For the 21st time ever, the best of the American and National Leagues met on the diamond for the annual Midsummer Classic and for the second time, the event headed to Municipal Stadium in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday, July 13, 1954.
The ’54 season had all the makings of being a special year for the Indians and it only seemed fitting that the top club in the American League (Cleveland held a half-game lead over New York with one fewer loss at the break) had the opportunity to host the event for the first time since 1935, when a then-record 69,812 filled the seats along the shores of Lake Erie. It was a star-studded event as All-Star Games tend to be, with 17 of the 55 players and three of six managers/coaches on the collective rosters eventually taking up residence in Cooperstown.
It’s hard to believe, but we are just three short weeks away from the first pitches of the 2019 Major League Baseball season. Today, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night continue our countdown to Opening Day with the retired number of Bob Lemon and the many faces to also claim it as their own.
Countdown to Opening Day – 21 days
In 1998, Cleveland retired the number 21 in honor of longtime Tribe player Bob Lemon, whose transition from a position player to a quality starting pitcher led to seven trips to the Midsummer Classic, a leading role on the 1948 and 1954 American League champion Indians teams, a no-hitter, and ultimately, a spot in Cooperstown in the National Baseball 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 after him.
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 after this season is born in San Bernardino, California.
Last Friday, Corey Kluber reached a milestone, with his 1,228th strikeout, putting him alone in third place on the Indians’ all-time list (he added one more before the end of his outing).
It’ll be a while before he catches up to Sudden Sam McDowell with 2,159 strikeouts (Bob Feller stands atop the list with 2,581 Ks), but by reaching third place, he passed two Hall of Famers who were contemporaries, but took vastly different paths to their 1,227 strikeouts with the Indians: Bob Lemon and Early Wynn.
Len Barker, getting the sign from Ron Hassey. Ernie Whitt stands in. Wind up, here it comes. Fly ball, center field. Manning coming on, he’s there…he catches it! Len Barker has pitched a no-hitter! A perfect game for Len Barker! The stands erupt, the players go out, Len Barker being surrounded on the field. He has made baseball history here tonight. Len Barker has pitched a perfect ball game. Faces 27 men, retires them all, eleven strikeouts. Len Barker being mobbed on the field, the Cleveland Indians win it, 3-0. – Herb Score’s call of Barker’s perfect game
It has now been 37 years since Len Barker lifted his leg high and tight on a 1-2 pitch to Toronto Blue Jays catcher Ernie Whitt, inducing a fly ball to center field. Rick Manning raced in, arms extended straight out as though he were flying. He raised both arms above his head and he secured the catch before beginning his ascent to the mound with several high hops in celebration of the 27th and final out of Barker’s perfect game.