Game 106

August 13, 1948 – Crowd Packs Comiskey to see Satchel Paige Pitch a Complete Game Shutout at Age 42

Satchel Paige is sometimes referred to as, “the greatest player ever excluded from Major League Baseball.” Paige dominated the Negro Leagues beginning in the late 1920s, through the 30s, and into the 1940s. Paige even played for a time for the Cleveland Cubs in 1931. It was the first time that he had played in a City with a white major league team. He later said , “I’d look over at the Cleveland Indians’ stadium [League Park]. All season long it burned me, playing there in the shadow of that stadium. It didn’t hurt my pitching, but it sure didn’t do me any good.”

In 1948, Bill Veeck gave Paige a tryout for the Indians. While Veeck is considered a P.T. Barnum like figure for his odd moves and promotions, his contributions to the integration of baseball are often forgotten. The innovative owner had signed Larry Doby as the first black player in the American League in 1947, and saw that Satchel still had something in the tank. 

Satchel Paige and Larry Doby

While there was some outcry that signing Paige was merely another publicity stunt, Bob Feller leaned into the controversy. “Maybe Mr. Veeck did want some publicity, but he wanted a pitcher, too,” he wrote. “There was only one guy around who could fill both orders. That was Ol’ Satch.”

Paige earned his first MLB win–as a 42 year old rookie–on July 15th against the As. He won his first MLB start against the Browns on August 3rd. He had often drawn large crowds for Negro League games or barnstorming tours, but few expected the turnout in Chicago when the Indians went to visit the White Sox. 

When Paige was announced as the starter for the Friday night contest, all of the reserved seats were snapped up. It had been over a decade since Comiskey had sold out so early in advance of a White Sox game. Eventually, 51,013 would pack the South Side ballpark, including Heavyweight Champion Joe Louis. 

The Tribe scored first in the top of the fifth when Larry Doby tripled to lead off the inning and the tagged up on a long fly-out by Jim Hegan. They extended the lead to 2-0 in the eighth when Dale Mitchell drove home Ken Keltner. 

In the top of the ninth, the Indians scored three runs on two hits including an RBI single by Larry Doby. Doby then scored a run with Paige at the plate. He and Jim Hegan executed a double steal, and the Sox catcher committed an error allowing Doby to score making it a 5-0 ballgame. 

Stach pitched brilliantly, never facing more than four White Sox in an inning until the 9th. He was tested a bit in the final frame, when Luke Appling and Pat Seerey hit consecutive one-out singles. Satch recovered and retired the next two Sox to finish off the complete game shutout. 

Baseball Reference Box Score


Game 99

August 8, 1948 (Game 2) – Eddie Robinson Leads Comeback Win Over Yankees

The Indians, Yankees, and Athletics were in a race for the American League pennant all throughout the 1948 season. A chance to see the hated Yankees always brought crowds to Municipal Stadium, but August 1948 was on another level. The four-game weekend series (including a Sunday double-header) set a three-day attendance record of 188,081 through the gates. 

The Indians had prevailed in the first game of the doubleheader with an 8-6 win led by a two-home run game by first baseman Eddie Robinson. Robinson’s second homer of the game–a two run shot off of Joe Page–sealed the victory for the Tribe. 

In the second game, the Indians threw spot starter Steve Gromek against the Yankees rookie Bob Porterfield who was making his major league debut in front of 73,000+ at Municipal Stadium. 

Steve Gromek

In the top of the fourth, Larry Doby robbed Yankees first baseman George McQuinn of a home run when he raced to the wall and timed his jump perfectly to bring the ball back into play. 

With two outs in the bottom of the fifth, Eddie Robinson rocked his third home run of the day over the right field wall. It was only his thirteenth homer of the season, but he was certainly in a groove on this August afternoon. The solo shot put the Indians up 1-0.

Eddie Robinson

The Yankees answered with some of their own two-out magic in the top of the sixth. Billy Johnson singled to left. When Phil Rizzuto stroked a single down the right field line, Johnson hurried hard for third. Larry Doby fired the ball from right field to third base, but strock Johnson in the back. The ball ricocheted off Johnson and into the stands near third base. Doby was charged with a throwing error, despite the cross-diamond display of strength, and Johnson was given home plate to tie the game 1-1. 

Gromek allowed only four hits over his seven innings, and only the unearned run. In the bottom of the seventh, Indians second baseman Joe Gordon led off with a single. Johnny Bernardino moved Gordon over to second with a sacrifice bunt. Porterfield elected to intentionally walk the red-hot Eddie Robinson to pitch to Jim Hegan. Hegan knocked a single into center field that scored Gordon and put the Tribe up 2-1. 

Ed Klieman pitched two very strong innings of relief, facing only seven Yankee batters on the way to securing the Indians third victory of the weekend.

Baseball Reference Box Score


Game 83

July 16 , 1946 – Indians Beat Red Sox by Employing the “Ted Williams Shift”

Baseball’s stars mostly returned to the game in 1946. On this Tuesday afternoon, Bob Feller was on the hill for the Indians against Tex Hughson at Fenway Park. Another all-time great who gave up three years of baseball to serve in the Marines would step into the box against Feller–Ted Williams. 

Two day before, the Indians had a doubleheader with the Red Sox. In the opening game, player-manager Lou Boudreau went 5-for-5 with four doubles and a homer. Ted Williams hit three home runs and went 4-for-5. All of his hits were to right field. This was not the first or the last time Boudreau’s hitting was overshadowed by Williams. 

Boudreau led the AL with a .327 average in 1944; however, this honor always came with the asterisk that Williams was busy serving as a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps in between winning his six batting titles. 

Between games, Boudreau proposed a radical solution. When Ted Williams came to the plate in the second game, the Indians defense changed their alignment drastically. 

A Fleer Baseball Card Depicting the Shift

When Williams saw the shift for the first time, he turned to the umpire and said, “What the hell is going on out there? They can’t do that.” 

They could, though. Boudreau had checked the rules. The current edition of the MLB Rulebook is 184 pages long. The clause that implicitly allows a defensive shift is rather succinct: 

5.02(c) “Except the pitcher and the catcher, any fielder may station himself anywhere in fair territory.”

The Tribe shifted on Williams and held him to only one hit in the second game of the double-header, but managed to lose 6 to 4. 

Seeing the success of his new strategy, Boudreau continued to apply the shift two days later in Game 83. The Indians got on the board early when a long fly out by Pat Seerey allowed George Case to tag and score. Ken Keltner made the lead 2-0 with a home run to lead off the top of the second. 

Heinz Becker led off the Indians’ half of the fifth with a double and was driven in by catcher Jim Hegan. Pat Seerey led off the top of the sixth with another home run to make the score 4-0. 

In the bottom of the sixth, Ted Williams beat the shift with a line drive to center field that went for a triple and scored Johnny Pesky from second. 

Jim Hegan answered with a triple of his own in the top of the seventh, which again plated Becker. 

Williams singled to left in the bottom of the eighth, but it came to naught as Feller retired the next three Red Sox in order. Overall on the day, Feller gave up three runs on nine hits but it was good enough to get the complete game win after squashing a late comeback attempt that included a two-run double by Dom DiMaggio in the bottom of the ninth. Williams went 2 for 5 with the triple noted above as the only highlight. 

Boudreau would continue to use the shift against Williams throughout the mid-40s. Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer would use a similar tactic against Williams to win the 1946 World Series. Eventually he trained himself to be less of a pull hitter, but that required major adjustments to his approach. 

Of course, statistical analysis and sabermetrics has made the shift commonplace over the past 10 years or so. As FiveThirtyEight noted, this was likely due to changing perceptions rather than a change in effectiveness. The shift has always been a good idea–the manager just looks silly when it fails. The team that has embraced defensive shifts most fully is probably the Astros, who have used a very similar extreme shift against pull hitters such as Joey Gallo. 

It is hard to overstate how shocking this was to the baseball establishment at the time. Lou Boudreau is remembered not only as a talented hitter in his own right, but also as an innovative manager who knew the rules and how to bend them. 

Baseball Reference Box Score 

Honorable Mention – July 1, 2014 – Tribe Turns 7-2-4 Triple Play