April 25, 1948
After two days of occasional rain in Detroit, the sun came out to shine Sunday afternoon. While it appeared early that the rays of sun would give the Tigers some new life, the Indians proved they could hit in any weather.
Ken Keltner hit two home runs to help the Indians come back from an early deficit, and Bob Muncrief and Russ Christopher held the Bengals in check the final seven frames to give the Indians a 7-4 victory and sweep of the three game series. The 48,880 Detroit hopeful had little to cheer about after the second inning. The sweep asserts some muscle toward Detroit, a team the Indians will have to rival for third place throughout the season. Cleveland remains the only undefeated team in the American League circuit.
The Cleveland third baseman, Keltner, gave the Indians an early lead with a solo home run off Tiger ace Hal Newhouser in the top of the second inning. The homer barely snuck over the left field screen, but was good enough to give the Tribe a 1-0 lead.
That early lead was short lived, however as the Tigers took their first lead of the series in the bottom of the second inning. Detroit feasted on the opportunity to see another pitcher other than Cleveland’s two Bobs, Lemon and Feller, who dominated them in the first two games. The Bengals of Detroit struck Tribe starter Al Gettel for four runs in the second inning.
The inning started harmlessly when Gettel retired Dick Wakefield on a ground ball to second base. Gettel proceeded to hit Sam Vico with a pitch, but retired Hank Riebe with a fly ball to center field. With two out and a runner on first, the damage began when Newhouser singled to center field to put runners on first and second. Neil Berry followed with a single of his own to center field and Riebe slid home for Detroit’s first run of the game.
Eddie Mayo delivered the crushing blow of the inning when he smashed a three-run home run, clearing the bases and giving Detroit a 4-1 lead. Gettel retired George Kell to end the inning, but he was the last batter he would face on the afternoon. Manager Lou Boudreau removed Gettel for pinch-hitter Ray Murray after only two innings, allowing four hits and four runs. Boudreau went to Muncrief to start the third inning.
Cleveland had a big two-out rally of its own in the fourth inning, though. With two gone, Allie Clark walked and Eddie Robinson singled to right field to put runners on first and second base for Keltner. This time, Keltner’s home run was a no doubter, deep into the seats for a three-run homer to tie the game at four apiece. Keltner’s homer was his fourth of the season and now makes him the league leader in round trippers. His blast brought his Tribe teammates off the bench in excitement, something notable for a very quiet and subdued group.
The Indians took the lead and never looked back in the top of the sixth inning. Newhouser walked Clark to start the inning. After striking out Eddie Robinson, Keltner singled for his third hit of the game. Then, Jim Hegan issued the big blow, a triple into the left field corner to score both Robinson and Keltner and a 6-4 lead to Cleveland.
Newhouser (1-1) struck out Muncrief and retired Thurman Tucker to end the inning, but his day would be done after six innings. He allowed six runs on eight hits, walked two and struck out six. The two home runs to Keltner were the crushing blows. Virgil Trucks relieved Newhouser in the seventh inning. After a scoreless seventh frame, Trucks gave up a solo home run to Robinson to extend Cleveland’s lead to 7-4. It was Robinson’s first home run of the season.
Meanwhile, Muncrief (1-0) stymied the Tigers for 4.1 innings, allowing just three hits and not giving up a run. His three walks did create some traffic on the base paths, but he was able to avoid any damage. Russ Christopher made his Indians’ debut, pitching the final 2.2 innings and earning his first save of the season. Christopher too, walked three creating some unnecessary tension in the later innings.
Offensively, the Tribe rapped out 10 hits — with seven coming from the bottom of the order in Robinson, Keltner and Hegan. Larry Doby, who had five hits over the last two games, was 0 for 5, with five strikeouts. The mark ties a major league record for strikeouts in nine-inning game, tying him with eight other dubious whiffers.
The Tribe will travel to the second destination of their three city western trip this evening when they voyage to Chicago. Monday afternoon the Tribe will send Don Black to the hill while the White Sox counter with Howie Judson (0-1) at Comiskey Park.
Photo: The Conlon Collections