April 18, 2024

The 1948 Cleveland Indians were the last Cleveland team to win a World Series, but how much do we all know about this team? It was a team that had a young player-manager and brought in an iconic pitcher from another league in July as a reinforcement to one of the best pitching staffs of all time.

Most of us aren’t old enough to remember 1948. My dad graduated from high school in 1954. Growing up, I heard more about the 1954 team, which is legendary in its own right. After all, that team featured two 23-game winners and set a record by winning 111 games before falling to the Willie Mays-led Giants in the World Series. I suspect that my dad followed that team much more closely.

Cleveland was coming off a fourth-place finish in the American League in 1947. There were no significant changes to the roster until July 1948. The team would feature six future members of the Hall of Fame and several players who were all-stars.

Lou Boudreau was the player-manager of the Indians. He played shortstop and won the MVP in 1948. He hit .355/18/106 and scored 116 runs in a 154-game schedule. He was not alone in providing offense for this team. Second baseman Joe Gordon hit .280/32/124. Third baseman Ken Keltner slugged .297/31/119. First baseman Eddie Robinson contributed .254/16/83. What a tremendous infield this team had.

The outfield featured Larry Doby, who hit 14 homers and hit .301 and Dale Mitchel who hit .336. There were also significant bench players on this team.

The pitching staff was truly the hallmark of the 1948 Indians. It was anchored by Indian legends Bob Lemon and Bob Feller, who won 20 and 19 games, respectively. Knuckleballer Gene Bearden had by far the best season of his career in going 20-7 with a 2.43 ERA. Lemon, Feller and Bearden would combine to throw more than 800 innings in 1948.

There were several other pitchers who played key roles. In fact, not one pitcher on the Cleveland staff had a losing record. This team was loaded with pitching, but it would get even better during the stretch run.

Leroy “Satchel” Paige joined the team in July of 1948. Words like star and legend are sometimes thrown around indiscriminately, but not in this case. Paige was a Negro League legend. He was an amazing character and an even better pitcher. The records show that Paige was 41 when he joined the Indians, but I don’t believe that was ever verified. Many suspected that he was older.

Satchel Paige gave the Indians exactly what they needed to force a one-game playoff with Boston. He went 6-1 with a 2.48 ERA. He also drew record crowds while doing it.

Gene Bearden and the Indians won the one-game playoff against the Red Sox, 8-3. Ken Keltner hit a 3-run homer to lead the offensive attack.

The Indians faced the Boston Braves in the World Series. The Braves featured pitchers Johnny Sain and Warren Spahn. It was the year that the well-known saying “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” was taken from a poem.

As expected, the World Series showcased the outstanding pitching both teams possessed. Game one saw Bob Feller losing 1-0 to Johnny Sain in a classic duel. Feller had picked off the would-be winning run at second, but the umpire blew the call.

Five out of the six games played were close as the Indians won the championship four games to two.

It’s been 75 years since the Indians won a World Series, but we couldn’t have a better team to remember as our last winner. The Indians were talented and resilient and not afraid to do the unconventional. Here’s hoping that 2023 is just as special for Cleveland and the Guardians.


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