The 1948 Indians team photo was taken in Cleveland on October 3. Front row, left to right: Eddie Robinson; Ken Keltner, Al Rosen, Coach Mel Harder, Manager Lou Boudreau, President Bill Veeck, Coach Muddy Ruel, Coach Bill McKechnie, Joe Gordon and Johnny Beradino; Second row, left to right: Sam Zoldak, Ed Kleiman, Steve Gromek, Russ Christopher, Gene Bearden, Bob Lemon, Satchel Paige, Bob Feller, Bob Muncriff and trainer Lefty Weisman. Top row, left to right: Walt Judnich, Allie Clark, Hal Peck, Larry Doby, Hank Edwards, Dale Mitchell, Bob Kennedy, Jim Hegan, Ray Boone, Joe Tipton and Thurman Tucker. (The Associated Press file)
On August 12, 1948, the Indians sat in their clubhouse at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, between games of a double-header against the Browns and after a loss.
Little did they know what was in store for them—their most productive game of the season and in American League history, a string of shutouts, their longest winning streak this season, and of course, the World Series hardware when all was said and done.
To mark the 75th anniversary of the Indians becoming world champions in 1948, here’s a look back at the eight-game winning streak that lasted from August 12-20.
The reason the Indians played in a twinbill at all in St. Louis was because the teams’ July 4th clash had been postponed due to rain.
After an 8-4 loss in Game 1, the nightcap bats were alive and well while player manager Lou Boudreau reshuffled his lineup.
The Indians put down nine runs in the first inning to support Gene Bearden’s cause before he even stepped onto the mound.
Bearden also played his part, going 4-on-6 with one home run, four runs and four RBI. Hal Peck doubled twice, had four runs and had three RBIs.
Bearden allowed one run on four hits in seven innings before defeating Bob Feller by a 26-1 lead.
At this point, Boudreau had another reason to tinker with it. He removed most of his starters after six years, and 14 players recorded an attack that combined for 29 hits.
It was one run shy of the AL record set by the Indians in 1923 with a 27-3 win over the Red Sox and one hit shy of the major league standard set by the Cardinals in 1929.
Despite the lopsided win, the Indians were still percentage points behind the A’s.
When the Indians made their way to Chicago, there was a great deal of excitement in the Windy City as the visitors sent a familiar face, Satchel Paige, up the hill for the opening game. Paige started for the second time in the major leagues.
A crowd of 51,013 filled Comiskey Park, to date one of the largest ever seen for baseball in Chicago. An estimated 15,000 were turned away.
Paige didn’t disappoint, throwing a five in the 5-0 win over the White Sox. At one point he retired 12 times in a row, then again 10 times at a different track.
Prior to the game, Paige was honored with a trophy as “one of America’s most celebrated athletes” by the Chicago Herald-American.
“I’m deeply honored,” Paige said. “I want to thank you very much.”
In a strange twist, the referee team was forced to work in full dress suits after their uniforms were mistakenly shipped from St. Louis to Cleveland rather than Chicago. Home plate umpire Art Passarella borrowed a White Sox hat and Catcher shin guards.
The second game of the series was significantly smaller with around 8,000 spectators, with the Indians completing all their runs in the first game and bringing in a 4-2 victory. Joe Gordon added the deciding goal with a two-run double and Steve Gromek came within a point of a full game to go 7-2.
The sweep was completed in a doubleheader in Chicago on August 15, a Sunday before a Monday off. Bob Feller and Bob Lemon combined for two runs in the two games to win by scores of 6-2 and 8-0. Lemon’s nightcap win was his 16th win of the season, including his seventh shutout in 1948.
Boudreau defeated the Twinbill 7 to 10, raising his average to .361. Dale Mitchell had five hits, including a double and a treble.
Lemon’s jewel was the first of four straight shutouts as the Indians returned to northeast Ohio to face the Browns.
Bearden shone with another 8-0 win, delivering a four-hitter for his twelfth win and fourth shutout.
The flags at Cleveland Stadium flew at half-staff in honor of the late Babe Ruth.
Ruth was interviewed by Sport Magazine’s Cameron Shipp shortly before his death. In that interview, he predicted the Indians would win the AL pennant.
With that winning streak unfolding here, it’s worth bearing in mind that it would have been ideal to hear what Boudreau and his players think of the hot streak. Unfortunately, during this period, media reports were anchored in the game-to-game narrative and only on rare occasions was anyone quoted, even when post-game press conferences were held.
Next, Sam Zoldak defeated the Browns 3-0, scoring nine goals against his former team. Allie Clark scored all three runs.
The final leg of the shutout streak — and eight-game winning streak — came on Aug. 20 when the Indians defeated the White Sox 1-0.
In front of a crowd of 78,382, the largest crowd at a night game in baseball history, Paige tossed another gem. He hit five strikeouts and allowed three hits, none after a double in the fifth, taking the Indians their total shutout run to 39 innings. The four consecutive shutouts over a full game tied the club record to the point of 1903.
“I was just throwing fastballs out there,” Paige said. “If a pitch works, I keep using it.
“I had my first curveballs in the eighth set and threw three in a row for the strikeout.”
After the game, a teammate was told to reach out to Paige and say, “Looks like you’re rookie of the year.”
The Negro League and barnstorming pitching legend smiled and replied, “Maybe you’re right man. But 22 years is a long time for a newbie.”
Excluding the relief efforts, Paige had drawn 201,829 fans to the stadium where he threw in three starts.
The winning streak and shutout streak ended on August 21 in a 3-2 loss to the White Sox.
In the end, the Indians were up to three from a half-game back in the American League pennant race. However, it should be noted that a 2-6 slide followed to temporarily reinstate them as a chaser.
Later, the Indians had two seven-game winning streaks in September, though not quite with the allure and variety of that August streak.
They then clinched that pennant in a tiebreaker game against the Red Sox, and then secured the World Series crown in six games, also in Boston, against the Braves.
Little did they know what to expect between those doubles in St. Louis, a wild ride in August that might have shown a future world champion just what he could do.