Game 87

July 13, 1963 – Early Wynn Returns to Indians, Earns Elusive 300th Win

Hall of Fame pitcher Early Wynn came to the Indians in 1948 after 8 seasons with the Senators and two years serving in World War II. Early in his career he was known as an aggressive power pitcher who was quick to brush batters back off the plate. He once said, “A pitcher will never be a big winner until he hates hitters.” He was also known to knock runners down at first base, with bean balls disguised as pickoff attempts. 

Ten years into his baseball career, Wynn could no longer rely entirely on velocity and swagger. He credited Mel Harder with re-making his career. Harder taught Wynn how to throw a curveball, and he became part of one of the most talented pitching rotations in history along with Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, and Mike Garcia. 

He pitched for nine years with the Indians, leading the World-Series bound 1954 squad with 23 wins. Wynn was traded to the White Sox after the 1957 season where he pitched until the end of 1962. The White Sox released Wynn at the end of the season with 299 total wins. 

The Indians reached out to Wynn on June 1, 1963. He was at home in Venice, Florida unhappily retired. The 43-year old felt that he had more innings left in his arm. Wynn pitched a complete game in his first game back in the rotation, but either pitched no-decisions or was the hard-luck loser in four consecutive outings. 

On July 13, 1963 the Indians were visiting the Kansas City Athletics in Missouri’s Municipal Stadium and Wynn was on the mound again seeking his elusive 300th win. Second baseman Larry Brown put the Tribe ahead early with an RBI single that drove in Joe Romano. 

The A’s tied it up in the bottom of the fourth when George Alusik sent Wynn’s pitch over the Muni Stadium wall for a lead-off home run. 

Wynn led off the top of the fifth with a single, and advanced to second on a Dick Howser single. KC’s Moe Drabowsky walked Max Alvis to load the bases. Joe Adcock then knocked a single scoring Wynn and Howser. Another walk chased Drabowsky from the game, and Al Luplow knocked in another two runs before Romano was gunned out at home trying to score from first base. 

The Royals loaded the bases to lead off the bottom of the fifth, then Jerry Lumpe tried to stretch a double into a triple. Three runs scored–including a young Tony LaRussa who was on base as a pinch runner. 

Woodie held pinch hit for Wynn in the top of the 6th. With five innings in the books and a 5-4 lead, Wynn could not lose the game but his teammates would have to hold on for the win. 

Photo: Baseball HOF Collection

Reliever Jerry Walker gave up only three hits and two walks in his four innings of work. His talented pitching along with two further Indians insurance runs sealed Wynn’s place in the history books as the 14th MLB pitcher to achieve 300 wins.  

Wynn made one start after this game, and spent the rest of the year in the bullpen. He retired at the end of the 1963 season with exactly 300 wins, and a lifetime ERA of 3.54. He struck out 2,334 batters in 4,564 innings across parts of four decades. 

The 300 win club currently stands at 24 pitchers, and is not anticipated to grow anytime soon. Randy Johnson is the most recent addition, having earned his 300th win in 2009. Lefty Grove is the only other pitcher to have retired with exactly 300 wins. 

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Game 75

June 28, 1992 – Indians Comeback Win After Jacobs Field Groundbreaking

The corner of Carnegie and Ontario did not always look like it does today. This 1927 map from the Cleveland Public Library archive shows the tangle of eastside streetcar lines converging on the Central Market before heading north to Public Square.

This 1951 aerial photograph shows the dense neighborhood of offices and warehouses that formerly stood where the ballpark is now.

For a more detailed look, check out this interactive map from the Cleveland Public Library.

In May 1990, Cuyahoga County voters narrowly approved the “Sin Tax” which charged 1.9 cents on a can of beer and 4.5 cents on a pack of cigarettes for 15 years. This revenue stream opened the door for the creation of the Gateway Economic Development Corporation and the construction of both Jacobs Field and Gund Arena.

On June 28, 1992, the Indians invited Mel Harder who had thrown the first pitch in Municipal Stadium to throw a ceremonial first pitch at the Jacobs Field construction site. Charles Nagy and Sandy Alomar Jr. were the battery representing the new Indians that would move into the new stadium at the start of 1994.

After the speeches and photo opportunities at the construction site, Dennis Cook started against Jack Morris and the Blue Jays back down on the Lakefront at Municipal Stadium.

It was a high-scoring affair. Joe Carter and John Olerud both homered off Cook in the first inning, giving the Jays a 3-0 advantage out of the gate.

The Tribe answered by sending all nine batters to the plate in the bottom of the first and plating four runs. Carlos Baerga extended the lead to 5-3 in the bottom of the second with an RBI single.

Joe Carter tied things up in the top of the seventh with a two run single into short left field. Jeff Kent put the Jays on top in the top of the 8th with a solo home run off Steve Olin.

With leadoff man Alex Cole on second, Paul Sorrento socked a home run over the center field wall in the bottom of the eighth to put the Tribe up 7-6.

Eric Plunk pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn a save and close out a celebratory day in Indians history.

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Honorable Mention: June 28, 2010 – Travis Hafner Scores Winning Run on Jayson Nix Squeeze Bunt

Nix said. “I think I’ve done it in the minors, but this definitely was the first time in the majors for me. I needed to make sure I didn’t square too early to tell them it was coming, and I needed to get it down. He threw a fastball, which made it easier.”

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Game 44

June 2, 1933 – Mel Harder Complete Game Shutout

Game 44 was the second half of a Friday double-header. Mel Harder was matched up with Bump Hadley of the St. Louis Browns. Both pitchers put up impressive stat lines. Harder gave up six hits, struck out four, no walks.

For the Tribe, Dick Porter doubled to left to lead off the game. After Bill Cissel was put out on a line drive to left field, Johnny Burnett drove Porter home with another double to left field. Harder and Hadley would continue to battle through the evening.

Browns threatened in the bottom of the 7th with runners at 1st and 3rd. Harder got Sam West to ground out to third and end the inning. In the end, Hadley gave up only four hits and two walks but the one run in the first was all that Harder needed to get the complete game win.

Mel Harder was known for command of his pitches and being strategic, rather than overpowering hitters with speed. Not unlike the Indians of today, the pitching staff of the early 1930s was one of the best in the league, but the offense was sub-par. In 1933, Harder led the league with a 2.95 ERA, but finished 15-17 in the win-loss column. Poor defense was a factor, but this was mostly due to a lack of run support, (the Indians scored three runs or less in 20 of his 31 starts).

A year earlier in 1932, Mel Harder threw the first official pitch at Municipal Stadium. In 1993, he was honored to throw a ceremonial “last pitch” at the Stadium after the final home game of 1993.

Harder pitched for 20 seasons with the Tribe 1928 to 1947, only Walter Johnson of the Senators pitched more consecutive seasons (21) for one team. He then served as the Indians’ pitching coach from 1948 to 1963, revolutionizing the role of a pitching coach in the MLB by promoting the use of the sinker and mentoring the pitching staffs of the great 1948 and 1954 teams.

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