Keltner and Feller Lead Tribe by Boston in Game 1; Indians 4, Red Sox 1

May 9, 1948

The Indians have a new power threat to go with one of their old threats.

Ken Keltner hit two more home runs in the first game of a doubleheader this afternoon and Bob Feller provided another strong pitching performance to give the Indians a 4-1 victory in front of 11,902 fans at Fenway Park. Keltner’s two home runs give him eight on the season and come as an early surprise, since he only had eleven a season ago.

The game began immediately as a pitcher’s duel with Feller and Boston starter Joe Dobson matching each other with zeros through three frames. Feller had scattered three hits through three innings when Ted Williams got the best of him with a solo home run to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning. The blast gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead and also tied Williams and Keltner for the league lead in home runs at six apiece.

However, Williams would not be tied for the lead very long because Keltner answered back with a solo blast of his own, over the Green Monster, with one out in the top of the fifth. It was Keltner’s seventh blast of the season.

With the exception of the two home runs, Dobson and Feller continued to slice through the opposing team. While Feller used his blazing fastball and sharp curveball, Dobson might have been using something else. Throughout the game the Indians contested that Dobson was going to his mouth and licking his fingers before every pitch and may be using a “spitter.”

Cleveland had a golden opportunity to score in the top of the seventh inning when they loaded the bases with no one out. Lou Boudreau started the inning when he reached on an infield single. Eddie Robinson doubled to right field to advance he and Boudreau to second and third base. After Gordon walked, it seemed the Indians finally had Dobson’s number.

After falling behind 3-0 in the count, Dobson rebounded with three straight strikes to strike out Keltner with the bases loaded. Before each strike he went to his mouth, licking his fingers. Keltner and the Indians protested after striking out, but to no avail. Again falling behind 3-0, Dobson battled back to a full count before getting Dale Mitchell to pop out in foul ground to Red Sox catcher, Birdie Tebbetts. When Jim Hegan lined out to Dom DiMaggio in center field, the Indians offensive threat was squandered as fans rose for the seventh inning stretch.

When Dobson headed to the mound to start the ninth inning home plate umpire Art Passarella told him he was no longer to go to his mouth because of the suspicion he was throwing a spitter. It made no difference in the ninth as he retired the Tribe in order.

Meanwhile, Feller danced into some trouble in the bottom of the ninth inning. With one out he gave up a double off the wall to Vern Stephens. After intentionally walking Bobby Doerr – to set up a potential double play – Feller struck out Sam Mele for the second out. He ended the threat in the ninth when he got Tebbetts to ground back to him.

Dobson might have eluded trouble in the ninth inning, but his luck dried up in the 10th inning when Keltner led off the inning with his second homer of the game and eighth of the season, giving the Tribe a 2-1 lead. Cleveland wasn’t done, however, as Mitchell singled after the clout. Hegan popped out to second base before Feller sacrificed Mitchell to second base with two outs. After Thurman Tucker walked, Larry Doby singled to right field, scoring Mitchell. Boudreau followed with a single to left field to score Tucker and make it 4-1 Tribe, heading to the bottom of the 10th inning.

Boudreau and Keltner each had three hits in the game and a combined three RBI. Keltner’s two homers served as his RBI, while Boudreau provided an insurance run in the 10th. The manager’s three hits upped his season batting average to .442.

In the bottom of the tenth inning Feller retired Wally Moses, pinch-hitting for Dobson, for the first out, but DiMaggio doubled to center field. Clearly tiring and pitching on only two days rest, Feller was removed from the game in favor of relief specialist Russ Christopher. Boudreau’s move paid off when Christopher promptly got Johnny Pesky to ground out to second base and Williams to ground to first base to end the game.

Feller (3-2) pitched nine and two-thirds innings, scattering eight hits, allowing just the solo home run to Williams in the fourth inning, and walking three and striking out four. Pitching on short rest, Feller rebounded nicely from two straight defeats.

Dobson (1-3) survived the entire game, but was saddled with the loss. He pitched all ten innings, allowing nine hits and four runs while walking two and striking out four. His two home runs to Keltner were too much to overcome.

The Indians take the field again momentarily, looking to sweep the Sunday doubleheader, when Don Black makes his second start of the season against Boston’s Ellis Kinder (1-0). Black is looking to rebound from his first start of the season when he could not get out of the third inning. Kinder pitched three innings of relief three days ago to defeat the Detroit Tigers in his only appearance this season.

Photo: Conlon Collection

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