August 28, 1948
Yesterday’s 8-1 victory in the first game of the Indians and Yankees doubleheader was the Tribe’s 72nd victory of the season and Bob Feller’s 171st win of his career.
While the numbers may seem insignificant in the both the season and Feller’s career, the manner in which he won the game carried a much greater magnitude. It was one felt through out the Tribe and their pennant hopes.
“A big game,” Boudreau said. “A big game in more ways than one.”
Feller gave the Indians a much needed win in their first of three games in New York, but more importantly, he may have given himself and his teammates an added enthusiasm about the remainder of the season. Boudreau has pegged Feller as the key to the Indians’ pennant hopes all season and while the Tribe has stayed in the thick of the pennant race, Feller has struggled.
Recently, Indians pitching coaches have been working to refine Feller’s mechanics to work on his accuracy and location. This season Feller’s fastball has lost enough zip that he can no longer just throw the ball by hitters. Now, mistakes in the zone have resulted in home runs. Before yesterday’s start against the Yankees Feller had allowed 24 runs to the Bombers in five starts, including the first 17 coming via a home run ball.
“Mel Harder and Muddy Ruel have been trying to get me to bring my arm up higher,” Feller said. “I’ve been working on it, and it sure helped me. My shirt got so heavy with perspiration that I came down a little lower in the seventh inning, but I changed shirts after that and was all right.”
Feller’s only walk yesterday was a free pass to Billy Johnson in the seventh inning. Control has not always been a major issue for Feller because as long as he was in the strike zone, his blazing fastball was enough to fly by hitters. The location inside the zone wasn’t of much worry. Now, Feller has lost just enough on that fastball that he needs to be crisper with his control.
His days as a strikeout phenom are likely over. He only struck out one hitter yesterday, Stuffy Stirnweiss to start the first inning, but his crisp control that made his performance so dominating.
“Better control just seemed to come naturally with that overhand delivery,” Feller said, “but I wasn’t aiming the ball. I had my mind made up that I was going to throw it with everything I had even if I walked everybody in the ball park.”
Feller’s dominance gives the Indians hope that his summer of nightmares could still result in a fall of classics. At the beginning of the season Boudreau felt Feller and Lemon were capable of winning 45 games between the two of them and that the Tribe would have to find the rest of their wins from the rest of the staff.
While Lemon currently has 17 wins and Gene Bearden, Sam Zoldak and Satchel Paige have each emerged to fill out the staff, Feller’s 8-12 record since May 19 leaves something to be desired. But with just 34 games remaining, including six doubleheaders, Feller’s rebirth as a pitcher—not a thrower—could be just in time for a final October push.