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1954 Cleveland Indians try to set American League record for wins

With the pennant clinched, all that remained were the final two series, with the White Sox and Tigers visiting Cleveland.

Just a little more work to do
Just a little more work to do

After clinching the AL pennant the week before, the Indians had just two series at home left on the schedule. The Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers would each visit for three games, while the Tribe tried to achieve a few team and individual goals while prepping for the World Series.  The team was on a ten-game winning streak and had 108 wins, needing three more to surpass the AL record held by the 1927 Yankees.

September 20-22, 1954

September 20: White Sox 4, Indians 7

September 21: White Sox 9, Indians 7

September 22: White Sox 1, Indians 3

Bob Feller faced Bob Keegan in the opener. The Indians scored one in the first, four in the second and another in the third to give Feller a nice 6-0 lead. The biggest damage being Larry Doby's thirty-first home run, a three run shot in the second. The White Sox made a game of it by getting one in the fourth, two in the seventh and one in the eighth to make it 6-4. Vic Wertz hit his fifteenth homer in the eighth to push the lead back to three.  and Ray Narleski escaped a bases loaded jam in the eighth to notch his thirteenth save.  That win tied the team's longest win streak of the season, eleven, from back in May.

Art Houtteman pitched alright the next day, with the Sox tallying single runs in the first, third, and fourth innings. Doby himself tried to keep the Tribe in the game, with a sacrifice fly in the first and a two run shot in the sixth to tie it. That also gave him 121 RBI on the season. The Sox chased Houtteman in the seventh however on three hits, two errors a wild pitch and a passed ball. Late season call up Mickey Grasso hit a solo shot in the seventh. Bob Hooper did not fare well in the ninth, giving up three more runs. And again it was the Doby show as he hit a bases clearing double in the bottom of the ninth, giving him six RBI on the day. But Dale Mitchell couldn't keep the rally going and the eleven game win streak was kaput.

The finale pitted Jack Harshman of the White Sox against Don Mossi, who was making a spot start. Mossi pitched a complete game, but walked six on the day to go with five hits, but only one run would cross the plate, in the ninth. But Harshman was even wilder than Mossi, walking eight on the day to go with seven hits. The Indians managed only three runs out of all those baserunners, single runs in the second, third and fourth. The Tribe had tied the Yankees single season win record at 110, and finished dead even with the White Sox on the season, at 11-11.

September 24-26, 1954

September 24: Tigers 6, Indians 4

September 25: Tigers 1, Indians 11

September 26: Tigers 8, Indians 7, 13 innings

Bob Lemon made his final start of the season, looking for win number twenty four. But the Tigers did not oblige him, scoring four in the first three innings and two more in the eighth. The Tribe offense didn't do much against Ted Gray even though he walked eight. George Strickland got the first run in on a sacrifice fly, their league leading 59th. He also homered in the ninth to make it 6-2. Doby and Rosen drove in two more to make it close, but Al Aber got Wertz to line out.

Early Wynn tied Lemon for the league lead in wins, 23, in the middle game. This one was a laugher as the Tribe scores one in the first, two in the third and four each in the fifth and seventh. Doby doubled in one in the first, his league leading 126th, passing Yogi Berra. Mitchell and Dave Philley each doubled in a pair. Meanwhile, Wynn pitched pretty well, two hits, and four walks in his 20th complete game, just one behind Lemon and Bob Porterfield. The Tribe also got win number 111, breaking the AL record.

In the season finale, manager Al Lopez was determined to get Mike Garcia his 20th win on the year, which would have given the Tribe three (Lemon and Wynn). But Garcia was a bit rusty and found himself down 4-0 after two innings. The Indians got two back in the fourth, one on a Bobby Avila homer. They tied the score at five all in the eighth, when Dave Pope hit a two run shot, the Indians league leading 156th on the year. As the game dragged into the twelfth, Garcia was still in there. It looked bad when Jim Delsing hit a solo shot, but Wally Westlake bailed him out with an RBI double in the bottom half. But Westlake also was pinch hitting for Garcia so his shot at 20 was done. Narleski gave up a two run shot in the thirteenth, and the never say die Tribe pushed one across in the bottom half on a Jim Dyck single, but he was stranded at second to finish the season. The Indians did finish with a 14-8 record against the Tigers though.

Summary

The Tribe finished the regular season on a bit of a low note, going just 3-3. But they did set an AL record with 111 victories and several players claimed the top spot in various statistical categories. We'll review that in an upcoming post.

Next week the Indians would take on the New York Giants (who won the National League by five games over the Brooklyn Dodgers) in the World Series.

FInal AL Standings

W

L

Pct

GB

RS

RA

Pythag

Cleveland Indians

111

43

721

-

746

504

672

New York Yankees

103

54

669

8.0

805

563

658

Chicago White Sox

94

60

640

17.0

711

521

639

Boston Red Sox

69

85

448

42.0

700

728

482

Detroit Tigers

68

86

442

43.0

584

664

442

Washington Senators

66

88

429

45.0

632

680

467

Baltimore Orioles

54

100

351

57.0

483

668

356

Philadelphia Athletics

51

103

331

60.0

542

875

294