Zoldak Shines In First Start For Tribe; Indians 5, Yankees 2

June 22, 1948

Stock in the Indians and their pennant hopes rose a little this afternoon when newcomer Sam Zoldak pitched into the ninth inning and defeated the New York Yankees, 5-2.

The surprising crowd of 14,341 was impressed with the chubby southpaw’s first start for the Tribe.

Zoldak held the Yankees scoreless for six innings and appeared to tire a bit in the latter third of the game. He has not thrown a complete game yet this season.

Zoldak threw with more velocity than was expected, but he did not strike out a Yankee all afternoon. He did flirt with trouble at times due to walks. Certainly the former Brownie may have been nervous, being thrusted into a pennant race. St. Louis has been in the bottom half of the league for several years.

In the first inning he allowed a sharp single to center field to Phil Rizzuto to start the game, but Tommy Henrich grounded to Tribe second baseman Joe Gordon who started the Indians’ 56th double play of the season. Johnny Lindell, playing for the injured Charlie Keller, walked and advanced to second base when Joe DiMaggio sent a shot to right center field. Zoldak ended the inning with no damage to the scoreboard when he got Bill Johnson to fly out to Larry Doby in right field.

The Tribe welcomed their new hurler to the team with some early run support in the bottom of the first inning. Doby singled to right field with one out and stole second while Lou Boudreau was at the plate. Boudreau was unable to advance Doby, who seems to have played himself back into the lineup, but Eddie Robinson singled with two outs. The base hit allowed Doby to scamper home and give the Tribe a 1-0 lead after an inning.

Cleveland had a chance to tack on more in the second inning when Gordon and Ken Keltner walked to start the inning against Yankee starter Spec Shea. After Jim Hegan bunted and forced Gordon out at third base, Zoldak hit a liner to left field that Lindell made a diving play to snag. He leapt up and threw to second base to double off Keltner and end the inning.

Lindell and DiMaggio again singled with two outs in the top of the third inning, but Johnson lined out to left field for the final out on a fine running catch by Dale Mitchell.

Shea was bounced from the game in the bottom of the third inning when he walked the bases loaded to start the inning. Thurman Tucker (back in the starting lineup for the first time since May 29), Doby, and Boudreau each took free rides to load the bases before Yankees manager Bucky Harris removed Shea in favor of Karl Drews. Drews’ first hitter, Robinson, grounded out sharply to first base but Tucker was able to score and the others moved up a base as the score became 2-0, Cleveland.

Mitchell walked to reload the bases, but Gordon could only cash in with a fly ball to right field deep enough to score Doby and make the lead 3-0. He and Keltner were unable to come through with a big hit to blow the game open.

Shea (3-8) survived only two innings, plus the three hitters faced in the top of the third inning, allowing three runs on two hits and five walks. His control was an issue from the beginning.

The wig-wammers from the shores of Lake Erie tallied another run in the bottom of the fourth inning when Hegan walked to start the inning against Drews. After Zoldak flew to right field and Tucker struck out, Doby bunted for an infield hit to put runners on first and second with two outs. Boudreau laced a single through the left side, plating Hegan and giving the Tribe a 4-0 lead. The base knock was Boudreau’s 42nd RBI of the season and upped his batting average to .373.

Zoldak settled down from his early inning jitters and sliced through the Yankee lineup until the seventh inning. Now tiring, he walked Gus Niarhos and Snuffy Stirnweiss to start the inning. Sherm Lollar pinch-hit for Tommy Byrne – who had pitched the fifth and sixth innings for the Yankees. The former Indian singled to left field, scoring Niarhos from second base and getting the Yankees on the scoreboard. Cleveland still led 4-1 after seven innings.

Cleveland got their run right back in the bottom of the seventh inning when they extended their lead to 5-1. Boudreau started the inning with a double down the left field line and advanced to third on a bunt single by Mitchell. He was able to trot home on Gordon’s fly ball to deep left field.

However, Zoldak showed his fatigue in the eighth inning when DiMaggio hit a leadoff home run into the left field upper deck. It was only the eighth ball ever hit into the second tier at Cleveland Stadium. He joins a group of Pat Seerey, Jeff Heath, George McQuinn, Dale Mitchell, Rudy York, Ted Williams and Eddie Joost. Joost hit his in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader. DiMaggio’s 16th homer of the season ties him with Keltner for the lead in the American League.

DiMaggio’s colossal blast cut the Indians’ lead to 5-2 heading to the ninth inning. Zoldak’s tank finally hit empty when two singles between two outs had runners on second and third with two gone in the final frame. Making sure the squad earned their win, Boudreau sent for Russ Christopher to make the long, gangly trot in from the bullpen. Christopher threw one pitch to pop up Lindell and end the game. He earned his 10th save of the season.

Zoldak’s performance quickly puts him into consideration for further starts with the Tribe. He pitched eight and two-third innings, scattering eight hits and five walks and only allowing two runs. Zoldak (3-4) should provide another option behind Bob Lemon, Bob Feller and Gene Bearden, especially considering Bearden’s recent struggles.

Tomorrow night, a crowd of over 60,000 is expected at the Stadium when Don Black (2-0, 6.50) pitches for the Tribe against New York’s Ed Lopat (4-5, 4.90). The southpaw Lopat has had success against the Tribe over his career, while Black is now possibly competing with Zoldak for mound time.

Photo: ootpdevelopments.com

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