1948 Season”, the final chapter of the 1948 season review. See Part 1 here.
Bob Lemon had the first of seven 20-win seasons for the Indians in 1948. He became a mainstay of the pitching staff through the 1950s. His 1950 season was one for the ages, going 23-11 and leading the league in wins, innings (288), starts (37), complete games (22) and strikeouts (170). He won 23 games again in 1954 as the Indians rolled to the pennant. He retired in 1958 with a career record of 207-128, and had a successful career as a manager. He managed the Royals, was hired by Bill Veeck to manage the White Sox, and was named AL Manager of the Year in 1977.
After he was fired by Veeck in 1978, he became the Yankees manager, hired by George Steinbrenner and reunited with Al Rosen. The Yankees won the World Series that year and Lemon was named manager of the year again. But his son’s death in a car accident cast a pall on the 1979 season for him, and he was fired 25 games into the season. Lemon came back to manage the Yankees in 1981, as they won the pennant. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1976, and his number 21 was retired by the Indians in 1998. He died in 2000.