May 11, 1948
Baseball is often a game of inches or hinges on just a couple of plays to determine the outcome. Both were true Tuesday afternoon, as the Yankees snapped the Indians’ five-game winning streak and extended their own win streak to four games with a 4-1 defeat of the Tribe.
It was a game of inches and close plays not made by the Tribe that made the difference. Former Tribesmen Allie Reynolds got the best of his former team, but Bob Lemon matched him nearly pitch-for-pitch in a game that was much closer than the scoreboard indicated.
New York took the lead quickly in the bottom of the first inning. Bobby Brown – playing shortstop for the injured Phil Rizzuto – singled to left field to start the inning. Charlie Keller followed with a sinking liner to center field that Tribe center fielder Thurman Tucker tried to make a shoe-string catch on. Tucker missed the catch and the ball squirted past him. Keller trotted in to second base for a double, but Brown was able to scamper all the way home from first base giving the Yankees an early 1-0 lead.
Johnny Lindell moved Keller to third base with a ground ball to the right side. Then Joe DiMaggio flew out to right field to sacrifice Keller home, giving New York a 2-0 lead after one inning. Had Tucker been able to make the catch, the Bronx Bombers could have been held scoreless.
A defensive play not being made by the Tribe cost them another run in the bottom of the third inning when Keller started the frame with a double. Lindell grounded out to Lou Boudreau, keeping Keller at second. The aging veteran Keller could only advance to third base on DiMaggio’s single to center field, putting runners on the corners with one out when Yogi Berra grounded to third base. Tribe third baseman Ken Keltner could have thrown Keller out at home easily, but elected to try and turn an inning-ending double play. His throw to second cut down DiMaggio, but Joe Gordon’s relay throw to first was wide of the bag and Keller scored making it 3-0 New York. Lemon struck out the next hitter, Billy Johnson.
Reynolds, meanwhile, was cruising through the Tribe’s lineup. He scattered four hits through the first three innings. Cleveland had a golden opportunity to get back in the game in the top of the fourth inning when they had four sharply hit balls, but could salvage only one run.
Eddie Robinson started the top of the fourth inning with a long fly ball down the right field line that appeared to be a home run, but first base umpire Joe Paparella called the ball foul. Indians manager Boudreau protested, but Paparella would not change his call. Instead of a home run, Robinson eventually struck out. Gordon followed with a long fly ball to left field, but the hobbling Keller was able to spear the liner just as it was about to enter the left field seats.
Keller could not catch Keltner’s blast into the left field seats though. The bomb cut the score to 3-1, New York and was Keltner’s tenth home run of the season. He now has a three home run lead over Boston’s Ted Williams and the rest of the American League. Keltner is one of the most surprising players around baseball this season as his ten homers are just one less of the eleven he hit in all of 1947.
The inning ended when Dale Mitchell scorched the fourth ball of the inning off Reynolds. This one was a line drive to deep right center field, but DiMaggio was able to make a leaping one-handed catch just in time and ended the inning. In hindsight, the fourth inning was the Indians’ best chance to score in the contest. Cleveland would only have one more scoring threat in the seventh inning.
Defense reared its ugly head again in the bottom of the fifth when the Yankees scored their final run of the contest. This time Lindell hit a one-out double down the left field line to start the rally, but Lemon was able to get DiMaggio to fly to right field for the second out. Berra followed with a ground ball to second base but Gordon juggled the ball as he prepared to make the throw to keep the inning alive. Johnson then followed with a base hit to left field to plate Lindell for an unearned run, making the score 4-1.
Cleveland’s last best chance to get back into the game came in the seventh inning when Keltner led off with a single. After Mitchell flew out to left field, Jim Hegan singled to put runners on the corners with only one out. Hank Edwards pinch-hit for Lemon, but popped out to shortstop for the second out and Tucker was unable to come through when he grounded out to first.
Lemon (3-2) pitched just six innings, allowing eight hits, four runs – only three were earned – while walking one and striking out four. Lemon matched Reynolds nearly pitch-for-pitch, but a few plays in the field were the difference in the game. It was the first time Lemon did not go the distance, pitching all nine innings. Bob Muncrief pitched two fine innings of relief, allowing just one hit.
Reynolds (5-0) logs his fifth win of the season and leads the American League in that category. He went the distance, scattering nine hits and allowing just the lone run on the homer to Keltner. He walked two and struck out five. The former Indian was traded to New York after the 1946 season for Gordon. He had his best season a year ago, going 19-8 with a 3.20 ERA. With a 2.05 ERA currently, he looks to potentially be in line for another career year and his first All-Star appearance.
The Indians are now a full game back of the league leading Philadelphia Athletics in the standings and tied with the Yankees for second place. Cleveland is 21 percentage points ahead of New York.
The Indians will send Gene Bearden (1-0) to the mound tomorrow night for his second start of the season. The left-hander allowed just one run and pitched into the ninth inning on May 8 against the Washington Senators. New York counters with a southpaw of its own, Ed Lopat (1-3). Lopat was acquired in the offseason from the Chicago White Sox, where he beat the Indians four times in five starts last season. Tomorrow night’s game is the first night game at Yankee Stadium this season.
Photo: AP Photo