May 6, 1948
After a 6-0 undefeated April, the Indians find themselves at 0-4 in a winless May.
On Thursday, the Cleveland ball club proved that sometimes “grand” isn’t good enough, as the Philadelphia Athletics overcame Ken Keltner’s second inning grand slam and defeated the Indians 8-5.
The Indians tossed their ace pitcher, Bob Feller, but unfortunately he fared as poorly as the other starting pitchers during their four game losing streak, while the Mackmen extended their winning streak to five. The A’s streak of excellence has vaulted them into first place, one full game ahead of the Indians and one half game ahead of the New York Yankees, who were also victorious on Thursday.
Feller turned in his worst performance of the season thus far, lasting only three and one-third innings and allowing eight runs (five earned) on eight hits. The Heater from Van Meter also walked five while earning his second loss of the season.
Quite the opposite of Feller, Philadelphia starting pitcher Dick Fowler was able to pitch around his mistakes, except for the one inning when Keltner hit his grand slam. Fowler pitched a complete game in his first start of the season and surrendered the Indians five runs on eight hits. He was given a nice cushion early as Feller struggled right from the beginning.
The A’s jumped on Feller in the first inning as Tuesday’s hero, Eddie Joost, led off the game with a single. An error by shortstop Lou Boudreau followed, and Philly was in good shape with runners at first and second with nobody out. Third-place hitter Elmer Valo bunted the runners to second and third, and then Ferris Fain walked to load the bases. Feller’s wildness didn’t stop there, as Hank Majeski also walked to force in the first run of the game. After that, Sam Chapman followed with a tapper toward the mound that he beat out for an infield RBI single that scored Barney McCosky.
With two runs in and Philadelphia holding a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first, things went from bad to worse for Feller. With one out and the bases still loaded, Rapid Robert got the ground ball he was looking for right at the previously sure handed player/manager Boudreau, but Boudreau booted this ball as well for his second E-6 of the inning. Before the ball was retrieved and fired back into the infield, both Fain and Majeski had scored for a 4-0 A’s advantage.
The lead did not last long, however. Eddie Robinson led off the top of the second inning with a walk and Hank Edwards followed him with a single. Fowler then walked Joe Gordon to load the bases, and Keltner cleared them with one mighty swing. The grand slam was Keltner’s sixth home run of the season.
Things were basically all Athletics from then on. Feller allowed a single run in the third inning on a double by Mike Guerra and then three more runs in the fourth, when he was pulled from the ballgame. The third run in that inning was on a sacrifice fly surrendered by reliever Steve Gromek, but the run was charged to Feller, who had left the game with Fain on third base.
The Indians chipped away at the Athletics’ lead and made the score its final of 8-5 in the sixth, when Gordon blasted his first home run of the season. Gordon was moved down in the batting order due to some early season struggles and seems to be more comfortable and seeing better pitches in the sixth slot.
Cleveland nearly came all the way back in the seventh inning, as they were able to load the bases and bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate. Pinch hitter Pat Seerey worked a one-out walk and Dale Mitchell had a two-out single. Boudreau followed Mitchell with another walk to juice the bags, but Fowler got Robinson to ground out and end the Indians’ threat. The Cleveland offense was quiet from then on, going down in order in the eighth and ninth innings except for a Joe Tipton leadoff single in the last frame.
Bright spots for the Indians included Keltner and his grand slam as well as Gordon with his solo blast. Gromek and other reliever Lyman Linde were also outstanding for the Indians as well.
The Indians (6-4) will try to end their losing ways once again on Friday as they travel to Washington, D.C., to start a three-game series with the Senators (7-7) under the lights in our nation’s capital. The Indians will send Bob Lemon (2-1, 2.33) to the hill to face the southpaw Mickey Haefner (1-2, 2.62). Lemon has been extremely consistent thus far this season, working his scheduled nine innings in each of his three starts. The Senators are led offensively by veteran outfielder Tom McBride, who has started out the 1948 campaign with an outstanding .556 batting average and comes into the game with eight hits in his last 11 at-bats.
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project