October 7, 1948
Bob Lemon overcame a first inning unearned run and went the distance for Cleveland, as the Indians chased Boston’s Warren Spahn early in a 4-1 victory on Thursday to even the World Series at one game apiece.
The Braves struck first in the first against the Indians’ Lemon on yet another debatable call from umpire Bill Stewart. The inning’s second hitter, Al Dark, reached safely at first base on an error at second by Joe Gordon. Gordon initially fumbled with the ground ball, but recovered in time to throw to first. It appeared Stewart called Dark safe even before he or the ball reached the bag but, despite some protesting on the field by the Indians, the call remained. Dark moved up to third base as Earl Torgeson singled to right. Bob Elliott, Boston’s RBI leader, drove Dark home with a single to left to give Boston the early 1-0 lead.
With two on and just one out, Lemon picked off Torgeson from second with Marv Rickert at the plate. The threat now diffused, Lemon struck Rickert out to end the inning.
“Sure, there were a few butterflies in my stomach when I walked out there for the first inning,” said Lemon in the Cleveland dressing room, “but they disappeared with the first pitch.”
Spahn got himself into trouble in the second, but worked out of it. Gordon grounded out and Ken Keltner flew out to left to start the inning. Larry Doby doubled to the gap in left-center, but after a walk to Eddie Robinson, Jim Hegan lifted a fly ball to center field to end the inning.
Lemon found himself in a jam in the bottom half of the inning. Bill Salkeld started the inning with a single to right. After a popped up bunt attempt by Mike McCormick for the first out, Eddie Stanky walked. Spahn grounded out to second, moving both runners firmly into scoring position, but Tommy Holmes grounded back to Lemon to retire the side.
After Spahn worked a quiet third inning, the Indians struck through in the fourth. Lou Boudreau doubled to the wall deep down the right field line. Gordon singled to left and moved to second on the throw to the plate as Boudreau scored with the tying run. After a foul out by Keltner, Doby sent a ground ball single through the hole to right, scoring Gordon and giving the Indians a 2-1 advantage.
Boston threatened against Lemon in the bottom of the fourth. Salkeld reached base safely to lead off an inning for the second time in as many at bats, this time with a walk. A single to left by McCormick and a sacrifice bunt from Stanky put both runners in scoring position, but Spahn grounded out and Holmes flied out to left to end the threat.
Cleveland pushed their lead to 3-1 in the fifth. Dale Mitchell lined a single to left and was sacrificed to second by Allie Clark. Boudreau delivered an RBI-single back up the middle, ending the outing of Boston’s Spahn.
Spahn (0-1) pitched four and one-third innings, allowing three runs on six hits. He walked two and struck out one batter. He has now lost three of his last four decisions and has allowed 21 runs in his last 19 1/3 innings.
Reliever Red Barrett retired the Indians in order through his first seven batters, erasing a one-out single by Robinson in the sixth on an acrobatic catch in right field by Holmes off of the bat of Hegan, who threw back to first to double off the Indians first baseman. He escaped damage in the seventh after a pair of runners reached on errors at short and third, but he induced the inning-ending groundout to escape unharmed.
The Indians added a run of cushion in the ninth off of Boston’s third pitcher of the game, Nels Potter. Hegan reached to lead things off on the second error of the afternoon at short by Alvin Dark. A groundout by Lemon moved Hegan to second and a grounder to second moved him to third. A two-out single to right center by Bob Kennedy knocked him in to give the game its final 4-1 tally.
Lemon (1-0) settled in, using double play grounders in the sixth and eighth innings to erase scoring opportunities for Boston. With a three-run lead and a runner on second in the bottom of the ninth, he took a comebacker from pinch-hitter Ray Sanders to earn the Indians’ first World Series win since 1920.
“The toughest thing for me the last few days has been sitting on the bench with the pennant at stake,” said Lemon. “That would give a guy ulcers a lot faster than pitching.”
Lemon scattered eight hits and three walks in his nine-inning effort. The one run to score off Lemon was unearned. He struck out five. After some suspect control in the earlier innings that saw members of the Cleveland bullpen warming up, he calmed and excelled when needed the most, when Boston runners were on the base paths.
“Lemon’s best pitch today was his fast ball – when it was going in there,” Boudreau said. “Steve Gromek and Sam Zoldak were ready in the second inning. Sam probably would have been my selection because he warms up faster.”
The Braves have committed five errors through the first two games of the series.
A total of 39,633 were in attendance for game two, which clocked in at two hours and 14 minutes.
With the series tied, the Indians and Braves will head to Cleveland for three straight games. The Indians are expected to reach the Terminal sometime between 8:00 and 8:30 AM on Friday and will head to the stadium to practice around 10:30 AM.
“Still no prediction on how long [the series is] going to last,” Boudreau said following the win. “Just going along as we have all season – out to win the game coming up.”
A pair of rookie starters will take the mound for game three, as Gene Bearden (20-7, 2.43 ERA) will take the ball for the Indians for the game’s 1:00 PM start and Vern Bickford (11-5, 3.27) will counter for the Braves. Bearden led the American League in ERA this season. Bickford was 4-0 in his final five starts of the regular season.
This, of course, unless it rains, because as the old Boston theme song says:
“Sain and Spahn,
“Spahn and Sain;
“Then we hope
“For two days of rain.”
Five tons of hot dogs, the equivalent of one for every man, woman, and child in attendance at the game, will be available, as will thousands of pounds of coffee and hot chocolate.
For those still hoping to purchase tickets to the first game of the series in Cleveland, 8,000 bleacher seats (at $1 each) and standing room in the grandstands ($4) and behind the fence ($2) will go on sale at 10:00 AM Friday morning. The stadium gates will also open at this time.
Photo: Cleveland Memory Project