May 18, 1948
A strong pitching performance from southpaw Gene Bearden and a six run outburst in the first two innings gave the Cleveland Indians a 6-1 victory over the Philadelphia Athletics on Tuesday night.
Bearden (2-0) held Philadelphia in check throughout the game in the first night game of the season at Cleveland Stadium. He easily outdueled fellow Purple Heart recipient Lou Brissie of the Athletics. Both men left their military obligations behind with the fear that severe injuries to their legs would prohibit them from ever playing professional baseball again.
Both have defied the odds.
In his second start of the season and just the third appearance of his career, the Cleveland rookie pitcher Bearden went the distance on a chilly evening on the lakefront, a week and a half after being pulled one out short of a complete game. He allowed six hits on the evening, all of which were singles, and gave up one run. He walked four and struck out three. He effectively worked out of trouble and rarely pitched without a runner on base, as the Athletics failed to reach base in just the second and ninth innings.
Two batters into the bottom half of the first, the Indians claimed the lead off Brissie. Thurman Tucker drew a leadoff walk and Allie Clark drove him home with an RBI-triple to right-center. After a walk to Lou Boudreau and a flyout for the first out of the inning, Joe Gordon grounded out back to Brissie, who went to first for the second out. Clark scored from third on the play, giving Cleveland a 2-0 lead.
Facing the bottom of the order the next inning, Brissie put the first four batters on base before getting the hook. Pat Seerey drew a leadoff walk. Catcher Jim Hegan singled off of the leg of third baseman Hank Majeski. Bearden aided his own cause with a first-pitch RBI-single to center to score Seerey from second, despite Seerey running through the stop sign at third base from third base coach Bill McKechnie. He scored standing up due to a wide throw from center fielder Sam Chapman.
The next batter, Tucker, repeated Bearden’s effort to score Hegan and chased Brissie from the ball game.
Reliever Bob Savage, another Purple Heart veteran, took over on the mound and got two quick outs before giving up a two-run triple to Eddie Robinson. Right fielder Don White misplayed the ball and his shoe-string catch attempt failed, allowing the ball to roll all the way into the right field corner. A flyout by Gordon ended the inning, but the Indians plated four and took a 6-0 lead.
Brissie (3-3) took the loss on the night in his fourth start and seventh appearance of the year. He gave up four hits and allowed three walks. He was charged with six earned runs on the night and retired just three of the ten batters he faced.
Savage and Bubba Harris combined to limit Cleveland to just four base runners and did not allow a man to advance beyond first base over the final seven innings, but the lead given to Bearden was too much for the Athletics to overcome.
“With that kind of work behind you and with a club that gives you a six run lead when the game is barely underway, it’s easy to win,” said Bearden after the game. “I felt fine until the last couple of innings, then started to tighten up a little because of the cold, but it didn’t bother me too much.”
After an 0-for-3 performance at the plate, Boudreau’s batting average drops to .423 on the season.
The win was the Indians’ first of the season against the A’s, who lost control of the lead of the American League with the loss and fell to 16-7. With the win, the Indians improved to 14-6 on the season and regain the top spot over the A’s by 0.004 points.
“We gained on all of our important rivals,” manager Boudreau said after the game. “But tomorrow night is an even bigger one for us to hurdle.”