Saturday, February 13, 2010

PTWSW #45: The 1948 Cleveland Indians

Manager: Lou Boudreau
Record: 97-58
Ballpark: Cleveland Stadium
Owner: Bill Veeck
Coaches: Mel Harder, Bill Lobe, Bill McKechnie, Muddy Ruel

Future Hall of Famers: Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Joe Gordon, Bob Lemon, Satchel Paige

All-Stars: Lou Boudreau, Bob Feller, Joe Gordon, Ken Keltner, Bob Lemon

Team Leaders, Batting

BA:
Lou Boudreau, .355
OBP: Lou Boudreau, .453
SLG: Lou Boudreau, .534
OPS: Lou Boudreau, .987
2B: Lou Boudreau, 34
3B: Larry Doby, 9
HR: Joe Gordon, 32
RBI: Joe Gordon, 124
BB: Lou Boudreau, 98
SB: Dale Mitchell, 13

Team Leaders, Pitching

W:
Gene Bearden, Bob Lemon, 20
SO: Bob Feller, 164 (AL leader)
ERA: Gene Bearden, 2.43 (AL leader)
IP: Bob Lemon, 293.2 (AL leader)
CG: Bob Lemon, 20 (AL leader)
SHO: Bob Lemon, 10 (AL leader)
K/BB: Bob Feller, 1.41
SV: Russ Christopher, 17 (AL leader)

Tidbits

Oldest Player:
Satchel Paige (b. July 7, 1906). Joe Gordon, almost nine years Paige's junior, was second-oldest.

Youngest Player: Al Rosen (b. February 29, 1924)

First to Leave Us: Russ Christopher (d. December 5, 1954). Christopher was the Indians' relief ace in 1948, but the 31-year-old retired after the season due to a heart condition. The ailment would claim his life just six years later.

Last Survivor: Eddie Robinson is the only one still living as of March 14, 2015.

First in Majors: Bob Feller (debut July 19, 1936)

Last in Majors: Interestingly, the team's oldest player was also the last to appear in a Major League game. Satchel Paige pitched three innings for the Kansas City Athletics on September 25, 1965, and the 59-year-old allowed only one baserunner while he was on the mound. In the non-publicity stunt division it was Mike Garcia on September 2, 1961.

First to Play For the Franchise: Bob Feller (July 19, 1936)

Last to Play For the Franchise: Mike Garcia (September 11, 1959)

Pre-union Team: The 1946-47 Browns (Johnny Berardino, Wally Judnich, Bob Muncrief and Sam Zoldak)

Reunion Team: The 1949 White Sox (Al Gettel, Ernest Groth, Ed Klieman, Pat Seerey and Joe Tipton)

Accomplishments

Lou Boudreau, AL MVP
Bob Lemon, no-hitter on June 30

Season Summary

Bill Veeck oversaw only one World Series champion during his storied career as a Major League owner, and fittingly, that team had one of the most interesting seasons of any Series champ. Shortstop-manager Lou Boudreau won the MVP after Veeck nearly traded him away the previous offseason, third baseman Ken Keltner had the best year of his career at age 31 and the pitching staff saw two new stars arise in Bob Lemon and Gene Bearden. One brilliant move that many mistook for a publicity stunt was the signing of Satchel Paige in July. The veteran Negro League hurler was in his 40's by then (his precise age was a constant topic of debate), but he ended up being a valuable arm out of the bullpen, providing 72.2 innings of a 164 ERA+. The Indians had integrated the American League with the addition of Larry Doby the previous summer, and in 1948 he emerged as the team's star center fielder.

As has often been the case throughout the Indians' history, this team was pretty unlucky. Their OPS+, ERA+ and DER all led the league, the latter two by a wide margin, and their homers, batting average and OPS all led as well. Despite being far and away the AL's best team, they severely underperformed their Pythagorean record; the pennant race was close all year. The Indians held onto first place for most of the first half before falling behind the surging Yankees and Red Sox in late August.

Cleveland's 1920 title was won in the wake of a tragedy: shortstop Ray Chapman was beaned in August and died the next day. On September 13 the Indians nearly saw another player's life claimed by an on-field injury. Pitcher Don Black twisted his neck while batting against the Browns, resulting in a cerebral hemorrhage. Black was hospitalized for the next six weeks. The Indians' September 22 game against the Red Sox was played as a benefit for Black, and over $40,000 in gate receipts went to the fallen moundsman. That game was also a significant win that put the Indians in a first-place tie with Boston. The Indians never fell out of first after that, though they finished the season tied with the BoSox, forcing a one-game playoff. Gene Bearden, backed by an eight-run attack, defeated the Red Sox in the extra contest to clinch the Tribe's first pennant in 28 years.

The Indians, already in Beantown for the playoff, stayed there to face the Braves in the World Series. Ace Bob Feller lost a 1-0 heartbreaker in Game 1, but the Indians allowed only two runs over the next three games, all Cleveland victories, behind Lemon, Bearden and Steve Gromek. Feller was again victimized in Game 5, only this time it was an 11-5 slugfest rather than a pitcher's duel. Lemon closed out the Series in Game 6, tossing 7.1 innings for the final victory. Eddie Robinson's eighth-inning RBI single provided the winning margin. The Indians have had some great seasons since then, but unfortunately, the 1948 World Series title remains their last.

Acknowledgements:

Baseball Reference
Baseball Almanac
Google News Archives

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