May 8, 1948
Good things come to those who wait, and in the case of Gene Bearden and Larry Doby, they each cashed in on opportunities afforded to them Saturday afternoon. For fans, their continued emergence might shorten the wait to the Indians being a legitimate contender in the American League.
This afternoon, Bearden and Doby each played well enough to steal the headlines all for themselves as the Indians defeated the Washington Senators, 6-1 in front of 11,902 fans at Griffith Stadium. Bearden allowed only three hits in eight and two-thirds innings and took a shutout into the ninth inning in his first start of the season. Doby, after a rained out game in Philadelphia and two days on the bench, hit one of the longest home runs in the history of the Nats’ park. The eighth inning clout can be rivaled only by Babe Ruth.
Cleveland plated a run in the top of the first inning when Thurman Tucker started the action with a leadoff single to center field. He was erased quickly on a ground out and fielder’s choice off Doby’s bat. Lou Boudreau kick-started the Tribe’s motor with a single to center field, advancing Doby to third base with only one out. Eddie Robinson grounded to single, but Boudreau broke up the double play attempt at second base and Doby scored, giving the Tribe a 1-0 early lead.
It was the only run the Indians would plate for the next seven innings, as the Nats’ Sid Hudson used his side-winding, sweeping curveball to keep the Indians off balance most of the afternoon. Hudson did not throw side arm before this season, but a shoulder injury forced him to chance his mechanics.
Staked to just the one run lead, Bearden was in complete control of the game. Of the three hits he allowed, none of them was hit sharply. He faced just one over the minimum in the first seven innings. Washington’s Gil Coan hit a looping single over the infield that left fielder Dale Mitchell almost caught in the first inning, but he was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. Coan dropped a double over the infield and down the left field line in the fourth inning. He was the only Nat to reach second base before the ninth inning.
Shortstop Johnny Sullivan snuck a seeing-eye single between a diving Ken Keltner and Boudreau in the eighth inning, but was quickly stranded. Bearden faced only 26 hitters in the first eight innings. He pitched the sixth inning in only three pitches. The left-handed knuckleballer had to wait until the 12th game of the season to make an appearance, but he made the first impression count. Making his first big league start, the rookie starter impressed again after an impressive spring just to make the team.
The Tribe took control of the game in the top of the eighth, and Doby took center stage with his blast. Joe Gordon hit a one-out triple into the center field corner to start the Tribe action. Keltner followed with a fly ball to center field for the second out of the inning, but to sacrifice Gordon home, and make the score 2-0 Indians.
Cleveland had some two-out thunder in their bats, however. Jim Hegan doubled down the left field line and Bearden lived up to the billing of being a good hitting pitcher with a single to center field to score Hegan. Bearden advanced to second base on the throw home. Tucker reached on an infield single to put runners on the corners for Doby with the Indians leading 3-0.
Doby drove the ball into dead center field and hit the top of the 35-foot wall that is marked 408 feet at the base from home plate. The ball hit a loud speaker set and bounced back into the playing field. Doby thought the ball was in play and sprinted around the bases, even sliding into home.
Had the ball not hit the speaker, it would have traveled at least 500 feet. It would have hit the scoreboard in League Park and would have landed deep in the bleachers at Cleveland Stadium. No player has ever hit a ball into the Stadium’s bleachers. Fans in attendance who remember Ruth’s blast at Griffith Stadium in 1922 believe the Bambino’s blast flew a little farther. The three-run homer made the game 6-0 and ended any doubt of the outcome.
It also ended the day for Hudson (1-2), who pitched well but has little to show for it. In eight innings, he allowed 12 hits and six runs while walking two and striking out two. He allowed five hits and the mammoth homer in the eighth inning.
Bearden ran into trouble in the ninth inning. Obviously tired, he retired the first hitter of the inning before walking the next two. After getting Coan to pop out to shortstop, Bearden gave Boudreau the nod that he had enough gas in the tank to finish the game and earn his shutout. Unfortunately, Bearden walked Tom McBride on four pitches, forcing in a run and ending Bearden’s day.
By the time the crowd was done applauding Bearden’s effort, Russ Christopher retired pinch-hitter Sherry Robertson and the Indians had sealed their 6-1 victory. Bearden (1-0), pitched eight and two-third innings, allowing only three hits and one run while walking four and striking out five. He certainly will not have to wait as long for his next start as he did the first one.
The win keeps the Indians in second place, just a half game behind the Philadelphia Athletics. After the game, Cleveland boarded a train for Boston for tomorrow’s doubleheader. In the first game, Bob Feller (2-2) will pitch on only two days’ rest against the Red Sox Joe Dobson (1-2). Game two will feature Don Black for the Indians and Ellis Kinder (1-0) for Boston. Black has no record and has appeared in only one game, not surviving through the third inning.
It will be Cleveland’s first matchup with the Red Sox since they hired new manager Joe McCarthy. The Tribe is slated for a three game set before heading to New York to take on the Yankees for three more games this week.