October 2, 1948
What has seemed imminent for days is still not official, but now is a little closer.
This afternoon the Indians beat the Detroit Tigers, 8-0, in front of 56,235 anxious spectators and did not clinch the American League pennant, but assured themselves of at least a tie. Cleveland used a five-run fifth inning and an eight-hit shutout from rookie left-hander Gene Bearden.
Cleveland’s victory moves them to 96-57 in the standings while holding a one-game lead over the Boston Red Sox as the two teams head to the last day of the season. Boston defeated the New York Yankees 5-1 in Fenway Park to eliminate the Yankees from contention. After 153 games, the tightest American League pennant race in history is finally just a two-team race.
Lou Kretlow started for the Detroit Tigers, making a spot start in place of the ill Fred Hutchinson. After three innings, the Indians may have preferred the veteran Hutchinson because Kretlow had held them scoreless and to just one hit. Memories of Tigers rookie Floyd Giebell shutting out the Tribe against Bob Feller in the last weekend of the 1940 season and ending the Indians’ pennant hopes started to whisper in the crowd.
Meanwhile it was Bearden who appeared on the brink of allowing a big inning. The knuckleballer allowed three hits and a walk in the first three innings, including a pair of singles in the third inning. Only Johnny Groth’s chopper back to Bearden to induce a double play prevented disaster.
But in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Indians’ bats came alive with the aid of some poor Detroit defense. Those two things ended Kretlow’s afternoon and rookie season. Larry Doby laced a double over Pat Mullin’s head in right field, but Mullin juggled the ball enough for Doby to gallop to third base. Mullin was charged an error on the play. Lou Boudreau grounded back to Kretlow and Doby was not able to advance. Joe Gordon left Doby stranded no longer when he pulled a double down the left field line, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead.
Ken Keltner grounded to third base, but the ball went right through Jimmy Outlaw’s legs, allowing Gordon to score and make it 2-0, Indians. Wally Judnich walked and Eddie Robinson doubled, bringing Keltner around to the plate. With two in scoring position and the Indians leading 3-0, Tigers manager Steve O’Neill excused Kretlow for Dizzy Trout.
Trout did little to slow down the Cleveland scoring. Jim Hegan greeted him to the game with a single to center field that plated both Judnich and Robinson and gave the Indians a 5-0 lead. Hegan was thrown out at second when Bearden botched a hit-and-run., then he popped out in foul ground at third base to end the inning.
Cleveland kept tacking them on against the Tigers and Trout. In the bottom of the fifth inning Dale Mitchell started the action with a single to right field and Doby doubled for the second time in the game to put runners on second and third base. Trout balked in a run while Boudreau was at the plate. Doby moved up to third base on the balk and was able to scamper home on Boudreau’s sacrifice fly to center field to give the Indians a 7-0 lead.
Bearden gave up a leadoff double to Groth in the top of the sixth inning, but struck out Mullin and Dick Wakefield before getting Outlaw to fly out to center field to end the inning. The slim southpaw had runners on base all afternoon. A Tiger reached base in every inning except the first, yet only one found their way to third base all afternoon.
Robinson jerked his 16th home run of the season to start the bottom of the sixth inning. The solo blast into the seats gave the Indians an 8-0 and the celebratory frenzied feeling was in the stands.
With a win, Cleveland would be guaranteed a tie for the pennant regardless of outcome in Boston. The victory was Bearden’s 19th of the season against seven losses and his sixth straight win since Labor Day. It was also his sixth shutout of the season and fourth win against the Tigers. They did not beat Bearden all season.
Kretlow (2-1) suffered the loss, giving up five runs – four earned – on four hits and two walks in just three and one-third innings. Trout was tagged for three runs in two and two-third innings. Stubby Overmire pitched the final two frames and did not allow a run for Detroit.
Cleveland can clinch their first pennant in 28 years a couple ways tomorrow. The Indians can win the final game on the season schedule and punch their ticket to a Wednesday World Series matchup with the Boston Braves. If the Indians and Red Sox lose tomorrow, Cleveland will also take the pennant.
If Cleveland loses and Boston wins on Sunday, the two teams will tie for the pennant and a one-game playoff will be Monday in Fenway Park.
The Tribe will send another hot starting pitcher to the mound on Sunday for their pennant hopes in their right-hander Feller (19-14, 3.56). Feller can win his 20th game of the season tomorrow after a rough summer and punch his ticket to his first World Series with a victory. A member of the Tribe since 1936, Feller has never appeared in a postseason game. Hal Newhouser (20-12, 3.08) will saunter to the pitching rubber for Detroit. Feller outpitched Newhouser a week ago in Detroit.