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1954 Indians flashback: 5-1-2 week keeps Yankees at bay

Still nursing just a half game lead, the Indians had a full week of road games slated, one with the Senators, four with the Red Sox and three with the Yankees.

First Baseman Vic Wertz
First Baseman Vic Wertz
Topps Baseball Cards

A great week prior did not help in the standings as the Yankees were still just a half game back and the White Sox in shouting distance at four games back. The five city, sixteen day, seventeen game road trip concludes with the finale in Washington, and visits to Fenway and Yankee stadium.

July 19, 1954

July 19: Indians 4, Senators 3

A two run double by Al Rosen in the first got the Indians a quick 2-0 lead. An RBI single by Rosen and a Ed Fitz Gerald homer off Early Wynn in fifth made it 3-1. Tom Umphlett tied the game in the sixth. Pinch hitter Dale Mitchell singled in the go ahead run in the seventh while Art Houtteman, Don Mossi and Ray Narleski navigated the tying and go ahead runs in the ninth to secure the victory.

July 20-22, 1954

July 20: Indians 5, Red Sox 5, 16 innings

July 21: Indians 7, Red Sox 7, 8 innings

July 22 (game 1): Indians 6, Red Sox 3

July 22 (game 2): Indians 5, Red Sox 2

The Indians arrived in Fenway, looking to keep up the their impressive record against the Red Sox on the season. Bobby Avila hit a solo homer in the first, but Ted Williams answered right back with an RBI single of Mike Garcia. Two more solo shots by Rosen and Larry Doby offset a two run shot by Ted Lepcio. The Sox took a 5-3 lead in the eighth, but Avila homered again, sending the game into extras. Narleski pitched the ninth and Mossi pitched seven more shutout innings before the umpires called the game after 16 innings due to curfew restrictions. This allowed the Yankees to pull into a dead heat.

The next day, the Indians got into a quick 6-0 hole after three innings. Art Houtteman got the early shower as in the third he gave up a homer to Williams and then double, triple, double. The Tribe answered in the fourth, with a Vic Wertz RBI single and a three run homer by Jim Heagn. They took the lead in the fifth on a two run homer by Doby and a solo shot by Rosen. The Red Sox tied it in the sixth, but that is when the rains came. Again the umpires called the game a tie after eight innings.

Thursday became a doubleheader due to some early season rainouts. Bob Feller pitched a complete game in the first match and was staked to an early 3-0 lead in the first when the Red Sox committed three errors and Wertz hit a two run shot. Williams hit another homer to tie the game in the third at 3-3. But Wertz replied quickly, hitting a two run shot in the sixth. That would be all Feller needed.

The home run binge continued in the finale. Wally Westlake had a solo shot in the fourth and Smith had his own solo shot in the eighth. Bob Lemon pitched a complete game with the only blemish a two run homer by Harry Agannis in the ninth. So the Tribe headed to New York with a slim half game lead on the Yankees.

July 23-25, 1954

July 23: Indians 8, Yankees 2

July 24: Indians 5, Yankees 4, 10 innings

July 25: Indians 3, Yankees 4, 11 innings

Early Wynn opened the series by pitching a complete game. But it easy sledding it was not. He scattered fourteen hits with two walks and just one strikeout. The Yankees broke the ice in the fourth on a two run single by Irv Noren. In the meantime, the offense couldn't solve Eddie Lopat until the a solo homer by Doby in the sixth. Three singles by Wertz, Dave Philley and George Strickland tied it in the seventh. Smith continued his torrid streak by hitting a three run homer in the seventh as well. Doby added another bomb and Smith plated two more with a single to salt the game away and push the Indians lead up to a game and a half on the Yankees.

On Saturday Mossi  got the spot start and faced Allie Reynolds. The Indians took a 3-0 lead into the seventh on the basis of Doby and Wertz RBI singles and a solo shot by Hegan. But Mossi tired, loading the bases with no outs. He induced a double play, but a double by Noren and a triple by Bill Skowron tied the game. Lemon came in relief and got Mickey Mantle to ground out, keeping it tied.  In the tenth, Lemon led off with a single and was sacrificed over by Smith. After an Avila pop out, Doby homered. Mantle led off the bottom half with a double. Hal Newhosuer relieved, but Yogi Berra singled, cutting the lead in half. Narleski came on and got the final three outs, pushing the Tribe lead to two and a half games.

The Tribe went for the perfect week on Sunday with Garcia taking on Whitey Ford. The Indians took a 3-1 lead in the sixth on an RBI single by Avila and a two run single by Wertz. But the Yankees got to Garcia in the seventh, knotting the score. But the offense was negated by Bob Grim in the late and extra innings. The Yankees salvaged the finale by walking off in the eleventh off Narleski, Mossi and Houtteman.

Player of the Week

There were many choices for this week's selection. Al Smith had 957 OPS with two homers. Al Rosen had an 1049 OPS with a pair of homers as well. Vic Wertz had an 1106 OPS, a pair of homers and drove in nine. But this week's nod goes to Larry Doby. He slashed 378/425/838 (1263 OPS) and drove in eight on five homers.

Player Spotlight

First Baseman Vic Wertz

Originally signed by the Tigers, the three time All-Star was dealt to St. Louis Browns in 1952. After the franchise moved to Baltimore in 1954, the Indians acquired him at the June 1 trading deadline for pitcher Bob Chakeles. In 1954, he would appear in 97 games for the Tribe, hitting 275/344/478 (122 OPS+)with 14 home runs and 48 RBI. He stayed in Cleveland through the 1958 season before being dealt to Boston. In his five years with the Tribe, he made one All Star game (1957) and hit 270/358/490 (126 OPS+) with 91 home runs. He ended up playing 17 years in the majors after missing his first two years serving in World War II.

Transactions/Moves

Vic Wertz finally grabbed a hold of the first base job this week. Shortstop George Strickland got hurt in Saturday's game, and wouldn't play again until late August. Sam Dente took his place in the field.

Summary

The end of this road trip was just brutal. Eight games in three cities that resulted in a 5-1 record with two ties in Boston. There were three extra inning affairs, including 16 in one of the ties. All of the offensive explosions and wins only netted them one game in the standings however. Next week, a return home for the Red Sox and Senators..

Standings

W

L

Pct

GB

RS

RA

Pythag

Cleveland Indians

65

29

691

-

466

339

642

New York Yankees

65

32

670

1.5

511

367

647

Chicago White Sox

61

37

622

6.0

475

335

655

Washington Senators

41

50

451

22.5

397

401

495

Detroit Tigers

40

53

430

24.5

348

395

442

Boston Red Sox

38

55

409

26.5

409

471

436

Philadelphia Athletics

34

58

370

30.0

346

522

320

Baltimore Orioles

33

63

344

33.0

314

436

354