August 11, 1948
The next five days may very well determine whether the Cleveland Indians are contenders or pretenders for the 1948 season.
The Tribe currently sits atop the American League pennant race, but only by the slimmest of margins. The 61-40 Tribe boasts a league-best .604 winning percentage while “second place” Philadelphia sits at 64-43 and .598. Due to the imbalance in the schedule, the two teams are not separated by any games, but the Indians are just percentage points ahead in the standings. The Boston Red Sox currently sit in third place at two games back while the New York Yankees are in fourth at two and a half behind.
While the Athletics get set to host the Washington Senators and the Red Sox head to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, the Indians will tour the Midwest over the next five days in what could turn out to be a stretch that separates them from the pack.
First, the Tribe will head to St. Louis to face the Browns four times in the next two days. The Browns currently hold a 40-60 record, second worst in all of baseball. Injured second baseman Johnny Berardino (feet) is questionable for the series.
The two doubleheaders will be somewhat like family reunions on the pitchers mounds. On Wednesday, the Tribe will throw Bob Lemon (14-10, 2.90) in game one and longtime Brown Bob Muncrief (5-3, 3.60) in game two. St. Louis will counter with two former Indians in Bryan Stephens (3-5, 5.44) and Bill Kennedy (4-4, 6.19). St. Louis has lost ten of the last 12 games in which Stephens has appeared.
For Thursday’s double-dip, the Tribe will throw former Brown Sam Zoldak (6-7, 3.91) and rookie southpaw Gene Bearden (10-3, 2.63). The Browns will match up with Joe Ostrowski (1-0, 5.24) and Fred Sanford (8-13, 4.27).
Back-to-back doubleheaders against the second-worst team in the league seems like just what the doctor ordered for the Indians, until life gets even easier over the weekend when they head to Chicago. The Indians will play the 35-69 White Sox four times in three days, with single games both Friday and Saturday and a doubleheader on Sunday. The White Sox are the worst team in the Major Leagues and the series in the Windy City will wrap up the Indians’ stretch against baseball’s two most futile.
Eight games in five days sounds daunting, tiring and like bad news, but the Indians have a real chance to pull away in the AL pennant race. The Indians pitching staff is much deeper than either of the two teams that they will face, and their lineup is far more dangerous. The schedule seems to favor the Indians for the rest of the season as well, as the Tribe will face these two inferior opponents 17 more times after this five day stretch.
These five days in August may certainly define the Indians season.