June 12, 1948
Something happened yesterday in the seventh inning of the Indians and Yankees game that has not happened all year. It might have gone unnoticed by most, but not by manager Lou Boudreau.
It might not have been as noticeable as Bob Lemon blowing a five-run lead or Yogi Berra getting ejected for arguing balls and strikes and no one threw garbage on the field, but a bat was thrown and dirt was kicked.
Boudreau struck out for the first time all season.
The Tribe had just re-taken the lead and had a 9-6 advantage after Dale Mitchell singled home Joe Tipton. Once Mitchell stole second base and Bob Kennedy drew a walk, Boudreau strode to the plate with two on and two out against the Yankees’ lefty Joe Page.
He was looking to add to his 38 RBI already accumulated this season. As first and second bases were full and the Indians leading, they had to pitch to him. With his current .363 batting average, teams have pitched around him all season. He already has 32 walks, contributing to his .474 on-base percentage.
But this time, it wasn’t meant to be. Page blew a 2-2 fastball by him to strand Mitchell and Kennedy and end the inning. Boudreau, who rarely shows emotion, flung the bat in the direction of the Tribe’s dugout in disgust.
While Boudreau talks to the media often in regards to the team, he rarely shares information or brags on his own account. But considering the team has logged almost 42 full games before his first strikeout and he is having his best season as a player, one has to wonder if Boudreau secretly felt he might be able to go an entire season without striking out?
He only struck out ten times in 1947 and 14 in 1946, so getting the right-handed hitter to miss is already a rarity. While it’s hard to consider anyone a contender, Boudreau is as good as anyone if Joe Sewell’s record of only three strikeouts in 1930 is to ever be broken. Sewell, a Tribesman himself, only had four seasons in his 13-year career where he struck out ten times or more.
Maybe part of Boudreau’s disgust at finally swinging and missing this season was that it took an injury to leave him susceptible to a whiff. Boudreau injured his left shoulder Tuesday night in Boston. Despite being in obvious pain, he immediately stated he would be ready to play the next day. Luckily, Mother Nature rained out Wednesday’s contest, allowing him a day to receive heat treatments, but he was back on the field Thursday.
When the Indians were blown out early, Boudreau pulled himself from the game for the final four innings. It was only the second time he’s missed any action this season. He sat one inning at home against Boston on May 21.
Always a fringe Most Valuable Player candidate (he finished third last season), this year has been his best in the big leagues. His best season as a player, on his best team as a manager. Boudreau might not want to talk about himself, but his play at the plate and his dedication on the field is going to start forcing others to talk about him even more.
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project (featured with batboy Billy Sheridan)