September 23, 1948
After last night’s win at Municipal Stadium against the Boston Red Sox, it felt like the Indians had won the pennant. The reality remains however that the Indians have a lot of work to do.
Despite permission for the commissioner to begin printing World Series tickets, the Indians have eight games remaining in a very tight pennant race. The Tribe is now tied with the Red Sox for first place and the New York Yankees remain just one game behind the top spot.
Many players and sportswriters around the league believe the Indians are the favorite to take the flag, however. Cleveland’s eight games are against second division teams, while Boston and New York play each other five times in the last eight.
“It would seem that we have the best of it,” Indians manager Lou Boudreau said this morning on the train to Detroit, “but don’t overlook the fact that the Red Sox play their last five games in Boston, where they are practically unbeatable. Three of them are with the Nationals. We have six games with the Tigers. And don’t let anybody tell you they are not tough to beat.”
Boudreau likely remembers losing the pennant in 1940 on the third to last day of the season because they could not beat the Tigers.
“We’re out of the race, but we can still have a lot to say about who wins,” Tigers manager Steve O’Neill said after defeating the Philadelphia Athletics 8-7 this afternoon.
“We don’t have our top batting strength with our two best hitters out, but were going good now and we have our best pitchers ready. We can cause the Indians plenty of trouble.”
The Tigers’ top two hitters are both likely out for the rest of the season. Center fielder Hoot Evers is hitting .312 on the season, but is in the hospital with virus pneumonia. Their other .300-hitter, George Kell, has gone home to Arkansas for the season with a fractured jaw. He was hitting .305 when his season ended.
But even with their injuries and certain fifth place finish, the Tigers have been playing good baseball lately. They’ve won eleven of their last 16 games, including splitting a four-game series with both Boston and New York. Detroit plans to send their three best pitchers against the Tribe this weekend, while Cleveland plans the same for the Bengals.
Bob Lemon (20-12, 2.72) will make his third attempt to log his 21st victory of the season Friday afternoon. He’ll be opposed by the Tigers’ Fred Hutchinson (12-10, 4.39). Saturday afternoon rookie southpaw Gene Bearden (16-7, 2.74) will try to remain hot on the mound and fool the Tigers with his knuckleball against Virgil Trucks (13-12, 3.87). Sunday will be the marquee matchup of the weekend when Bob Feller (17-14, 3.70) looks for his sixth straight win and 18th on the year against left-hander Hal Newhouser (19-11, 3.14). Newhouser will be chasing his 20th win of the season.
“Don’t get me wrong. I think we have a chance. A good chance. But so have the Red Sox and Yankees,” Boudreau said about their pennant hopes. “They don’t have to face a fellow named Newhouser and a few other Detroit pitchers. We will probably see Newhouser twice and he’ll be gunning for that 20th victory.”
Cleveland has three in Detroit this weekend, then two games at home against Chicago mid week, followed by three to end the season at home against Detroit. It seems likely the Indians will see Newhouser twice in their final six games against the Tigers.
Boudreau announced that he plans to use Eddie Robinson at first base in the series this weekend. He’ll move Wally Judnich to center field and Larry Doby to right field. Boudreau feels Robinson can do more damage with the Briggs Stadium right field wall than Thurman Tucker. Tucker will be relegated to bench duty for the weekend.
New York and Boston engage in a three-game series against one another in New York this weekend.
Photo: WSU Virtual Motor City Collection (Detroit News)