Classic Pitchers’ Duel Favors Boston; Braves 1, Indians 0

October 6, 1948

In quite possibly the best pitched game in World Series history, Cleveland’s Bob Feller and Boston’s Johnny Sain locked up in a pitchers’ duel, with a controversial call in the eighth inning leading to the only run of the afternoon as the Braves defeated the Indians by a 1-0 final on Wednesday.

With no score and both pitchers dealing on the mound, Feller walked catcher Bill Salkeld to start off the eighth inning on five pitches. Phil Masi came on to run. A sacrifice from Mike McCormick down the first base line moved Masi to second. Feller intentionally walked Eddie Stanky to put the double play in order with the pitcher Sain stepping to the plate. The faster Sibby Sisti took over on the bases for Stanky.

Before Feller threw his first pitch to his Boston counterpart, he threw to shortstop Lou Boudreau at second in an attempt to pick off the pinch-runner Masi. Despite appearing to be out, Masi was ruled safe on his return by umpire Bill Stewart.

“I’m sure that Masi was out,” Boudreau said after the game. “Stewart is a National League umpire and he is not acquainted with our pick-off play. I don’t think he was in a good position to see the tag. I know I got him. I thought I had him. I tagged him on his shoulder. But that’s just my opinion. Stewart had his. It isn’t a complaint.”

Sain proceeded to send a fly ball to right field for what could have been the third out. Instead, with just two outs in the books, Tommy Holmes stepped in and singled a 1-1 pitch into left field near the foul line, easily driving in Masi to give the Braves a 1-0 lead.

Sain, finally pitching with a lead, retired Boudreau and Joe Gordon with a pair of fly balls to start the ninth. A grounder by Ken Keltner should have ended the ball game, but a wild throw by Bob Elliott allowed him to reach safely and to advance to second base. With the tying run 90 feet away, Sain struck out Wally Judnich on three straight curve balls to end it.

Sain retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced. He retired just three batters via ground ball and 15 in the air on fly outs, aided by the strong winds blowing in from right field towards home plate.

“Nothing but curves – fast ones, slow ones, sidearm, sharp-breaking, but all curves,” said Indians outfielder Dale Mitchell of Sain’s in-game arsenal. “I don’t think he came in with more than one or two fast balls.”

Sain (1-0) was brilliant on the mound for the Braves, limiting the Indians to just four hits. Five different Cleveland base runners reached second base, including two on stolen bases, but none advanced to third and beyond. He scattered his six strikeouts over five different innings, including the strikeout to end the ball game.

As good as Sain was, Feller (0-1) was just as impressive, if not even better.

Feller retired each of the first eleven batters in order until a walk in the fourth with two outs. Marv Rickert singled for the first hit of the ball game for Boston in the fifth. The lone other hit surrendered by Feller, a single in the eighth, provided the game’s only run. He finished with a complete game loss, despite the two-hitter, and paired two strikeouts with three free passes.

It was the tenth time in World Series history that a pitcher has allowed just two hits in a complete game and just the second time that pitcher has lost. Mort Cooper of St. Louis dropped a two-hit decision in the championship four years ago for the Cardinals.

The Indians saw their first base runner in the second inning, when Keltner singled to left off of Sain with one out. He would be stranded there, as Judnich lined out and Eddie Robinson grounded out to the first baseman Earl Torgeson, unassisted. Judnich just missed driving in Keltner as a line drive hit down the right field line fell a foot into foul territory.

Cleveland missed an opportunity in the third after Jim Hegan reached on an error by the third baseman Elliott. After Feller struck out and Mitchell fouled out to third, Hegan stole second base, but Larry Doby grounded out to short to end the two-out threat.

The Indians found themselves with another runner in scoring position with two outs in the fourth. After Boudreau struck out to start the inning, Gordon singled to center and stole second when Keltner struck out. In his at bat, Keltner just missed a chance of driving in a run as his line drive missed the foul line by mere inches. A flyout to right by Judnich ruined Cleveland’s chance of pushing the first run across the plate and the game remained scoreless.

Boston finally found first base in the bottom of the fourth, when Torgeson drew a two-out walk off of Feller. With slugger Elliott at the plate, Torgeson, the team’s leader in stolen bases during the season, picked off second. Elliott, however, lifted a fly ball to left field to end the inning.

Cleveland again had a chance to strike through against Sain in the fifth. Hegan singled to left with one out and was sacrificed to second base by Feller. Mitchell sent a fly ball to left field, stranding Hegan and ending another scoring opportunity.

The Braves got their second base runner and their first hit of the game by Rickert to lead off the fifth. His single to left enabled Salkeld to sacrifice him to second. But McCormick popped up to second and Stanky grounded back to the mound for the third out.

For a fourth straight inning, the Indians got a runner to second base but could not score in the sixth. Doby singled to center to lead off the frame. Boudreau grounded out to second, advancing the base runner. But with their best opportunity of the day to plate a run, Gordon and Keltner both flied out to left to end the inning.

The Braves take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. A capacity crowd of 40,135 were in attendance to view the opening game of the series.

Boudreau announced Wednesday prior to the game that 34 Indians players will get full World Series shares.

First pitch of game two is scheduled for 1:00 PM from Braves Field in Boston. Cool and clear weather is expected for the game with high temperatures in the mid 60’s.

Warren Spahn (15-12, 3.71) will take the mound for Billy Southworth’s Braves. Bob Lemon (20-14, 2.82) will counter for Boudreau’s Indians.

Photo: Cleveland Memory Project

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