October 1, 1948
Somewhere the champagne is on ice and the pennant is ready to be unfolded and hung high on the Municipal Stadium flagpole.
But the Cleveland Indians still have some work to do to put the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees away and win their first flag in 28 years. Cleveland was idle yesterday and remains 95-56 in the standings, but both Boston and New York won the finales of their series. Boston defeated Washington 7-3 at Fenway Park, while New York beat Philadelphia 9-7 at Shibe Park. Both contenders are off today before concluding the season with two games against one another in Boston in the league’s most tightly contested race ever.
Cleveland can clinch no worse than a tie this afternoon when Bob Lemon (20-13, 2.81) takes the mound for Cleveland. He’ll face Detroit’s Virgil Trucks (13-13, 3.89) in the opening of a three-game series to end the regular season. Lemon is looking for his 21st win for the fourth time today. The Tribe took two of three in Detroit last weekend to assert themselves back into sole possession of first place. Cleveland had gone a month without being in the top spot and trailed the lead by four and a half games on Labor Day.
Since Labor Day, however, the Indians have been the hottest team in baseball, winning 17 of their last 20 games. All three of their losses have been by just one run. Offensively, the Indians have had a number of stars contribute to the torrid streak. Joe Gordon has eight home runs and 19 runs driven in since Labor Day, while Ken Keltner has hit .351 and driven in 18. Larry Doby, despite two different injuries, has hit .396.
On the rubber, the Indians have been led largely by Gene Bearden and Bob Feller. Bearden and Feller have combined to win nine games between them since Labor Day, more than half the Indians’ total wins.
Bearden (18-7, 2.64) will face Fred Hutchinson (13-11, 4.32) Saturday afternoon and Feller (19-14, 3.56) will take on Hal Newhouser (20-12, 3.08) on Sunday afternoon, the final day of the season. Newhouser won his 20th game of the year against the St. Louis Browns on Wednesday, but will pitch if the game affects the standings.
Tigers’ manager Steve O’Neill has been clear that he will not play substitutes or minor league call-ups until the pennant is decided. If Cleveland clinches by Sunday afternoon, do not be surprised to see Feller scratched and held until Wednesday’s World Series opener in Boston against the Boston Braves.
Veterans like Indians manager Lou Boudreau, Keltner and Feller still remember the 1940 season when Feller lost 1-0 on the final Friday of the season against the Detroit Tigers. The defeat knocked them from contention for the pennant.
But there’s no time to focus on the past or the future World Series until the American League pennant flies proudly in Cleveland. Until then, the champagne and party remain on ice.