Satch Relieves Lemon in Tribe Loss; Browns 5, Indians 3

July 9, 1948

It isn’t often that fans see the ace of their staff lose to a second division team behind a poor effort that costs them a game in the standings but still go home with a smile on their face.

But many of the 34,780 fans at Cleveland Stadium quickly lowered their boos when Satchel Paige sauntered in from the Indians bullpen to start the fifth inning in relief of Bob Lemon. Lemon allowed four runs in the first two innings and only survived four frames before giving way to Paige. Cleveland lost the game 5-3, but the story of the game was Paige.

Fans have clamored for years in wonder as to how Paige – one of the greatest pitchers of all time – would fare in a big league game. The wait was over Friday night when Paige trotted in from bullpen and took the mound to warm up around a throng of photographers. Paige might have been nervous, becoming the first African-American to pitch in the American League, but he did not show it. The hard-throwing right-hander had been pitching against big leaguers on barnstorming tours for many years.

He allowed a leadoff single in each of the two innings he worked. In the fifth, Chuck Stevens welcomed Paige to the bigs with a base hit to center field. Paige settled down, retiring the next three in order, including logging his first big league strikeout when he set down Whitey Platt.

Paige started the top of the sixth inning with his famous hesitation pitch, but Dick Kokos laced it to center field for a hit. He was quickly doubled up on a line drive to second baseman Joe Gordon, who flipped to Lou Boudreau covering for the double play. Satch got Eddie Pellagrini to fly out to left field to end the sixth and his evening.

The debut of Paige helped subdue some of the boos heard throughout the first four innings in the direction of Tribe hurler and ace Lemon. He allowed three runs in the top of the first inning to the Browns. Back-to-back singles to Stevens and Jerry Priddy and a walk to Platt loaded the bases with just one out. After a chopper back to Lemon forced out the runner at the plate, the starter walked Kokos to force in a run. Roy Partee followed with a single to right field, plating two more and St. Louis had a 3-0 lead before Cleveland could reach the plate.

Cleveland was able to get one of the runs back in the bottom half of the first inning when Dale Mitchell lead off with a single to left field. He advanced to second base with two outs and hurried home with Boudreau’s base hit to right field, cutting the lead to 3-1.

Lemon embarrassed himself and heard it from the fans in the top of the second inning when the Browns’ starting pitcher, Fred Sanford took him deep for a home run. The weak-hitting pitcher’s homer was his first home run of the season and first RBI and gave St. Louis a 4-1 lead. Lemon survived for two more innings, but was removed for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fourth.

The Tribe ace, Lemon, (12-7) suffered the loss, allowing four runs on five hits and two walks, while striking out only two. He did not retake sole possession of the major’s lead in wins or strikeouts this evening.

Paige helped quiet some of the boos headed toward Lemon and Boudreau with his two solid frames. In the bottom of the sixth inning Paige was lifted for a pinch-hitter when Larry Doby hit for him with Wally Judnich on second. Doby, the first African-American to integrate the American League, singled to right field, driving Judnich home and cutting the score to 4-2, St. Louis.

Ed Klieman replaced Paige on the mound, but could not hold the deficit like Satchel did. Sanford started the inning with a single to center field and a bunt by Bob Dillinger put two on with no one out. After Stevens bunted the two into scoring position and Priddy walked to load the bases, Platt flew out to Judnich in center field to bring home Platt and extend the Browns’ lead to 5-2.

The Tribe got the run back in the bottom of the seventh when Gordon walked and scored from first base on Ken Keltner’s double down the left field line. Keltner’s tenth double of the season and 57th RBI cut the score to 5-3 and chased Sanford from the game. Ned Garver came on and worked the final seven outs and did not allow the Indians to get any closer.

Sanford (7-8) earned the win, pitching six and two-thirds, scattering 12 hits and three runs, while walking two and not striking out anyone. Garver did not allow a hit and struck out two, earning his second save of the season.

The Tribe outhit the Browns, 12-9, but were unable to string the base hits together to produce enough offense to come back after Lemon’s sour start. The loss again drops the Indians into a virtual tie with the Philadelphia Athletics. The Mackmen squeaked by the Boston Red Sox, 8-7, to leave themselves just ten percentage points behind the Indians. The New York Yankees won 9-0 in Washington to trail first place by just two and a half games.

Cleveland and St. Louis are idle on Saturday before ending the first half of the season with a doubleheader on Sunday. Bob Feller (9-9, 3.61) will try to end his tumultuous first half on a positive note against right-hander Cliff Fannin (3-8, 4.82) of the Browns. The Tribe has yet to name a starter for the second game, but the Browns will likely send Ray Shore (1-0, 5.10) to finalize the first half.

Photo: Getty Images

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