April 24, 1948
Imagine if he had control?
For the last three days, Bob Feller has told fans and reporters alike that he questioned his control and feel for the baseball with his current finger contusion suffered during Tuesday’s home opener. Despite a lack of touch, Feller toiled nine more innings allowing just five hits and one walk as the Indians won their second straight game in Detroit, 4-1.
The game began as quite the pitcher’s duel. The Indians mustered only three hits and the Tigers just one before a half-hour rain delay with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Cleveland’s best early scoring threat was a two-out triple by Larry Doby in the top of the third inning, but Lou Boudreau was not able to come through with a base hit to score him. Feller was able to retake the mound after the delay and retire the final hitter of the inning in the fourth. Detroit’s starter, Art Houtteman, also took the mound in the top of the fifth inning.
After the delay, the game continued through a drizzle all afternoon and it finally might have affected Houtteman, the 20-year old phenom from the Detroit sandlots. Cleveland irreversibly broke the scoreless game open in the top of the sixth inning when Thurman Tucker reached first base via error and Doby was hit by the pitch on his shin. After walking it off, Doby took first base and he and Tucker advanced to second and third base when Boudreau bunted them over.
Joe Gordon followed Boudreau in the lineup and laced a full-count curveball to center field to score both Doby and Tucker, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead. Gordon proceeded to steal second base to get into scoring position, but Eddie Robinson and Allie Clark were not able to get the necessary hit to plate another run.
The two runs would be all Feller would need on the afternoon, but the top of the order produced another run in the top of the eighth inning. With one out in the inning, Doby singled to left field for his second hit of the game — both to the opposite field. Boudreau grounded out to third base, but Doby was able to advance to second on the play and Gordon got a key two-out base hit to left field to score him, making the game 3-0, Cleveland. Gordon had three hits and three RBI on the afternoon on the soggy Briggs Stadium turf.
The third run chased Houtteman (0-1) from the game after eight innings. He allowed seven hits, three runs — only two earned — while walking one and striking out four. Stubby Overmire came on to pitch the ninth inning for the Bengals of Detroit, and promptly allowed a double to Clark and single to Ken Keltner to put runners on first and third with no one out. Jim Hegan grounded into a double play to plate Clark and make the score 4-0, heading to the bottom of the ninth inning.
Meanwhile, Feller continued to cruise after the rain delay. He allowed his first base runner to reach third base for the season in the sixth inning before stranding him. Feller had only allowed three hits in the game and five for the season before the ninth inning, but back-to-back singles by George Kell and Vic Wertz with one out put runners on the corners. Hoot Evers’ fly ball to center field was deep enough to score Kell for a token run by Detroit. Dick Wakefield popped out to third base a batter later to end the game.
For Feller (2-0), the run scored snapped a streak of 17.2 scoreless innings to start the season. He was one more out from starting the season with back-to-back shutouts. Instead, the fireballer wins his second game of the season, while allowing just five hits and an earned run on one walk and six strikeouts. It was an outstanding start considering Feller was unsure if he would be would be able to pitch the game until yesterday and still doubted his control.
Offensively, the Tribe was held to a season-low nine hits. They still are averaging 12 hits a game in the early season. Doby’s two hits has his batting average up to .417 — notable even this early in the season, because he was hitless in the season opener. Gordon’s three hits and three RBI made him the hitting star of the day. The early offensive assault by the Indians leaves them 3-0 and the only undefeated team in the American League standings.
Cleveland will look for a three-game sweep on Sunday afternoon, when Al Gettel makes his first start of the season for the Tribe. Detroit will counter with Hal Newhouser (1-0), who won on opening day against the Chicago White Sox. Newhouser allowed just two runs on eight hits last Tuesday against the Pale Hose.
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project