June 7, 1948
One man’s misfortune is another man’s gain.
The saying applies perfectly to the Tribe’s Steve Gromek after Sunday’s 11-1 victory in the second game of the twin bill. Gromek allowed a leadoff home run to Eddie Joost in the bottom of the first before allowing only five more hits and striking out four in his first start of the season. It was his first complete game in two seasons.
“You never know where the next blessing will come from,” Boudreau said.
Gromek was called upon to pitch only when Indians’ starter Don Black was hit on the left foot with a batted ball while throwing batting practice in Washington last week. X-rays revealed a chipped bone, resulting in Black needing to miss ten days before he can return.
With Black unavailable and Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Gene Bearden and Bob Muncrief all having pitched in the last two days, Boudreau had no choice but to turn to Gromek. It was he or the struggling Bill Kennedy. Ed Klieman and Russ Christopher are strictly bullpen arms.
Gromek came to the aid of the thin pitching staff that currently is carrying only nine pitchers. Black’s injury leaves the Tribe with only eight healthy, available arms. Gromek’s complete game was a pleasant surprise and helped a tired staff. He and Lemon each pitched complete games on Sunday, allowing the other six pitchers to rest for the remainder of the east coast road trip.
His Sunday performance will likely get him another start for the Tribe later this week in Boston.
In 1945, Gromek was 19-9, with a 2.55 ERA in 30 starts, but the next year he fell out of favor with Boudreau and new team president Bill Veeck when he was 5-15 with a 4.33 ERA. In 1947, Gromek suffered a knee injury during spring training and never had his normal strength. He was 3-5, with a 3.74 ERA, but pitched primarily out of the bullpen. He only made seven starts and did not finish any of them. He entered this season expecting to only relieve.
But inconsistent starting pitching behind Lemon, Feller and Bearden has created new opportunities for Gromek and others on the Tribe. Tonight Feller will pitch on just two days’ rest after throwing eleven innings on Friday night in Washington. Feller and the Indians are looking to issue a four-game sweep to the Athletics on their home field. A win tonight would give the Tribe a three and one-half game lead over Philadelphia.
Tomorrow night, Bearden will pitch on two days rest against the struggling Red Sox in Boston. Assuming Lemon pitches at Fenway Park on Wednesday, it would put Gromek in line to start again Thursday afternoon in Boston.