A 28-year-old freshman pitcher, with a world of courage and superb control of a knuckler, breached a 28-year gap to give Cleveland its first American League championship since 1930 yesterday.
That was Gene Bearden. He whipped the Red Sox, 8 to 3, before 33,957 die-hards at chilly Fenway Park in the league’s first pennant playoff.
The able southpaw, who carries plates of steel in his head and left knee as a result of heroic action in the South Pacific, had only one day’s rest. But he hurdled the handicap.
Manager Lou Boudreau, who had the confidence in Bearden to pick him over Bob Feller and Bob Lemon for this most vital assignment, did more than any other individual to win the game for the rookie.
Lou culminated a superb season when he clouted two home runs and two singles in four times at the plate. Is there any doubt of his right to the American League’s most valuable player award?
Keltner hits homer
Following closely on the heels of the proficient manager was Hammering Ken Keltner, who continued his vicious Fenway Park slugging. He connected for what proved the game-winning home run with two mates aboard in the fourth. He chipped in with a single and double, just out of habit.
The Red Sox were practically helpless before the knuckle ball wizardly of the Indians’ southpaw, who struck out five and granted only five hits.
Bearden threw only one fast ball all day and Bobby Doerr hit it into the left field screen in the sixth. It was Bob’s 28th round-tripper. Ted Williams, who reached when Joe Gordon muffed his pop fly, was board.
Bearden granted only one hit over the remaining three and one-third innings, a single by Williams in the eighth, the Kid’s only blow. The Indian left-hander grew stronger as the game progressed.
The victory was Bearden’s 20th, and it was one of the few times that a rival southpaw has gone the distance at Fenway Park.
Choice of Bearden stunned the crowd. He had pitched nine innings Saturday, when he set down the Tigers 8 to 0.
Manager Joe McCarthy of the Red Sox found his pitching staff in such a decomposed state, that he was forced to start his most vital ball game of the season with Denny Galehouse, 37-year-old right-hander. Mel Parnell was suffering from an ulcerated tooth and trouble with his left flapper.
Galehouse got by the first pair of Indians in short order, but Boudreau, getting ahead of Denny, with a two-ball, no-strike count, fouled off a pitch and then belted his 17th home run on a rising line into the left field nets. It was the 24th home run by the Indians against the Sox this year.
However, the Sox bounced right back to know the count against Bearden, who seemed bothered by the cold at the outset.
Pesky hits double
Johnny Pesky started it with a double to right center, and after moving to third on Ted Williams’ tricky grounder to Boudreau, scored on Vern Stephens’ harsh single to left.
The Indians won the ball game in the fourth.
Boudreau again showed the way, as he singled sharply to left. His keystone partner, Gordon, likewise took advantage of Galehouse’s much-too-careful chucking to plunk the three-one pitch for a single between third and short, Boudreau holding second.
Up strode Keltner who loves to bat at Fenway Park. He walked into Galehouse’s two-two offering and pasted the ball up into his favorite parking ground, the left field nettings for his 31st round-tripper and his eighth against the Sox.
Galehouse was all through, but the Indians were not. Ellis Kinder came in to pitch and Larry Doby bopped his first serve off the left center field wall for two bases. He was sacrificed to third by Bob Kennedy and scored on Jim Hegan’s high hopper behind the mound to Stephens.
Boudreau came up again with two down and none aboard in the fifth and belted his second home.
With one down in the sixth Gordon, unwittingly disdaining dark glasses, dropped a fly off the bat of Williams in short right field. Doerr’s homer followed and sent the fans wild. If Bearden was bothered he kept it a secret as he set Stephens downs swinging.
The ball game was won but the Boudreau clan picked up a couple of “gravy” runs in the eighth and ninth.
Doby again doubled to lead off the eighth and was “sent along” to third on Kennedy’s sacrifice. Jim Hegan was intentionally walked and at this juncture the visitors attempted to squeeze Doby home, with Bearden at bat.
However the canny Birdie Tebbetts, sensing things to perfection, called for a pitchout and Doby was trapped between third and home, being run down, Tebbetts to Pesky. On the play, Hegan moved to second. He counted when Williams dropped Bearden’s fly ball after a run to left center. It was an error.
Singles by Robinson and Boudreau, a walk to Gordon and Ken Keltner’s double play via Stephens-Doerr and Goodman admitted the game’s final run in the ninth.