Tonight’s Game a Big One in Many Ways

September 22, 1948

After 145 games, the Cleveland Indians have played many big games and key series this season. But tonight’s game is the Tribe’s newest “game of the year.”

With just nine games remaining on the schedule the Indians and Boston Red Sox will meet for the 22nd and final time this season. Currently, the Red Sox lead the Indians by one game in the American League pennant chase. A win tonight for Cleveland will tie them with Boston in the standings with an eight-game sprint remaining to the marathon season. A loss by the Tribe and they’ll be two back with just eight to play and a much more difficult road to the flag.

Cleveland would likely already have a big crowd for this marquee matchup, but to add to the festivities, it is now Don Black Night. Indians team president Bill Veeck asked the league to move what was originally scheduled as a day game to night. In trade, Veeck is donating a portion of the gate profits to Black and his family. If the Indians draw over 70,000 fans tonight, Black and his family will receive over $40,000.

Bob Feller (16-14, 3.80) will take the mound in this key contest for the Indians. In a season of struggles and setbacks for Rapid Robert, he seems to have been the pitcher of old since August 27 at New York. Feller pitched a complete game victory that day, giving up a run on just six hits for the victory. He’s been 4-0 since that day in the Bronx, including three complete games. His work with pitching coach Mel Harder has apparently paid off and according to Tribe manager Lou Boudreau, Feller’s success is the key to a World Series birth for Cleveland.

Right-hander Joe Dobson (16-8, 3.28) will hurl for the Red Sox. The 31-year-old has been a leader of the Boston staff for much of the season, but has slowed in the summer sun. Dobson is just 3-2 since July 25 when he shutout the Tribe at Fenway Park. Since his masterpiece, Dobson has just one win versus a first division team (Philadelphia) and he’s only completed three games in the last two months.

“The team that wins tonight will certainly be in the driver’s seat,” Boudreau said.

All eight of Cleveland’s final games will be against second division teams, while Boston will have five of eight against the New York Yankees. New York trails Boston by just a game and a half.

If the weather holds and no storms roll in off the lake, the Tribe should have a big crowd for Don Black Night. Black suffered a brain hemorrhage on September 13 against the St. Louis Browns while batting in the second inning. He has been hospitalized since falling ill.

At the time of Black’s hemorrhage, 25,000 tickets had been sold, so Veeck announced that Black would get all the net gate receipts above that figure and excluding the visitors’ share of the gate. If the crowd surpasses 70,000, Black is expected to receive about $40,000.

If the game is rained out tonight, they’ll play the contest tomorrow evening.

Black, who is continuing to improve at Charity Hospital, is only vaguely aware of the game being staged in his honor.

“A day nurse told him about it the other day,” Mrs. Joyce Black, Don’s wife, said. “I don’t think he really understood or else he forgot it after he went back to sleep. His memory is still a little hazy. He is under sedatives much of the time.”

“I won’t be able to be there. I’ll be at the hospital, but I am so grateful,” she said. “I think it is a wonderful thing that Mr. Veeck did.”

Photo: Boston Public Library (Leslie Jones Collection)

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