August 6, 1948
The Cleveland Indians trailed early, but used a solid pitching performance from Bob Feller and home runs from Joe Gordon and Allie Clark to defeat the New York Yankees, 9-7 on Friday night in front of 71,268 fans.
The third crowd of over 70,000 spectators this week was just 1,166 short of the Cleveland record attendance for a night game that was set on Tuesday against Washington. Feller pitched seven and one-third innings for his first win of the season against New York. He had previously been battered for four losses, allowing 17 runs – all via home runs – in the four setbacks.
It appeared early that Feller was destined for more punishment at the hands of the Bombers when they plated three runs in the first two innings. After striking out Snuffy Stirnweiss to start the game, Feller allowed a double to left field for Tommy Henrich and a run-scoring single to Charlie Keller to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead.
With one out in the second inning, Billy Johnson walked and Phil Rizzuto singled to set the stage before Yanks’ pitcher Eddie Lopat singled to right to plate Johnson. Stirnweiss grounded into a fielder’s choice at second base, but the grounder allowed Rizzuto to score and the Yankees had a 3-0 lead after just two at-bats.
Cleveland rallied right back into the game in the bottom half of the second inning against Lopat. The portsider has long been a nemesis of the Indians. Ken Keltner, Gordon and Johnny Berardino each singled to start the inning. Berardino, who was playing in place of the injured Lou Boudreau, singled to left field to bring Keltner around and put the Indians on the scoreboard. Eddie Robinson flew out to right field, allowing Gordon to move to third base with just one out. Jim Hegan grounded to shortstop, forcing Berardino out at second base, but allowing Gordon to score and cut the deficit to 3-2.
The Tribe evened the score in the bottom of the third against the Yankees and Lopat when Allie Clark hit his sixth home run of the season. The solo blast landed in the left field seats made it three apiece after three innings.
The wig-wammers offense took the lead in the bottom of the fourth inning and never relinquished control of the game again. Gordon singled and stole second base and Berardino walked to start the inning. Robinson again flied to right field, allowing both runners to advance to scoring position. After Hegan was intentionally walked, Feller snuck a bounder back up the middle and into center field to plate two and give the Indians a 5-3 lead.
Lopat (11-6) left the game after four innings, allowing five runs and seven hits while walking three. It was only the fourth defeat in Lopat’s career against the Tribe versus 16 wins. Tommy Byrne took over and worked a scoreless fifth inning before leaving for a pinch-hitter. Former Tribesman and seldom used Red Embree took over in the sixth inning for the Yankees.
The Indians put the game out of reach against their former teammate, plating a run in the sixth inning and three more in the seventh. In the sixth, Gordon walked and advanced to third base on Berardino’s single. After Robinson popped out to catcher Yogi Berra, Hegan flew to center field – deep enough for Gordon to race home and make the score 6-3, Indians.
In the seventh inning, Larry Doby singled with one out and advanced to second on a passed ball. After Keltner walked, Gordon issued the crushing blow to his former mates, hitting a three-run homer deep into the left field seats. His 21st home run of the season and team-high 85th run batted in gave the Indians a 9-3 lead.
After six solid innings, it appeared Feller began to tire in the summer heat. Johnson and Rizzuto singled with one out and pinch-hitter Cliff Mapes walked to load the basses against Rapid Robert. Stirnweiss chased Feller from the game when he doubled down the left field line, scoring two runs and making it 9-5 in favor of the Indians. Ed Klieman came on to relieve Feller, allowing a single to Henrich and two more runs to score, cutting the Indians lead to just 9-7.
It wasn’t Feller’s best start, but it was good enough to give the Indians a win. Feller (11-12) pitched seven and one-third innings, scattering ten hits while allowing seven runs and five walks. His strike out of Stirnweiss to start the game was his only whiff of the game. While not a great game, it was Feller’s first victory of the season against New York. He held Yankee Clipper, Joe DiMaggio, hitless on the evening. DiMaggio had seven hits in 13 at bats against Feller before tonight’s game.
Klieman started the ninth inning, looking for the save, but instead he created indigestion as the Yankees mounted one last rally. Berra and Johnson singled around a fly ball out by George McQuinn. After Rizzuto flew out for the second out, pinch-hitter Johnny Lindell walked to load the bases. Boudreau pulled Klieman in favor of Russ Christopher, who got Stirnweiss to fly out to left field to end the game and kill the rally.
Christopher’s one-out appearance earned his 13th save of the season in securing the Tribe’s sixth straight win. The victory ties the Indians with their longest winning streak of the season. Only their six-game winning streak to start the season matches their current run.
Gordon was the hitting star for the Tribe, going 3-for-3, driving in three and scoring four times. Berardino helped ease the loss of Boudreau with two hits, a run scored and RBI in his place. Boudreau is expected to miss his second straight game tomorrow due to a contusion to his right shoulder, slightly sprained left ankle and bruised right knee. He received heat applications from trainer Lefty Weisman, but is not healing as quickly as originally expected. Boudreau and Weisman are hoping he is available to contribute during Sunday’s doubleheader.
The victory this evening gives the Indians a half game lead on the Philadelphia Athletics, a full game lead on the Yankees and a game and one-half lead on the Boston Red Sox. Pat Seerey hit a three-run homer for the Chicago White Sox to defeat the Red Sox, 4-3. Philadelphia lost 2-1 in St. Louis.
Cleveland will try to keep their slim lead in the highly contested pennant chase and extend their winning streak to seven games Saturday afternoon. In a battle of breakout pitchers this season, the Indians will send Bob Lemon (14-9, 2.78) to the mound while the Bombers will counter with Vic Raschi (13-4, 3.76). Each has won more games this season than they’ve previously accumulated in their young careers.