October 11, 1948
As the Indians clinched their first World Series championship in 28 years, the celebration started on the field but spilled into the clubhouse and lasted much of the evening in Cleveland.
Clevelanders are getting used to celebrating championships as this is their third trophy in the last ten months. The Cleveland Barons hockey team won last April and the Cleveland Browns football team were champions in December. But for the Indians, the drought of 28 years seems like an eternity for veteran players and a generation of fans.
It was a special feeling for outfielder Bob Kennedy to catch the final out of the season and bring the World Series crown to Cleveland. Kennedy was dealt to Cleveland in May for outfielder Pat Seerey. Kennedy left the last place Chicago White Sox for the first place Indians.
“Yeah, that’s what it was for me,” Kennedy said. “I really dug for that ball when I saw it starting for left field. I was a happy guy when I turned and saw it settling down right at me. Yep, best catch of the year.”
As players headed down the dugout tunnel to the clubhouse after their 4-3 victory in Game Six of the World Series over the Boston Braves, third base coach Bill McKechnie congratulated them. The legendary manager won four pennants and two World Series titles in the National League.
“It’s the best yet, Louie,” the silver-haired McKechnie said to Boudreau as tears rolled down his face.
Boudreau, the Indians’ player-manager who was rumored to be traded last winter, had his best season as a player and manager. Boudreau had career highs in batting average (.355), home runs (18) and runs batted in (106) all while managing the ball club through the tightest pennant race in American League history.
“Don’t forget to give credit to my coaching staff,” Boudreau said. “They did a great job and Oscar Mellilo’s scouting was tops. He really had the Braves pegged.”
Boudreau managed a fine month of September where the Indians won 17 of 20 at one point to come back from a 4.5 game deficit in the standings. The Tribe skipper managed, hit third or fourth all season and lead a team of men in the final weeks while their teammate fought for his life.
“And I hope Don Black was listening to the game,” Boudreau added.
Black had a brain hemorrhage on Sept. 13 in the bottom of the second inning while trying to hit in a game against the St. Louis Browns. After losing consciousness on his way to the hospital, Black battled for days at Charity Hospital before working his way off the danger list. He is still resting in his hospital bed as he recovers.
Russ Christopher played the entire season, and most of his career, with a weakened heart. He had his contract sold by the Philadelphia Athletics last season to the Indians when he informed Connie Mack that 1948 would be his last season. He could no longer endure the training necessary to pitch, but would do it for one more season because he needed the money for his pension to help his family incase he dies at a young age.
The team has endured more than any other team while still persevering as a unit to a championship. In addition to Black’s medical emergency, the Indians endured racial tension on every road trip. Only the Brooklyn Dodgers and Indians had African Americans on their teams this season. While fans and players in opposing towns and teams may have resented the Tribe, Larry Doby and Satchel Paige, the team and Veeck embraced them as ballplayers and teammates. Steve Gromek and Doby were seen embracing and celebrating the championship each had played key roles in throughout the season in the locker room.
Braves manager Billy Southworth came to the Cleveland clubhouse to offer his congratulations and an honorable defeat.
“You have a good club, Lou,” Southworth told the Cleveland pilot. “It’s not quite so tough to lose to that kind of a team.”
Southworth personally congratulated Boudreau and the entire Indians team. Shortly after, Indians president Bill Veeck, Vice-President Hank Greenberg and Commissioner Happy Chandler entered. Veeck shook hands with each member of the Indians team.
The players graciously accepted Veeck’s congratulatory handshake, but they’ll also accept the largest World Series bonus. The Tribe voted to give full shares to 34 players, including Satchel Paige and Sam Zoldak, netting each player $6,772 from the World Series pool.
Veterans like Boudreau, Bob Feller, Ken Keltner and Jim Hegan each experienced their first tastes of postseason play and a World Series title after years of falling short. One of the few who has experienced World Series success, Joe Gordon still sees the 1948 season as a special one.
“I’ve been in on a lot of baseball excitement,” Gordon said, “but nothing like that pennant drive. It’s sure great to be with a winner again.”
Gordon is now a five-time World Series champion.
Back in Cleveland, as the night carried on, so did the fans. Windows along Public Square and Euclid Avenue quaked with vibrations from automobile horns, boat whistles, cannon firecrackers, shouts and cheers.
Many youths could be seen out joy-riding in their father’s cars around town. It’s likely many of those same youth will get a pass from school tomorrow to honor their heroes when they return home from Boston via train at 8:30 a.m.