September 26, 1948
It’s not over, but the view for the Cleveland Indians could not look much better as they head home for the final five games of the season.
Bob Feller, a pitcher who has looked past his prime for much of the summer, has found the fountain of youth in the last month and pitched the Tribe back into sole possession of first place. Feller hurled a five-hitter this afternoon, allowing just one hit before the fourth inning and another afterward. The win, combined with the 6-2 victory by the New York Yankees over the Red Sox today, gives the Indians a one-game lead on both contenders with five games remaining.
The story of the day for the Tribe was Feller. He earned his sixth straight win in front of 58,919 fans at Briggs Stadium. Despite receiving boos for much of the summer at home, the very Cleveland-heavy crowd had many cheers in it for the fireballer. Feller wins his second straight big game. Last Wednesday he pitched the Tribe into a first place tie and today into sole possession. It’s no coincidence that Feller is unbeaten since August 22 and the Indians have asserted themselves back to the top spot for the first time since August 26.
It was obvious early that Feller was on his game when he struck out Johnny Lipon and Neil Berry to start the bottom of the first inning. He struck out the first two hitters he faced last Wednesday also. Feller allowed a single to Eddie Mayo in the bottom of the second, but he was fast and in control this afternoon.
The Indians’ offense had their hands full with Detroit ace Hal Newhouser. Newhouser may be one of the biggest obstacles between the Tribe and the pennant. The Indians drew first blood in the top of the third inning when manager Lou Boudreau singled to left field with two outs. Joe Gordon gave the traveling Tribe fans something to cheer about when he crushed his 31st home run of the season into the upper deck seats in left field, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead. It was Gordon’s 118th run batted in this season.
Feller helped himself and the Indian offense in the top of the fourth inning. Larry Doby singled to left field to start the inning and advanced to second base on Eddie Robinson’s grounder to first base. Newhouser uncorked a wild pitch – allowing Doby to hustle to third base – before striking out Jim Hegan for the second out of the inning. Feller, a .080 hitter, quickly fell behind in the count 1-2 but with the infield back he surprised everyone with a bunt to third base. Tiger third baseman Mayo charged but had no play on Doby at the plate or on Feller at first and Cleveland had a 3-0 lead.
Staked to what appeared to be an insurmountable lead with Feller dazzling on the mound, Detroit mustered the only offense it would have all day in the bottom of the fourth inning. Singles by Vic Wertz, Pat Mullin and Dick Wakefield with one out cut the Tribe lead to 3-1. Wakefield’s single to left field brought home Wertz, but Feller ended the rally there with a fly out by Mayo and ground out by Sam Vico.
After the fourth inning, Feller allowed just one more base hit – a single to pinch-hitter Fred Hutchinson in the eighth inning. He set down 12 in a row after Wakefield’s base hit.
Cleveland added another insurance run in the top of the seventh inning. Hegan started the inning with his second hit of the day and Feller sacrificed him to second. After Dale Mitchell grounded weakly back to Newhouser, Allie Clark singled through the left side to score Hegan and give the Indians a 4-1 lead. Hegan and Mitchell each had two hits in the Indians’ ten-hit attack.
Feller set the Tigers down in order in the ninth, including a strikeout of Mullin for the second out. When Wakefield grounded to Gordon at second base and he threw to first, the Indians had taken two of three games in Detroit and gained sole possession of first place in the American League.
Rapid Robert (18-14) earned his 18th win of the season by going the distance and allowing just a run on five hits. He had one of his better fastballs of the season and some of his best control as he struck out nine Tigers without walking a single hitter.
Newhouser (19-12) was given his 12th loss of the season while he pursued his 20th win. He allowed four runs and nine hits in eight innings of work while walking two and striking out five. Virgil Trucks pitched the ninth inning for Detroit.
Cleveland now heads home in control of its own destiny. Winners of nine of their last ten games, the Tribe can’t be chased down if they win their final five games. All of baseball is idle on Monday before the Indians open a two-game series at home against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday night. Gene Bearden (17-7, 2.75) will pitch on two days rest for the Tribe against the last place White Sox and left-hander Bill Wight (8-19, 4.59).
New York will travel to Philadelphia for three games beginning on Tuesday and Boston will host Washington for three.