June 28, 1948
It’s a week shy of Larry Doby’s signing a year ago, and just as it seemed like the young project was finally finding his place with the Tribe, it appears he’ll have to spend his anniversary at home away from his teammates.
In the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader with the Washington Senators, Doby sprained his ankle rounding second base on an infield hit by Lou Boudreau. Originally it was deemed to be much worse, but X-rays revealed just a sprain. He’ll be out 10 days and miss the Tribe’s upcoming western trip.
“I looked around trying to see what was happening at first (base) and just nicked the corner,” Doby explained.
Originally it was perceived to be much worse when Indians’ assistant trainer Wally Bock called for the stretcher to have Doby removed from the playing field. Dr. Edward B. Castle conducted the X-ray procedure and confirmed the sprain later Sunday afternoon.
The injury is just the latest low in an up-and-down season for Doby and his development as a major leaguer.
After losing his place in the Indians lineup a month ago, Doby has worked his way back into lineup in yet a new position. The former infielder debuted with the Indians a year ago on July 5, but his play was limited behind Boudreau and Joe Gordon. He was limited to just pinch-hitting duties in 1947, but emerged as an opening day starter this year when he won a spot in right field to start the season.
Doby struggled against left-handed pitching and quickly found himself in a platoon in the Tribe’s crowded outfield. Eventually, his struggles forced him to the bench and back to just pinch-hitting roles by early June. He started just two games on the Indians previous east coast trip.
However, the not-so-sure-handed outfielder seemed to have found a place in center field in this home stand. Despite no experience in center field, Boudreau installed him in the center of the cavernous Cleveland Stadium outfield on June 17 against the Boston Red Sox and the speedy outfielder seemed to be able to run down nearly every ball in his zip code.
But even more notable was Doby’s ability to hit and infuse the Tribe’s struggling lineup. He was 14 for 34, with two doubles and two triples in the home stand, hitting mostly in front of Boudreau. The .412 mark for the home stand raised his season batting average from .252 to .286. He was one of the bright spots in a 15-game home stretch that saw the Indians blow a three game lead and leave town just tied with Philadelphia for the top spot in the standings.
Now, the Tribe heads west without Doby. Boudreau will have to use other pieces in his fleet of outfielders. Likely Thurman Tucker will get a chance in center field if his broken index finger does not continue to create pain. Wally Judnich will see time there if Tucker cannot play. Hank Edwards continues to produce in right field, with Bob Kennedy seeing time against southpaws.
What playing time is available for Doby when he is able to return to the lineup remains to be seen. This new low for the young, African American trying to make his way with the Indians makes one wonder how many highs remain or how many the Tribe can afford to give him while competing for a pennant.
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project