May 17, 1948
Throughout the early months of the 1948 season, the Indians have been looking for a starting pitcher or two to throw behind Bob Feller and Bob Lemon. “The Bobs” have accounted for much of the Indians’ early season success – as the Indians currently sit in second place behind the incoming Philadelphia Athletics – but they will need at least one more reliable pitcher if they want to seriously contend for the American League pennant.
If Sunday was any indication, the Indians and manager Lou Boudreau might have found that pitcher.
Rookie Bill Kennedy made his first Major League start in game two of Sunday’s doubleheader and was brilliant in his seven-plus innings of work. Before tiring in the eighth, Kennedy had allowed no runs on only one hit and compiled eight strikeouts of the White Sox – an impressive feat even though Chicago boasts the league’s worst record at 4-16.
The left-hander featured a nasty curveball on Sunday, a pitch that he nearly scrapped earlier in the season.
“I planned to give up throwing curves after the Tigers hit me pretty solidly a couple of times when I relieved Bob Feller here,” Kennedy said in an interview with The Plain Dealer. “The thing that really made me wonder if I had forgotten how to throw a curve though was when Walker Cooper hit one of ‘em for a home run during spring training. For all I know that ball may still be traveling.”
The forgotten curveball reappeared Sunday after Kennedy had made two less-than-stellar performances out of the bullpen earlier this season.
“It came in mighty handy today,” Kennedy added. “It just sort of seemed to come back suddenly in the second inning.”
Once Kennedy rediscovered his Uncle Charlie, there was no hope for the White Sox hitters. While he did not complete his first Major League start, Kennedy was overall very happy with his performance.
“I’m glad I was able to go as far as I did,” Kennedy said. “After all, I haven’t pitched more than three innings in any one game all year and the last time I was on the pitcher’s mound was in that Detroit game. I haven’t even been out there in batting practice.
“It makes a lot of difference whether you are out there in the middle of the diamond throwing to batters or just warming up along the sidelines.”
Boudreau, the victim of booing crowds all evening during Kennedy’s start, also saw some good in his 27-year-old southpaw.
“A very satisfactory performance,” the Indians player/manager added.
Satisfactory may be a complete undersell, but Boudreau knows that this performance may only be the tip of the iceberg for Kennedy. After all, Kennedy is not a name that has come completely out of the blue, as the left-hander dominated the Coastal Carolina League only two short years ago by striking out an unbelievable 456 batters. After Sunday’s performance, Kennedy hopes that everything is falling back into place.
“Yes, I seem to be doing everything right again,” Kennedy said. “Seems like I get all messed up every year in training camp and lose everything I had the year before. Muddy Ruel has been working with me a lot recently and I think he has me back in form again.”
The Indians hope that this form keeps up, as they could certainly use another consistent arm in their starting rotation.
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project (pictured: coaches Ruel & Bill McKechnie)