September 27, 1948
After a winter that had trade rumors and his managerial position being removed from his title, Lou Boudreau has endured quite a pressure packed season and a pennant race.
He appeared as relaxed and more calm than at any point this season when the Tribe traveled home on the train from Detroit to Cleveland Sunday night. The Indians player-manager just helped lead his club to a series win at Briggs Stadium over the Tigers that saw the team regain sole possession of first place in the American League for the first time since August 26. Even at his happiest moment, Boudreau didn’t want to get too excited.
“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Boudreau said. “Remember the Red Sox are going home.
“Now we’ve got a chance, a real good chance, and for that you’ve got to hand it to Robert Feller.”
Feller won his sixth straight decision on Sunday, holding the Tigers to one run and five hits in a complete game 4-1 victory. Boudreau has said most of the season that the Indians’ pennant hopes ride squarely on Feller’s shoulders. His ability to carry the pitching load with Bob Lemon will determine the Indians’ fate.
“The big thing today, though, was that he was getting the ball over the plate. I think he was behind on only three or four hitters.”
Feller’s struggles in the middle of the season stemmed from poor control and not having enough zip on his fastball any longer to blow it by hitters in tight spots. Too often hitters were crushing home runs with runners on. Feller’s allowed 20 home runs this season, but only one since finding his groove in August. He did not walk a hitter yesterday, either.
Since Cleveland fell out of first place in late August, the Heater from Van Meter has gone 6-0 in eight starts, including six complete games and a shutout. The pride of Iowa will continue to carry a major load this week in the Tribe’s final five games.
“Feller will pitch Wednesday and again next Sunday. Bearden will go Tuesday night and Saturday. Lemon gets a rest. He’s been working pretty hard this year and he’s showed it his last two times out. By Friday he’ll be all right.”
When asked if that meant Lemon was in line to start the first game of the World Series, Boudreau wouldn’t give a straight answer.
“Let’s win the pennant first.”
Boudreau and the Indians like their chances with their ace, their hottest pitcher and their best rookie on the mound for the final five games. Still, the Red Sox loom large in their minds. Boston heads home for three games with the Washington Senators and two against the New York Yankees to end the season. The Red Sox are very good at home in Fenway Park.
“This is the way I figure it,” Boudreau said. “Boston won’t lose to the Nationals in Fenway Park, but they might drop one out of the two with the Yankees. The Yankees may lose one out of the three in Philadelphia.
“So if Boston loses one we can afford to lose one, too, and still win. If they lose one and we lose two, we get a tie. I still say though that the race won’t be over until next Saturday or maybe even Sunday.”
While everything seems to be all smiles on the Tribe’s train back to Cleveland, they do have concern about the health of Larry Doby. The Indians’ fleet outfielder suffered an elbow injury in the fourth inning yesterday when Tigers’ pitcher Hal Newhouser threw to second base to attempt to pick him off.
“Doby will be x-rayed,” Boudreau said. “I can’t say whether he’ll be ready Tuesday night or not, but I certainly hope he is.”
The injury is deemed minor, regardless, so the Tribe keep on smiling as they chug back to Cleveland and possibly the pennant.
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project