September 25, 1948
With playoff scenarios for tie-breakers set a day ago, every game is starting to feel like a one-game playoff for survival in the American League pennant race.
Today, the Indians won their most recent survival game, defeating the Detroit Tigers 9-3 in front of 30,087 spectators at Briggs Stadium. The Tribe used a stellar pitching performance from Gene Bearden, who did not allow a hit until the sixth inning, and 14 hits from the offense to take control early against five different Tiger hurlers. Cleveland’s five-run fifth inning put the contest away early.
Cleveland’s victory, combined with Boston’s 7-2 shellacking of the New York Yankees, leaves the Tribe and BoSox tied atop the standings with the Bombers a game behind. It may be a little less crowded at the top than yesterday’s three-way tie, but the importance of every game remains. All three teams have just six games left on their regular season schedule.
The Tribe struck early against Tigers’ starter, Virgil Trucks. Dale Mitchell walked to start the game and advanced to third base on Larry Doby’s single to center field. Pat Mullin misplayed the ball for Detroit, allowing the two runners to move into scoring position. Lou Boudreau then started the scoring when he grounded out to shortstop. Mitchell touched home to give the Indians a 1-0 lead and Boudreau carded his 102nd RBI on the season.
Bearden allowed his only base runner of the first five innings in the bottom of the first inning when he walked Johnny Lipon to start the frame. However, he was doubled up when the next hitter, Neil Berry, lined softly to left field. Mitchell made a fine running catch and threw to first to double up Lipon. Another Tiger would not reach the base paths until the sixth inning.
In the third inning the Indians added to their lead with another run. After the first two outs were recorded, Boudreau singled to center field and Joe Gordon walked before Ken Keltner singled back through the middle of the diamond to give the Indians a 2-0 lead.
That would be all for Trucks (13-13) who survived just two and two-third innings, allowing two runs on three hits and three walks. He struck out just one batter. Lou Kretlow, who was just recalled in September from Williamsport of the Eastern League., took over on the mound.
Cleveland blew the game wide open and secured their spot atop the standings for another day in the fifth inning. Kretlow walked Doby and Boudreau to start the inning. After Gordon flew out to left field, Keltner singled to right field to bring Doby around to score to extend the lead to 3-0.
Detroit then continued to help the Indians score with some miscues on the field. Wally Judnich rolled a grounder between the legs of first baseman Sam Vico to load the bases. Eddie Robinson then helped clear them off when he singled to right field, scoring Boudreau. After right fielder Vic Wertz threw wildly to the plate, Keltner was able to hustle home and score, making it 5-0 Tribe.
Kretlow was sent to the showers in favor of Art Houtteman, but the young hurler faired no better. Jim Hegan singled to right field to score Thurman Tucker – who pinch-ran for Judnich – and Bearden singled to center field to chase home Robinson to make the score 7-0. Houtteman was then sent to the clubhouse in favor of Stubby Overmire. After walking Mitchell to load the bases, the left-hander got Doby to ground to second for a fielder’s choice at the plate and Boudreau to fly out in foul ground down the left field line to end the inning.
Cleveland tallied another run in the top of the sixth when Tucker singled with two outs. Boudreau put on a hit-and-run that was executed splendidly. Robinson singled to center field and Tucker – who was off with the pitch – circled the bases to score from first on the single and give the Indians an 8-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Bearden had been sitting down the Tigers with ease for five innings. He allowed his first hit in the sixth inning when Vico doubled to right field to start the inning. After two outs were recorded, Berry slapped a single to right field to bring Vico around to the plate and spoil the shutout.
Dizzy Trout pitched the final three innings for the Tigers, allowing just one run in relief. In the top of the seventh inning Mitchell tripled over Mullin’s head in center field and scampered home when Trout uncorked a wild pitch with Doby at the plate. Mitchell gave the Indians a 9-1 lead at the Seventh Inning Stretch.
Detroit tallied a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh to complete the day’s scoring, but the final two tallies had little effect on the outcome. Jimmy Outlaw doubled to center field to bring home Dick Wakefield with one out. After the second out was recorded and Bob Swift and Trout each walked, Lipon singled to center field to plate the third and final Bengal run on the afternoon.
Bearden (17-7) settled down and went the distance for the Tribe, preserving the bullpen for a week that will certainly call for all-hands to be ready on deck. After five nearly flawless innings, the knuckleballing southpaw finished the afternoon allowing three runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out four. It certainly seems Boudreau will call upon him to start another game in this crucial week.
Detroit’s three errors helped fuel the Indians offense, yet just one of the Tribe’s nine runs were unearned. Robinson proved Boudreau’s hunch correct in playing him as he led the Indians with three hits and a pair of RBI’s. Mitchell, Boudreau, Keltner and Hegan each had a pair of hits in the wig-wammers 14-hit attack.
Cleveland will try to keep pace with their east coast rivals on Sunday afternoon when Bob Feller (17-14, 3.70) looks for his sixth straight victory. The Tigers will start ace southpaw Hal Newhouser (19-11, 3.14) who will be looking for his 20th win of the season. Cleveland will likely see the leader of the Tigers staff twice by the end of next weekend.
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project