June 23, 1948
Tommy Henrich shouldn’t be offended if Bill Veeck does not invite him to his first offseason party this winter. He didn’t make a very good in-season guest.
Henrich hit an 11th-inning grand slam off Don Black and gave the New York Yankees a 5-1 victory in a very well pitched game in front of 65,797 fans. The crowd was the largest to see a night game in baseball history. Most were in attendance to share in the celebration of the two year anniversary party of Veeck’s purchase of the team.
In typical Veeck fashion, he had a celebration planned to be as newsworthy as the game.
However, the Yankees did their best to begin spoiling the party in the top of the second inning. George McQuinn started the inning with a double to left field that bounced into the stands. Tribe left fielder Dale Mitchell was shading the left-handed hitter into the gap when McQuinn’s double sliced away from him and caromed into the seats. Had Mitchell been playing him straight away, he would have had a chance to make the catch.
After Black, the Tribe starter, got Billy Johnson and Johnny Lindell to ground out, he walked Snuffy Stirnweiss but was unable to retire the opposing pitcher, Ed Lopat. Lopat singled to right field, allowing McQuinn to score and give the Yankees an early 1-0 lead.
Cleveland only mustered one hit off Lopat, who has dominated the Tribe for much of his career, until the sixth inning. After Joe Tipton struck out, Black singled to left field and Thurman Tucker walked to put runners on first and second with only one out. Bob Kennedy popped out to first base for the second out, but Lou Boudreau managed an infield hit that still did not fare so well for the Tribe.
Boudreau’s slow roller forced Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto to make a quick throw to second baseman Stirnweiss, but the throw was too late. However, Black rounded third too far and Stirnweiss relayed his throw to Johnson at third base. They retired Black in a rundown to end the inning and resulting in Johnson being cleated bad enough that he had to leave the game. Boudreau’s hit extended his hitting streak to 12 games, the longest by any Indian this season.
The Tribe was able to finally tie the score in the bottom of the seventh inning when Ken Keltner hit a two-out, solo home run to tie the game at one. Keltner’s blast was his 17th homer of the season and gave him the round-tripper lead in the American League.
But that would be the only offense Cleveland could manage in regulation. The homer was only the fourth hit the Indians could scrounge off of the southpaw Lopat. Black was matching Lopat nearly pitch-for-pitch, scattering just seven hits through nine innings.
So the two starters ventured on into extra innings, each working a scoreless 10th inning before Black found his doom in the top of the 11th inning. Black had retired eight Yankees in a row before Lindell singled to center field. Stirnweiss bunted to move Lindell into scoring position, but Black tried to cut down the lead runner. Lindell was able to get in under the throw and everyone was safe.
Lopat successfully bunted the two runners to scoring position for the first out of the inning. Cleveland walked the light-hitting Rizzuto to set up a double play or force out at the plate with Henrich up to bat. But, that’s when the party ended because Henrich — a Massillon native — homered to left field bringing everyone home and giving the Yankees a 5-1 lead.
Cleveland went somewhat quietly in the bottom of the 11th when Lopat struck out pinch-hitter Johnny Berardino to start the frame before allowing a looping single over the infield to Tucker. Kennedy and Boudreau unfortunately each flew out to Henrich in right field to end the game.
Black (2-1) pitched well enough to win, but suffered the loss, pitching all 11 innings, allowing five runs on nine hits and five walks. The Henrich home run certainly was the crushing blow in his evening.
Lopat (5-5) won his second game against the Tribe this season in three starts, going the distance himself and allowing only a run on six hits over 11 innings.
The defeat ruined the pregame celebration surrounding Veeck’s two years as team president. Rudie Schaffer, the Indians business manager, arranged the anniversary program, with the Kiwanis Club of Greater Cleveland co-operating. Veeck was presented flowers and a certificate of appreciation for all that he has done for the children of Cleveland.
Veeck again thanked the fans for their support, much like he did on Sunday after the record-setting doubleheader against the Philadelphia Athletics.
“If it weren’t for you people, we’d be playing this game at League Park in privacy,” Veeck told the crowd Wednesday night. “The only way we can show our appreciation to you is by winning some ball games.”
Cleveland’s loss cuts their first place lead in the American League to just two and one-half games over the Yankees. Tomorrow they’ll try to extend that lead another game and split the four game series when Bob Feller (6-7, 3.76) will hurl for the Tribe in the series finale. New York will send right-hander Vic Raschi (8-1, 3.56) who has struggled lately. Despite only one loss for Raschi, he was knocked out of the box in the second inning of his last start against the Tribe. He also had an early exit in Chicago before rebounding for a victory last Sunday against St. Louis.
Photo: Associated Press