April 26, 1948
Finding a hero is difficult for the Cleveland Indians after Monday’s 12-11 come from behind victory at Comiskey Park.
Finding a hero is difficult because they had so many deserving candidates, including Lou Boudreau’s five hits, Eddie Robinson’s 14th inning home run, Russ Christopher’s five scoreless innings in relief, Ed Klieman’s three scoreless before Christopher and Bob Feller coming out of the bullpen to end Chicago’s rally in the final inning.
It took heroic efforts by many to compensate for subpar starting pitching in an early seesaw contest. It appeared the 5,921 Chicago fans were going to see the Indians continue their offensive dominance early. They took an early lead in the top of the first inning off White Sox starter Howie Judson. Thurman Tucker led off the game with a walk and after Larry Doby struck out, Lou Boudreau laced a triple to center field to give the Indians an early 1-0 lead. Joe Gordon’s pop out to first base could not score Boudreau, but Robinson singled up the middle to give the Tribe a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
The offense continued for the Tribe in the second inning, as it appeared they would run away with the game early. After retiring the first two hitters of the inning, Judson gave up a two-out single to Tucker, and Doby hit his second home run of the season to give the Indians a 4-0 lead. The Tribe had a chance to add more runs to the board, because Judson loaded the bases again before finding the third out of the inning.
But just as it appeared the Indians had control, starter Don Black failed the wig-wammers. After retiring the first two hitters in the second inning, he gave up a double to Dave Philley, then a two-run homer to Cass Michaels to cut the lead to 4-2, Cleveland. It was Michaels’ first home run of the season.
Three straight two-out singles by Black, Tucker and Doby plated another run for the Tribe in the top of the third to extend the lead to 5-2, but that lead would evaporate when Chicago reached the plate in the third inning. Black would not survive the inning. He allowed a single to the pitcher Judson to lead off the inning. After getting Don Kolloway to foul out to the catcher, Black walked Luke Appling and then gave up a three-run home run to Tony Lupien to deadlock the score at five apiece. After back-to-back singles by Taffy Wright and Aaron Robinson, Indians manager Boudreau was forced to make a pitching change, sending Black to the showers in less than three innings of work.
Les Webber came on in relief of Black and promptly added to the score when he served up a two-run homer to Philley, the first batter he faced. Luckily Wright was erased on the bases trying to advance to third on Robinson’s single, so Chicago was only able to take a 7-5 lead at the end of three innings. The homer also closed the book on Black, who could only survive two and two-thirds innings, while allowing six hits and six runs.
Judson would not survive much longer than Black, however. In the top of the fourth inning, the Tribe answered back with three runs of their own to retake the lead, 8-7. Boudreau hit his second triple of the game to start the inning and scored on Gordon’s sacrifice fly. Robinson and Ken Keltner each hit solo home runs to give the Indians a new lead. Keltner’s homer was his fifth homer of the young season, a notable feat for someone who only hit 11 a year ago, and was the last batter in Judson’s afternoon.
Judson left the game after only three and two-thirds innings, allowing 12 hits and eight runs, while walking three and striking out four. The three home runs he allowed led to his unraveling. Glen Moulder relieved Judson and finished the fourth inning.
Webber’s day would be short-lived for the Tribe though, because after retiring the final batter in the third for Black, he was able to retire only one for his own record. After walking Jim Delsing, he retired Moulder who was bunting over the runner, but Kolloway and Appling followed with singles. Appling’s base hit tied the game and chased Webber from the game. Bill Kennedy came on in relief of Webber, getting the next two hitters out, but allowing Appling to score from third. When Appling touched home the White Sox retook the lead, 9-8, and Webber had officially allowed three runs while only getting two outs.
But the seesaw continued for one more inning in the fifth. Kennedy led off the inning with a single to help his own cause. Tucker flew out to left field and Doby grounded to second base, but was able to beat the relay throw leaving the fleet-of-foot outfielder on first with two outs instead of Kennedy. Boudreau came through with his third hit of the day — this time only a double — to score Doby from first base and tie the game at nine a piece after just four and a half innings.
Chicago answered right back in the bottom of the fifth inning off Kennedy. Robinson walked to start the inning. After Philley struck out looking, Michaels doubled home Robinson to retake the lead, and Delsing singled home Michaels to make the score 11-9 and send Kennedy to the bench along with his other struggling pitchers on the staff. Kennedy survived only three outs, allowing two hits and two runs. His 18.00 ERA after today’s game a slightly better showing than Black’s 20.25, and much better than Webber’s 40.50. Steve Gromek became the Indians fourth pitcher of the afternoon and retired the first two hitters he faced to end the inning and keep the Pale Hose lead at just two runs.
And at that point, the seesaw stopped swinging back and forth. The Indians had a chance to score in the top of the sixth inning with two on and two out, but Hank Edwards — pinch-hitting for Gromek — was unable to come through. Moulder dodged trouble for the White Sox. Meanwhile, Klieman came on in relief for the Tribe and worked three scoreless innings. Moulder, likewise, matched him pitch-for-pitch through the eighth inning.
Down to their final three outs, and trailing two runs, the Indians’ bats came to life. Dale Mitchell — pinch-hitting for Klieman — started the inning with a single. Tucker followed with a walk, and immediately White Sox Manager Ted Lyons elected to try and match up to finish the game. He summoned Jim Goodwin from the bullpen, and the lefty did his job, getting Doby to pop out for the first out of the inning.
Lyons went back to his bullpen for right-hander Earl Caldwell to face Boudreau, but the move did not work the second time. Boudreau smoked a double to the foot of the bleachers scoring Mitchell and Tucker and tying the game at 11. It was Boudreau’s fifth hit of the day and fourth extra base hit. When Tucker touched home, it tied the score, but also gave Boudreau four RBI for the afternoon.
Christopher replaced Klieman on the mound and picked up right where he left off, blanking the Pale Hose. Christopher blanked Chicago in the ninth inning to send the game to extra innings and continued to throw up zeros for four more innings. All told, Christopher threw five scoreless innings in relief, commendable for sure, more surprising yet because he threw two and two-thirds innings of scoreless baseball yesterday.
Caldwell also settled down and continued to blank the Indians after the ninth inning. In the 12th inning, he did avoid giving up the lead when the Indians had runners on first and third with two outs, but Caldwell was able to get Mitchell to fly out to left to end the scoring threat. Christopher also side-stepped a scoring threat in the bottom of the 12th when a two out single and walk forced him to strike out Caldwell to keep the game deadlocked.
Finally, the Indians retook the lead in the top of the 14th inning when Robinson hit his second homer of the afternoon, just 10 innings after the first. Robinson connected off a Caldwell to give the Indians a 12-11 lead. Caldwell (0-1) takes the collar in the game, blowing the two run lead in the ninth inning and the game in the 14th inning. He only was charged with allowing one run in his five and two-thirds innings of work because the two runners who scored in the ninth inning were Moulder’s responsibility.
The game could not end without one more chapter of drama. After Cleveland took the lead in the top of the 14th inning, Chicago looked to mount a rally of its own in the bottom half of the frame. Back-to-back hits by Wright and Robinson chased Christopher from the game and forced manager Boudreau to summon Bob Feller from the bullpen. Despite pitching nine innings on Saturday, Feller threw batting practice prior to the game and had been warming the previous three innings.
With two on and no one out, Feller used his curveball to strike out Bob Kennedy and Michaels. Then, he got Delsing to fly out the center field to end the marathon four-hour, 20-minute contest. Christopher (1-0) logs his first win of the season, pitching five innings of scoreless relief and only allowing three hits while walking two and striking out one. Feller notches his first save of the season and has now pitched in three of the Indians five games. The seven pitchers used by Cleveland this afternoon is the early record for any team this year.
Offensively, the Tribe rapped out 22 hits. Every starter had at least one hit this afternoon. Keltner was plagued with just one base hit — his fifth home run — in eight at-bats. Meanwhile, Doby rebounded from a five strikeout game yesterday in Detroit to pound out three hits today.
Tomorrow afternoon, the Indians will look for their sixth straight win to start the season when Bob Lemon (1-0) takes the mound against Chicago’s Bill Wight at Comiskey Park. Wight makes his first start of the season since being acquired from New York as part of the trade that sent Ed Lopat from Chicago to the Yankees.
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project