May 30, 1948
During Saturday’s 4-0 victory over Chicago, the Indians might have lost their center fielder and leadoff hitter, Thurman Tucker, for several weeks. Tucker was injured during his final at-bat on what appeared to be a freak injury on a swing, where the ball managed to graze off of his bat and still hit his finger. The finger appears to be broken.
It is not good news for the Indians, who traded for Tucker in January and called him “the finest defensive player in baseball” in an article originally from the Telegraph Herald. The deal sent catcher Ralph Weigel to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for the outfielder. Tucker was having a very solid first season in Cleveland, batting .299 with eight RBI, four doubles, one triple, 17 walks, six stolen bases and no errors. Tucker is everything that the Indians could have hoped for after coming off of a down season.
Tucker hit only .236 in 89 games for the Pale Hose last season, missing time early due to a stomach ailment and eventually splitting time with Dave Philley in center. The 1947 season was a far fall for Tucker, who was only two seasons removed from an All-Star campaign.
While playing with Chicago in 1944, Tucker seemingly came out of nowhere after a poor rookie campaign. “Joe E.,” as he is nicknamed due to his resemblance to comedian Joe E. Brown, batted .287 with two home runs, 46 RBI and 13 steals during the 1944 season. He represented the White Sox in the mid-summer classic that July.
Tucker then missed the 1945 season due to military service and came back strong in ’46 to put up similar stats to his All-Star year. The newfound consistency was a pleasant surprise for Tucker and the White Sox, considering Tucker spent nearly all of seven seasons in the minor leagues before playing in only seven games for the Sox in 1942.
Throughout his minor league years, the Texas native played in independent leagues with the Fayetteville Bears, Siloam Springs Travelers, El Dorado Lions, Abbeville A’s and Greenville Bucks. He signed with the Red Sox organization in 1939 and eventually landed in Chicago.
Tucker’s injury could shuffle things temporarily for the second place Indians, where the most likely scenario has Wally Judnich taking over in center field. Second year Major Leaguer Larry Doby also could see some time in center, but Judnich will likely get the first crack at the job. Left fielder Dale Mitchell will probably get the first look batting leadoff in manager Lou Boudreau’s order as well.
Assuming that the early reports are true, Tucker should miss around two weeks and will not be able to hit or play the outfield. Barring any unforeseen setbacks or circumstances, Tucker should reassume his role in center field and at the top of the lineup upon his return.