This Week in Tribe History
Here are some of the important, interesting, or just plain strange events that occurred this week in Tribe history.
August 24, 1919
Five days after signing with the Tribe, Ray Caldwell made his Indians debut against the Philadelphia Athletics. The talented but often-troubled pitcher dominated Philadelphia’s batters through the first 8 2/3 innings. Caldwell had only allowed one run on four hits. With a summer evening thunderstorm rolling in, he looked to retire shortstop Joe Dugan for the final out.
What happened next is the stuff of legends. According to Franklin Lewis, author of The Cleveland Indians, “A bolt came hurtling from the sky and smashed into the ground near the pitcher’s mound. A direct hit would have killed any mortal. Caldwell was struck, a glancing blow, fortunately. He was flattened and knocked unconscious for five minutes.” Per mlb.com¹, Caldwell believed, “The bolt entered him through the metal button atop his cap. He said the experience felt like someone hit him on the head with a wooden board. After the game, he claimed to have discovered a burn mark on his chest, which he attributed to the lightning strike.”
After five minutes or so, Caldwell regained consciousness. Incredibly, he did not come out of the game or receive medical attention. Still facing Dugan, he induced a grounder to third to end the game. Caldwell did not suffer any lasting effects from the lightning strike other than the alleged burn mark. In fact, he would no-hit the Yankees a couple of weeks later. He finished the 1919 season with the Indians, earning a record of 5-1 with a 1.71 ERA.
August 24, 1945
After serving 44 months in the United States Navy, where he earned eight battle stars, Bob Feller made his triumphant return to the Indians starting rotation. Facing the Detroit Tigers, Feller made quick work of the Motor City Kitties. Feller went the distance in a 4-2 victory for the Tribe, striking out twelve.
During the outing, he showcased a slider that he worked on during his stint at the Great Lakes Naval Training Station. Feller paired it with his devastating fastball to great effect. He ended his shortened season with a record of 5-3 along and an ERA of 2.50. Feller threw seven complete games and allowed only 50 hits in 72 innings pitched.
August 28, 1918
On this date, Tris Speaker had a heated exchange with home plate umpire John Connolly over a close play at home. During the altercation, Speaker punched Connolly. As a result, the American League suspended him for the remainder of the season. At the time of his suspension, Speaker was batting .318 with a major league-leading 33 doubles.
August 28, 1983
The Indians traded right-hander Len Barker to the Atlanta Braves for players-to-be-named-later and $150,000. Although Barker had some success in Cleveland, including his perfect game in 1981 along with leading the AL in strikeouts in 1980 and 1981, he was mired in a career-worst season at that point. The Braves were looking to bolster their starting rotation for a pennant run, and so they gambled on Barker’s return to form.
The trade did not work out for the Braves as Barker never regained his All-Star form. For the Tribe, the trade was a big win. Those players-to-be-named-later turned out to be pitcher Rick Behenna, third baseman Brook Jacoby, and outfielder Brett Butler. For those readers familiar with the 1980s Indians teams, the names Jacoby and Butler bring back fond memories as they were two of the few bright spots for those awful teams in the mid-to-late 1980s.
Barker would earn a record of 10-20 with a 4.64 ERA in Atlanta. Rick Behenna managed a record of 0-7 with a 7.16 ERA with the Indians, retiring at the end of the 1985 season. Brett Butler played four seasons in Cleveland, batting .288/.373/.396 with 164 stolen bases and 45 triples. During his nine seasons in Cleveland, Brook Jacoby made two All-Star teams while batting .273 with 120 home runs and 524 RBIs.
- https://www.mlb.com/news/ray-caldwell-struck-by-lightning-while-pitching, accessed on August 26, 2020
Image credit: Cleveland.com