August 10, 1948
It’s a story Tribe fans have read too many times this season. Bob Feller started, got in a jam and gave up a critical home run, costing the team the game.
Some of the characters may have changed along the way, but the script still worked on Tuesday afternoon. Feller gave up a three-run home run to Detroit’s Pat Mullin in the fifth inning, breaking a tied game and giving the Tigers a lead they would never relinquish, winning the game 7-3. Despite winning his last two decisions, Feller’s 13th loss tonight is the league lead.
The 27,528 fans in attendance at Briggs Stadium still saw a young, fireballer on the mound though, just not the one they likely purchased a ticket for. Young, Ted Gray struck out 10 Indians and allowed just four hits over seven and one-third innings. Making just his second big league start, the navy veteran and Detroit sandlot product did not allow a run until the fifth inning—a string of 14 consecutive scoreless innings to start his career.
The game was a pitcher’s duel for three innings, with each team earning just one hit, but the Tigers got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fourth inning. Jimmy Outlaw singled to center field and advanced to second on Mullin’s weak dribbler down the first base line. Hoot Evers doubled to right field, bringing Outlaw home and giving the Tigers an early 1-0 lead. It was Evers’ 83rd run batted in this season.
Cleveland rallied back in the top of the fifth with the aid of sloppy Detroit play. Johnny Berardino was hit on the heel to start the inning and advanced to second on Jim Hegan’s ground out to third base. After Feller struck out, Dale Mitchell was safe at first when second baseman Eddie Lake bobbled a routine grounder. Allie Clark made the Tigers pay when he doubled over Evers head in center field, allowing both runners to score and give the Indians a 2-1 lead. Both runs were unearned.
But like too many times before, Feller could not hold the lead. Bob Swift and Gray started the bottom of the fifth inning with back-to-back singles to left field and advanced to scoring position when Lake bunted them over. Sam Vico popped out to Joe Gordon at second base and it looked like the Indians could avoid trouble, but Outlaw singled to third base, tying the game at two. Ken Keltner made a diving stab on the smash, but had no play.
With two on and two out, Feller gave Mullin a full count fastball that he deposited into the right field seats. Mullin’s 15th home run staked the Tigers to a 5-2 lead. Had Feller been at home in Cleveland, he likely would have been booed again, profusely.
Cleveland had a chance to get back in the game in the top of the sixth when Gordon walked with one out and Berardino was hit by pitch for the second time with two outs. Berardino was hit this time on the left toe and was forced to leave the game. Bob Lemon pinch-ran and both runners advanced to scoring position when Gray uncorked a wild pitch, but Hegan struck out to end the rally.
With Berardino out of the game, it forced Tribe skipper Lou Boudreau back onto the field probably a day ahead of schedule. Battling a stiff shoulder from a collision last Thursday, Boudreau finished the game at shortstop, making two plays and throws to first that were accurate. He hasn’t played the field since the crash.
The sixth inning was Feller’s last on the afternoon. He was removed for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh. Feller (11-13) allowed five runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out three. His ERA inflated to above 4.50 and this became the seventh straight start he hasn’t finished. He has not been able to go the distance since July 11. While he has won two games in his shortened outings, he hasn’t won a complete game start since July 7 against the St. Louis Browns.
Don Black came on to pitch with the Indians trailing by three, but he did not help the cause and allowed a run in both the seventh and eighth inning. Black sandwiched walks to Paul Campbell and Mullin around Outlaw’s single and loaded the bases. Evers hit a sacrifice fly ball to left field to allow Campbell to score and widen the lead. After Cleveland scored in the top of the eighth, Detroit made it 7-3 when Johnny Lipon hit his third homer of the season, a leadoff blast to left field.
The Tribe tallied their only earned run in the game in the eighth. Keltner doubled to left field and Gordon and Eddie Robinson walked to load the bases. Tigers manager Steve O’Neill dismissed Gray to a round of cheers and brought on another youngster, Art Houtteman. Houtteman retired all five hitters he faced to finish the game. The only run scored was a chopper Boudreau hit back to him. Houtteman fumbled the ball enough to not be able to get the force out at the plate, but just throw to first for an out.
Gray (2-0) pitched seven and one-third innings, allowing three runs—just one earned—on only four hits and five walks. His 10 strikeouts were a product of an overpowering fastball and sharp curveball.
Philadelphia is playing a doubleheader against Washington today, and now has the chance to make ground in the standings.
The Tribe will play two twinight doubleheaders in the next two days in St. Louis to make up for previous rainouts. Tomorrow, Bob Lemon (14-10, 2.90) will look for his 15th win in the first game and Bob Muncrief (5-3, 3.60) will toe the rubber in the second game for Cleveland. They’ll face a pair of former Indians, Bryan Stephens (3-5, 5.44) and left-hander Bill Kennedy (4-4, 6.19).