Harder’s Hot Bat Can’t Help Indians

When the Indians met the White Sox on July 31, 1935, there wasn’t a lot at stake. The Tigers were cruising in the American League lead, the Pale Hose weren’t that close, and the Indians were scuffling (manager Walter Johnson was for all intents and purposes a lame duck).

But that day, they got a power surge from an unlikely source. Not that it helped.

The Tribe was up 2-1 in the top of the fifth when Mel Harder came up to bat with two outs and the bases empty. Harder was showing off the skill that had made him an all-star earlier that year at Cleveland Stadium. Chicago had drawn first blood with Rip Radcliff scoring in the first inning when Mule Haas hit into a double play, but the Indians took the lead in the fourth thanks to an RBI sacrifice fly by Bill Knickerbocker and a single that drove in another run by Odell Hale.

Harder got a hold of Ray Phelps’ offering and deposited it into the left field bleachers more than 400 feet away. It was just the second home run of his career. He wouldn’t have to wait long for his third.

Harder came up again in the top of the seventh, with the Indians’ lead back down to one run. On the first pitch he saw in the at-bat, Harder again connected off Phelps, putting the ball into the stands near the left field line. Again, it was a solo home run with two outs. “How am I doin’, Joe,” Harder supposedly asked Joe Vosmik, the Indians’ leading slugger, who greeted him at home plate.

“He may have been visioning a transfer to the outfield and a long career as the second Babe Ruth,” Gordon Cobbledick wrote about Harder in the next day’s Plain Dealer, most likely tongue in cheek.

But the wheels fell off for Harder in the eighth inning. He gave up a leadoff single to Radcliff, who then scored on a Tony Piet triple. Piet came home on a Haas single, and Zeke Bonura doubled to advance Haas to third, and Harder’s day was done.

Still responsible for two runners on base, Harder ended up taking the loss when George Washington singled off Lloyd Brown to score both base runners.

Ironically, Harder wasn’t even the only pitcher to hit two home runs in a game that day. Former Indian Wes Ferrell knocked a pair out of the park to lead the Red Sox over the Senators, the third straight game for Ferrell where he got the win and hit a home run.

Harder would never have another game like that in his career. In fact, he would never have another season like that, with only one more round-tripper to his credit. That day on the South Side represented half of Harder’s career home run output.

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