June 16, 1948
Coming into the season, Cleveland’s Bob Feller and Boston’s Ted Williams were widely considered to be the best pitcher and hitter, respectively, in baseball. Despite Feller’s team having a better record and still sitting atop the American League standings, it is Teddy Ballgame who has greatly outshined Rapid Robert in the quest to be baseball’s best. It was never more evident than in the Red Sox’s 7-4 victory over the Indians on Wednesday.
Williams ripped Feller all game long, going 4-for-4 with two doubles and a home run off of the Indians ace in leading his team to victory. The outstanding performance raised Williams’ incredible average to .408 and dropped Feller’s record to a mediocre 5-7. The loss was the fifth straight decision that Feller has dropped. He has not won a game since May 19.
Opposing Feller in the contest was right-hander Joe Dobson, who was not great but benefited from Feller’s struggles. The Beantown hurler worked eight and two-thirds innings for his eighth victory of the season against four defeats.
Feller struggled from the get-go, as Dom DiMaggio led off the ballgame with a single and moved into scoring position thanks to a Jim Hegan passed ball. After Johnny Pesky walked, Williams smashed his first single opposite the “Boudreau Shift” to load the bases. Indians player/manager Lou Boudreau has made headlines recently for his right-side-heavy shift whenever Williams comes to the plate.
Boston got its first run when Stan Spence grounded into a 6-3 double play and its second run of the inning when Vern Stephens singled home Pesky. The 2-0 Boston advantage put Cleveland in a hole right away.
As Dobson was carving up the Tribe hitters early, the BoSox batters again got to Feller. In the third inning, Williams kicked off the rally with a one-out double that dusted Dale Mitchell in left. A wild pitch moved the Splendid Splinter to third and Spence brought him home with a single to make the score 3-0.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Tribe offense that had only recorded one hit to that point finally touched the plate thanks to their hottest hitter. Third baseman Ken Keltner continued his torrid pace by blasting his league leading 15th home run of the season. The solo shot was the only run support that Feller was given on the day and was just the second run of support in Feller’s last 30 innings of work.
Boston, meanwhile, added all of the runs that it would need in the seventh, when both Williams and Bobby Doerr blasted a pair of two-run homers off of the struggling righty. Being pinch-hit for in the bottom half of the seventh, Feller was charged with seven earned runs in seven innings of work which raised his ERA to a pedestrian 3.83. The Heater from Van Meter has not finished a season with an ERA that high since 1938.
The Red Sox 7-1 lead was strong enough to withstand two Cleveland rallies in the eighth and ninth innings, as the Tribe scored a few runs to make the score more respectable. In the bottom of the eighth, Joe Gordon smacked a bases loaded double to score Boudreau and Hank Edwards and then Wally Judnich worked a bases loaded walk in the ninth. The three late runs gave the score its final tally of 7-4.
Bright spots for the Indians in defeat came from Keltner’s home run, Edwards’ three hits and Gordon’s two RBI. Eddie Robinson and Judnich also combined to reach base seven times via the walk as well.
The Indians will try to avoid the sweep at the hands of the red hot Red Sox on Thursday. The Tribe will send Don Black (2-0, 5.74) to the mound to face former Indian Denny Galehouse (1-3, 3.59) in the series finale. Galehouse started his career in Cleveland in 1934 and pitched 114 games for the Indians through 1938. After the 1938 season, Galehouse was traded by the Indians to the Red Sox in the deal that brought the Tribe Ben Chapman.