1948 World Series
The 1948 World Series matched the Cleveland Indians against the Boston Braves.
The Braves had won the National League pennant for the first time since the "Miracle Braves" team of 1914. The Indians spoiled a chance for the only all-Boston World Series by winning a one-game playoff against the Boston Red Sox. Though superstar pitcher Bob Feller failed to win either of his two starts, the Indians won the Series in six games to capture their second championship and their first since 1920 (as well as their last to the present date).
It was the first World Series to be televised on a nationwide network and was announced by famed sportcasters Red Barber and Van Patrick.
This was the only World Series from 1947 to 1958 not to feature a New York team, and also the last World Series until 1957 not won by a New York team. Both teams would meet again in the 1995 World Series - by that time, the Braves had moved to Atlanta.
The surprising Cleveland Indians won their second pennant in 1948 after beating the Boston Red Sox in an 8-3 playoff for the American League championship. The win prevented what would have been another classic rematch between the Sox and their hometown rivals, the Boston Braves, who had captured the National League flag by 6½ games. While the Braves had a good-hitting ballclub, much of the National Leaguers' hopes rested on the arms of Johnny Sain and Warren Spahn. In fact, a formula penned in the papers as "Spahn and Sain and two days of rain" seemed to capture not only the depth of the team's starting pitching, but also the essence of the Braves' strength. Cleveland's big winners in '48 were rookie lefthander Gene Bearden, Bob Feller and Bob Lemon and many felt that this Series would be decided on the mound.
Bob Feller, who had won twenty-five or more games three times in the majors (and twenty-four on another occasion), was a nineteen-game winner in '48 and drew the start for Game 1. Sain, a twenty-four-game winner himself in '48, was the obvious choice for the Braves and both went at it for an eight-inning, scoreless duel. Then in the bottom of the inning, Boston catcher Bill Salkeld drew a leadoff walk and gave way to pinch-runner Phil Masi, who was sacrificed to second by Mike McCormick. Eddie Stanky then was issued an intentional walk, and Sibby Sisti came in to run for the Boston second baseman. Feller attempted to pick-off the leading runner, but Umpire Bill Stewart made a safe call on the sliding Masi. Player/Manager Lou Boudreau argued strenuously that he had made the tag before the baserunner got back to the bag, but the call stood. Tommy Holmes came in and singled home the contested base runner for the 1-0 lead. Sain held on for the opening victory despite giving up four hits to Feller's two. In Game 2, Lemon pitched shutout ball over the final eight innings as Cleveland tied the Series with a 4-1 triumph. Boudreau and Larry Doby, who had become the American League's first black player in July of 1947, each singled, doubled and drove in a run for the Indians.
Bearden continued to add to his outstanding stats with a five-hit shutout against the Braves in Game 3. The twenty-eight-year old pitcher performed well on both sides of the plate as he singled, then doubled and scored the first run (on a throwing error) in the 2-0 contest. His teammate, Steve Gromek followed suite the following day with a 2-1 triumph that put Boston on the brink of elimination (despite homers from both Doby and Marv Rickert). An end-of-the-season replacement for outfielder Jeff Heath, who had batted .319 for Boston with twenty home runs before breaking his ankle, Rickert wound up starting five World Series games for the Braves after appearing in only three regular-season outings for Billy Southworth's club.
In what would be a crucial last-stand, Boston showed what had got them to the Series in Game 5 with a clutch, 11-5 victory in front of a record Major League crowd of 86,288 at Cleveland Stadium. Spahn, who tossed one-hit, scoreless ball in 5 2/3 innings of relief, was the winning pitcher. Among the five pitchers used by the losing hometeam was forty-two-year-old Satchel Paige, the Negro leagues legend who had been signed to his first big-league contract by Indians President Bill Veeck in July. The appearance by Paige, who compiled a 6-1 regular-season record for the Tribe, made him the first black pitcher to take the mound in a World Series.
Bob Lemon, a twenty-game winner, was selected to finish the job for the Indians and responded to the challenge with 1 2/3 innings of relief help from the steady Bearden. The result was a 4-3, Game 6 clincher that showcased the diversity of the onetime infielder who had broken into the majors as a third baseman and played center field for Cleveland in Feller's no-hitter against the New York Yankees in 1946. After switching to the mound in 1948, he had won twenty games for the American League champions (a plateau he would reach six more times in the majors) and two World Series outings. Pitching was (as predicted) the deciding factor as Cleveland prevailed despite slumps from Joe Gordon and Ken Keltner. Gordon (who hit thirty-two home runs and totaled one-hundred twenty four runs batted in while batting .280 in the regular season) had one homer, two RBIs and a .182 hitting mark in the Fall Classic. Keltner (coming off a .297 season in which he slugged thirty-one home runs and knocked in one-hundred nineteen runs) collected two miserable singles in twenty-one Series at-bats (.095) and did not drive in a single run. Player/Manager Lou Boudreau did more than his share and contributed a .273 average for a team that hit .199 against the Braves.