August 9, 1948
Lou Boudreau has only had one hit since August 1, but it might be the biggest hit of the season.
Mired in a mini-slump, Boudreau was injured on Thursday when he collided with Gil Coan of the Washington Senators at second base. Boudreau dove for a throw from Gene Bearden that was low and toward the runner. The result for Boudreau was a sore shoulder, twisted knee and ankle. It’s the shoulder that keeps him out of the lineup. He still cannot throw without discomfort.
When he crumpled to the ground, every Indian on the field ran to his aid as quickly as trainer Lefty Weisman sprinted from the dugout. And for good reason, he’s the heart and soul of the team.
Since team president Bill Veeck took over the team in June 1946, the make up of the Indians team has changed drastically. Gone are many players from the war era, but Boudreau has survived. After one of his best seasons as an Indian in 1947, Veeck tried to trade Boudreau while his value as a player was high because the new president felt his worth as a manager was low. When fans learned of the rumored deal with St. Louis, they rushed to his aid by sending letters to Veeck and local papers, insisting he not trade the prized shortstop.
In a season where expectations have been high since the beginning, Boudreau has done nothing but exceed them. Handsome Lou is hitting .345, a mark that would be a career high for a season, with increased power numbers. He’s caught when the Indians didn’t have a catcher, he’s hit cleanup when power hitters were struggling and Sunday he got an important hit when he couldn’t run.
Unquestionably, Boudreau is the Indians’ Most Valuable Player, but he might be the MVP of the American League. With Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams each having stellar seasons, it might come down to which club wins the pennant to decide the MVP award. Boudreau the manager should have a sizable say in that endeavor, too.
While Boudreau the player is an MVP candidate, Boudreau the manager is often questionable. This year, however, with more pressure than ever from Veeck, he’s managed a roster that has endured trades, integration and tough decisions. He stuck by veteran Bob Feller when the rest of the city has lost confidence, stuck by young pitchers Bob Lemon and Bearden and gambled on Larry Doby, who had never played outfield before this season. Boudreau pushed to sign a 40-something-year-old Satchel Paige a month ago, feeling he could help the Tribe’s bullpen. He’s already made starts for the Indians.
Each are gambles other managers could have easily decided to play their cards another way.
Yet, Sunday when Boudreau hobbled to the plate in the seventh inning and laced a base hit up the middle to score two runs and tie the game, it may have been a defining moment for him and Tribe this season. The message was clear and symbolic, the Indians have not accomplished anything significant yet, and to meet the goals set by Veeck and themselves, every player and coach has to give every ounce of effort they have when called upon.
Boudreau remains out after yesterday’s pinch-hit base hit. He did not play in the second game and is not expected to play tonight in Detroit. He’s now aiming to play on Wednesday in the first of two twinight doubleheaders in St. Louis. He’ll likely lead the team from the dugout again, his presence and work ethic felt in each of the players.
“I’ll know better tomorrow,” Boudreau said. “I still can’t throw like I should and I don’t want to take any chances. It should be loosened up by Wednesday though.”
Ironic that Boudreau doesn’t want to take a chance. Every chance he’s taken this season has worked well.
Photo: Detroit News