October 5, 1948
Beaten and dejected Sunday afternoon the Indians quickly learned upon reaching the clubhouse at Municipal Stadium that the Boston Red Sox had completed their 10-5 victory over the New York Yankees and tied the Indians for the top spot in the American League.
The Indians would have to board a train that evening for Boston and take on the Red Sox in Fenway Park the following afternoon. A two-game lead with three games to play had been squandered and some of the second-guessing that has followed Indians manager Lou Boudreau the last couple seasons was in the air.
“I’ll tell you one thing,” Indians second baseman Joe Gordon said Sunday, “if we lose tomorrow it won’t be because of Boudreau. I’ve been in this business for a long time and there’s no better manager and no better player. It makes me sick the way he’s second-guessed.”
Boudreau called a meeting with his team before anyone was allowed in the clubhouse.
He announced that Gene Bearden would start the playoff game on Monday in Boston. He was aware that the Red Sox are tough to beat at home and that they often do a number on left-handers. He knew Bob Lemon and Bob Feller were ready, but Bearden was the choice.
“And I’ll tell you another thing,” Gordon added, “Lou has picked the pitcher for this game and he has picked the right one. Wait and see.”
Boudreau knew he would be open to second-guessing if the team didn’t win yesterday. He asked his team for a favor, do not disclose to anyone who the Indians’ starter would be.
Out of respect for their manager, every man obliged.
“I didn’t want him to do anything but rest,” Boudreau said Monday of keeping Bearden’s start a secret. “I didn’t want him to worry. I should have known him better. He could have posed all night for photographers and still won today. He’s got what it takes.”
Boudreau didn’t hide the starter for himself, but for his pitcher’s best interest. Bearden took the mound on just one day’s rest and delivered his fourth victory in just ten days. Prior to yesterday’s start on one day’s rest, Bearden had made his two previous starts on three day’s rest.
The knuckler was ready, giving the Red Sox just five hits over nine innings and going the distance. He only allowed two hits after the second inning and the two runs in the sixth inning were both unearned. Boudreau’s hunch would not be second-guessed – it paid off perfectly.
“I wasn’t concerned about his pitching with only one day’s rest,” Boudreau said. “He’s that type. You can’t keep him off the mound. After pitching Saturday, he was in the bullpen yesterday.”
Monday, Boudreau looked as relieved as he did excited in the Indians’ clubhouse after the 8-3 victory. Maybe he didn’t just relax from the pressure of selecting Bearden to start, but the pressure of the entire season. Always quiet and even-keeled, Boudreau rarely showed emotion all season.
Just over a week ago on the train home from Detroit and the Indians back in first place for the first time in a month did Boudreau relax at all. If he felt pressure on the field Monday, he didn’t show it. Instead, he backed up his controversial starting pitcher with a 4-for-4 effort, including two home runs and three runs scored.
As notable and risky as Boudreau’s selection of Bearden to start one of the biggest games in Indians history was the honor and respect his team showed him. Not a man leaked their starter. Not a man complained to the media. They respected their skipper’s wishes.
“That’s what comes of being with your own team 154 games,” Boudreau said. “You know what the men can do.”
Maybe the men knew what their skipper could do just as well.