July 21, 1948
The Indians trailed by four runs and had only nine outs remaining Wednesday afternoon when the bats came alive, stunning New York’s bullpen and their doubleheader crowd of 66,245. The win keeps the Indians at the top of the ever-tightening American League race.
After rallying to cut the lead in the seventh inning, the Tribe tied the game and then took the lead on Jim Hegan’s grand slam in the eighth. Hegan’s seventh homer saved the Tribe from another dismal starting pitching effort. Cleveland provided little help for its hurler, Steve Gromek, making two errors.
Cleveland took an early 1-0 lead off of New York starter Frank Hiller when Larry Doby walked in the top of the first inning and stole second base. Yogi Berra’s throw sailed into center field and Doby was able to advance to third base, making it easy to trot home when Hank Edwards singled to right field. It took only two batters in the bottom of the first, however, for Gromek to give the lead up. Tommy Henrich hit a solo home run, tying the game at one. It was his tenth homer of the season.
Hiller’s wildness sparked another run for Cleveland in the third inning. He walked Gromek, Doby and Edwards to load the bases with one out. The Tribe couldn’t capitalize on a big inning though, getting just a run when Lou Boudreau flew out to right field and Gromek tagged up and scored to give the Indians a 2-1 lead. New York again took little time to get their run back in the bottom half of the inning when Henrich this time doubled, advanced to third base on a flyball and walked home on Hegan’s error behind the plate.
The Tribe continued to keep scoring in the fourth inning. Singles by Eddie Robinson and Steve Gromek set the stage for Dale Mitchell to double to center field and score both runners, giving the Tribe a 4-2 lead. Mitchell’s 16th double of the season extended his hitting streak to 19 games. It also ended Hiller’s afternoon after just three and two-third innings, allowing four hits and four runs, while walking four and just striking out one. Lefty Joe Page came on in relief for New York.
Gromek would soon head to the showers himself when he was unable to hold another lead. This time he’d help put the Indians in a hole. After getting the first two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, Gromek walked Phil Rizzuto, gave up a double to Page and walked Snuffy Stirnweiss. Henrich punished Gromek again with another double, driving home Page and Rizzuto to tie the game at four. With two runners still in scoring position, Boudreau sent for Ed Klieman to come in out of the Indian bullpen.
Klieman and his defense couldn’t stop the Yankees from scoring. Berra grounded to Joe Gordon, but he misplayed the grounder allowing Stirnweiss to score and Henrich to advance to third base. Joe DiMaggio singled to plate Henrich and the Yankees had a 6-4 lead. All four runs were with two outs.
Gromek didn’t receive a strong defense this afternoon. He lasted just three and two-third innings, allowing six hits and six runs – just three earned – while walking four and striking out one. While his defense struggled, Gromek was unable to end the two-out rally in the fourth inning.
Klieman couldn’t stop the Yankee invasion in the fifth inning as they extended their lead and appeared to take control of the game. George McQuinn started the inning with a solo homer to right field, his tenth of the season. Later in the inning Rizzuto was hit by a pitch and advanced to third base when Page singled. Rizzuto was able to scoot home on a passed ball, giving the Yankees an 8-4 lead after five innings. Klieman would be removed for a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth inning and Satchel Paige took over on the mound.
After Paige stifled the Yankees in the sixth inning, the Tribe began their comeback in the top of the seventh. Boudreau doubled and Gordon singled to start the inning before Ken Keltner flew out to center field so that Boudreau could tag and score, cutting the deficit to 8-5. Robinson singled to right field, putting runners on the corners before Hegan flew out to right field.
With two on and two out, Boudreau pinch-hit for Paige with Hal Peck. Peck came through with a clutch two-out single to center field, scoring Gordon and advancing Robinson to second base. Mitchell followed with another single up the middle to bring home Robinson and make the score 8-7. Doby was unable to come through with one more hit to tie the game and the Tribe continued to trail.
Gene Bearden started the bottom of the seventh inning and retired two outs, but also walked three to load the bases. Russ Christopher had to retire Stirnweiss with a fly ball to left field to leave the bases full of Yankees and the score just a one run game.
Christopher’s first out earned in the game would prove to be his most important because the Tribe offense erupted in the top of the eighth inning. Allie Clark – who entered the game for Edwards when the lefty Page came in for New York – singled to left field to start the inning. Boudreau bunted him over to second base before Gordon walked. Keltner tied the game for the fourth time with a single to center, bringing Clark home and advancing Gordon to third base with just one out.
Keltner’s knock ended Page’s day. Yankees’ manager Bucky Harris called Karl Drews into the game to try and keep it deadlocked. However, Drews entered and walked pinch-hitter Wally Judnich to load the bases. Hegan then issued the critical blow, blasting a grand slam to the bleachers in left field for his seventh homer of the season. Hegan’s clout gave the Tribe a 12-8 lead, and one they wouldn’t surrender again.
Christopher (2-1) worked the last two innings, allowing a single and walk in both frames, but avoided disaster. The side-winder earned his second win of the season, pitching two and one-third innings, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out one. Page (3-5) was stuck with the loss after he allowed ten hits and six runs in three and two-third innings while walking two and striking out three.
The Tribe pounded out 16 hits, including four by Mitchell, who has now moved into third in the American League in batting average. His .336 batting average has him trailing just Boudreau and Boston’s Ted Williams.
The Red Sox continue to streak, taking two games in Chicago today and now are tied with New York for third place and just three and a half games out of first place. Philadelphia was throttled 17-5 at home by St. Louis and is a game and a half in back of the Tribe. The American League pennant chase has officially become a four-team race.
Tomorrow night, the Indians will look to take their second game in the four-game series in New York and continue to be the leaders in the AL pennant race. Bob Feller (9-11, 3.86) will look to improve upon his 0-3 record against the Yankees this season. Right-hander Vic Raschi (10-4, 3.90) will try to continue his break out season. His ten wins are one more than he earned in his first two seasons as a big leaguer.