September 20, 1929 – Joe Sewell’s Consecutive Strikeout-less Streak Ends
Joe Sewell was signed to the Indians in 1920 to replace Ray Chapman at shortstop after he died as the result of a hit by pitch in Game 111. On arrival in Cleveland, first baseman George Burns gave him a forty-ounce bat. Sewell cared for that bat, never broke it, and used “Black Betsy” for his entire major league career. He quickly got up to speed and helped the Tribe win the 1920 World Series.
On this Friday afternoon in 1929, the Indians were visiting Fenway Park. Ken Halloway took the bump for the Indians against Danny MacFayden. Sewell, who had a legendary eye at the plate had last struck out in Game 27 back on May 19th.
Holloway and MacFayden dueled through four scoreless innings. In the top of the fifth Sewell flied out to lead off the inning. Johnny Hodapp singled to center. Joe’s brother, catcher Luke Sewell, singled into right and advanced to second on a throwing error. Ken Halloway walked to load the bases and Dick Porter drove in Hodapp with a sacrifice fly.
Earl Averill walked to lead off the Indians half of the sixth. Lew Fonseca singled into right to advance Averill to second. Left fielder Ed Morgan popped one foul and was put out by the Sox catcher. Joe Sewell stepped in against MacFayden, and struck out.
It was the first time that Sewell had gone down on strikes in 115 games, or 516 plate appearances. Much like Ted Williams, Sewell benefitted from incredible vision and quick processing. He claimed that he was able to see his bat strike the ball.
Johnny Hodapp drove in two with a double down the right field line to put the Tribe up 3-0.
Holloway allowed a single by Phil Todt in the bottom of the sixth, but quickly erased it with a 6-4-3 double play.
Indians right fielder Dick Porter tripled in the top of the seventh. Jackie Tavener plated Porter with a single into right. The Indians had a 4-0 lead.
The Sox would score twice in the bottom of the seventh and eighth innings, but the Indians 4 runs stood up. Wes Ferrell took over for Holloway with one out in the bottom of the eighth and carried the Tribe to an eventual 4-2 victory.
Sewell’s strikeout-less streak is one of several records that seem unlikely ever to be broken. Mookie Betts made news when his strikeout-less streak ended at 129 plate appearances in 2017.
Sewell was so talented at making contact that he averaged just ten strikeouts per season for his career. From 1925 to 1930 he struck out only 33 times while playing every game of the season. While still 1,000 games behind Cal Ripken and Lou Gehrig, Sewell’s consecutive games played streak of 1,103 is good for seventh in MLB history. In his fourteen year career with the Indians and Yankees, no pitcher ever struck out Joe Sewell more than four times.