April 23, 1948
We assume Bob Lemon didn’t drive the bus that took the team to Detroit yesterday afternoon, but it seems he did everything else this afternoon.
Lemon pitched nine strong innings, allowing only two runs and six hits, and hit a home run to help ruin the Tigers’ home opener this afternoon. Cleveland won the contest 8-2 for their second victory of the season. Ken Keltner hit two home runs of his own in helping the Tribe remain the American League’s last undefeated team.
The Indians attacked Tiger starter Fred Hutchinson in the third inning, when Larry Doby hit his first home run of the year, giving the Tribe an early 1-0 lead. Doby rebounded nicely after going hitless in Tuesday’s home opener. It was apparent the young player was overwhelmed by the more than 70,000 fans at Municipal Stadium, yet looked much more relaxed in front of the 45,233 at Briggs Stadium. His solo shot was the first of his three hits on the afternoon.
Detroit made it a game for a while, however. They answered right back in the bottom of the third inning when Lemon walked the pitcher, Hutchinson, with one out. After striking out Neil Berry for the second out, Eddie Mayo laced a double into the gap and Hutchinson scored all the way from first base to even the score at one run apiece.
It would be the last time the Bengals were deadlocked in the game though. Cleveland answered back in the top of the fourth with Keltner’s first home run of the game and the young season. The solo shot came off Hutchinson with two out and staked the Indians to a 2-1 lead.
Cleveland took control of the game in the top of the sixth inning and ended Hutchinson’s afternoon as well. Joe Gordon started the action with a leadoff double in the inning. After Eddie Robinson struck out and Allie Clark popped out to third base, Keltner hit his second home run of the afternoon to make the score 4-1. Tuesday’s hitting star, Jim Hegan, singled to left to keep the two-out rally alive so that Lemon could hit a home run of his own and blow the game open to a 6-1 lead for the wig-wammers. His blast appeared to be a fly ball out, but the Tigers’ left fielder, Vic Wertz, just missed the ball, which hit the top of the screen and caromed into the crowd for a home run.
After Thurman Tucker walked, Hutchinson’s (0-1) afternoon was done without getting the final out in the sixth inning. In his five and two-third frames, he allowed nine hits and six runs while walking two and striking out six. Last season’s winningest Tiger looked very tame this compared to the Indian lineup. Ted Gray come on in relief and got Doby to fly to left field to end the inning.
Meanwhile, Lemon (1-0) was motoring through Detroit’s lineup with ease. He scattered six hits on the afternoon and the only other scoring from the Tigers came in the seventh inning when Wertz hit a triple into the left field corner. Clark’s throw to Keltner at third bounced past him and could have been trouble, but Lemon was backing up the play. George Kell followed with a sacrifice fly to center field to plate Wertz and make the score 6-2, Cleveland.
Gray worked an inning and one-third scoreless before giving way to Hal White in the eighth inning, who promptly gave the run Detroit had just earned back to the Indians. After retiring the first two hitters of the inning, Doby scorched a single to left field for his third hit of the day. He advanced to second base on a wild pitch and Lou Boudreau singled to center field to plate him and add to the Indian lead.
The Tribe added their final run in the top of the ninth inning when Robinson tripled to lead off the inning. After Clark could not get the ball through a drawn-in infield, grounding to the shortstop, Keltner hit a sacrifice fly to center field for his fourth RBI of the afternoon.
The 8-2 score heading to the bottom of ninth inning was more than enough for Lemon to complete the game, despite a walk and single in the final three outs. Lemon allowed only six hits and two runs, while walking three and striking out five. The former infielder made five assists to first base on ground balls back to him. He is certainly one of the best fielding pitchers in the American League. It was a fantastic first outing for a pitcher who is so pivotal to Cleveland’s success this season.
Offensively, the Indians plated their eight runs on 15 hits. Everyone in the lineup had at least one hit, except leadoff man Tucker who walked twice. Doby and Boudreau each had three hits a piece in the second and third holes of the lineup to help Keltner and Lemon at the bottom third of the Tribe onslaught.
Saturday, Bob Feller (1-0, 0.00) will take the mound for the Indians despite his bruised finger. Feller suffered the bruise while bunting on Tuesday, but feels he can still pitch tomorrow. Detroit will counter with 20-year-old Art Houtteman, making his first start of the season.
Photo: The Conlon Collection