May 25, 1948
The story should have been about the Indians’ Bob Lemon defeating the Washington Senators for the second time this season and keeping a thin half game lead over the Philadelphia Athletics.
However, Lemon’s complete game, four-hit shutout with eleven strikeouts became a secondary story on Tuesday night in front of 23,417 fans when Ken Keltner was hit on the arm and forced to leave the game in the fourth inning. Originally, it was feared he could have broken his arm when he was hit by a throw diving back into first base.
“It’s a bruise,” Indians manager Lou Boudreau originally told Charles Heaton of The Plain Dealer. “He’ll probably miss a couple days, but it’s a relief.
Had Keltner fractured his arm, he would have missed six to eight weeks, instead of a couple of days. The Indians already have stated that Keltner will not play Wednesday night in the homestand’s finale against the Senators.
Cleveland took the lead bottom of the third inning when Lemon doubled with one out. After Thurman Tucker was hit by a pitch, Allie Clark reached via an infield single to load the bases. Senators’ starter and knuckleballer Mickey Haefner had no choice but to face Boudreau with the bases loaded. He promptly laced a single to right field, scoring Lemon and Tucker to make the score 2-0 with runners on the corners and just one out.
Clark helped run the Indians out of the inning though when Cleveland tried a double steal. Nats’ shortstop John Sullivan cut catcher Jake Early’s thrown and relayed back home to cut down Clark for the second out. Eddie Robinson ended the inning by flying out to center field. The ball was deep enough Clark could have scored.
Already leading 2-0, the Tribe added two more insurance runs in the fourth inning, but not without a scare. Johnny Berardino – already playing for an injured Joe Gordon – started the frame with a single to left field and Keltner followed with a single of his own to the left side to put runners on first and second base with no one out.
Pat Seerey tried to bunt to advance the runners into scoring position, however, his bunt was popped up. Nats’ third baseman Eddie Yost trapped the ball instead of catching it, but Keltner thought the ball was caught on the fly. Instead of running to second, he scampered back to first as Yost threw to the bag to retire Seerey. Yost’s throw caught Keltner on the right forearm.
“I had a pretty good lead,” Keltner said. “From where I was it looked as though Yost speared it and I was trying to scramble back.”
With runners on the corners and one out, Joe Tipton singled on the infield to score Berardino and advance Seerey to second base. Lemon singled to right field to allow Seerey to rumble home to make the score 4-0. Tipton advanced to third base and Lemon to second on the throw, but neither would be able to score on groundouts in the infield.
When Keltner tried to take the field in the fifth inning though, he couldn’t.
“When I got ready to go up in the fifth,” Keltner said. “I couldn’t grip the bat. That got me worried.”
Clark was forced in from left field to make his first major league appearance at third base and Dale Mitchell moved into left field. The Indians only have one backup infielder, Berardino, who already was playing for Gordon who was unavailable with a sore back, a muscular condition which could keep him out of action for several days while he undergoes diathermy treatments.
After an initial examination, Keltner received X-rays and found no fracture or break. His forearm, deemed just a deep bruise, will keep him out of Wednesday’s game in hopes the off day on Thursday will allow him to be able to play on Friday in Chicago. Keltner is currently the team and league leader in home runs. He has not missed considerable time from the Tribe lineup since last season when he broke his jaw when he was hit in the face with a pitched ball.
Haefner’s evening was over after four innings, allowing eight hits and four runs while walking one and not striking out a hitter. Haefner (1-5) is a soft-throwing left-hander that often gives the Tribe fits, but he has lost both of his starts against Cleveland this year. Dick Welteroth pitched the final four innings, allowing just three hits and a walk while shutting out the Indians.
Meanwhile, with players out of position on defense and the injury bug biting all around him, Lemon quietly put on a show on the mound. After Keltner left the game, Lemon only allowed a double to Mickey Vernon in the sixth inning and a walk to Gil Coan in the eighth. Lemon (5-2) had control of the game from the beginning, only allowing four hits and three walks while striking out eleven.
Offensively, the Indians knocked eleven hits, most of them coming in the first four innings. They were paced by two hits each from Clark, Berardino, Mitchell off the bench, and Lemon. They’ll likely need to find ways to scratch out runs in the next couple days while two of their best power hitters, Keltner and Gordon, are sidelined.
The Tribe is 8-3 on their homestand as they head to the finale tomorrow, still clinging to a half game lead over the Philadelphia Athletics. The Mackmen won today, 4-3, in Chicago to keep pace with the Indians.
Runs may be at a minimum for the Tribe tomorrow with their injured offense on the field, but Gene Bearden (3-0, 0.68) may be just the guy to take the mound. Bearden has only allowed two runs in 26 2/3 innings over three games. He’ll be opposed by the Senators’ Sid Hudson (1-3, 5.23) tomorrow evening at the Stadium.