Top 100 Cleveland Indians: #8 Bob Lemon

Bob Lemon - www.ootpdevelepment.com

Originally an infielder by trade, World War II would help Bob Lemon become one of the Big Four, one of the best rotations in MLB history, and the Hall of Fame.

Robert Granville Lemon

Starting Pitcher, 1941-1942, 1946-1958

Height: 6'0" Weight: 180 lbs

Throws: Right Bats: Left

How Acquired: Amateur Free Agent, prior to 1938 season

Left Via: Released, July 2, 1958

Bob Lemon was born in San Bernardino, California a few weeks prior to the Indians winning their first World Series in 1920. He attended Wilson Classical High School in Long Beach where he was the California Interscholastic Federation and State Baseball Player of the Year in 1938, as a shortstop. He was signed by the Indians as an amateur free agent that same year (by Jack Angel) and played 75 games for the Oswego (NY) Netherlands (Canadian-American League) and 7 games for the Springfield (OH) Indians (Middle Atlantic League), mostly as an outfielder. He hit .307 and slugged .440 in 300 at bats between the two teams; he also pitched one shutout inning for Oswego.

Lemon returned to Springfield in 1939, but he switched back to shortstop. He hit .293 before being promoted to the New Orleans Pelicans (Southern Association), where he hit .309 and slugged .411 in 52 games, mostly as an outfielder again. In 1940 he was promoted again, this time to the Wilkes-Barre (PA) Barons of the Class-A Eastern League. He also faced another position change, this time to third base. He hit just .255 while learning the hot corner. He was still just 19 though, and the dip in his hitting was not a seen as a big issue. In 1941 he rebounded to hit .301 with a .395 slugging percentage for the Barons, while improving with the glove. He also made his second appearance as a pitcher. That September the Indians gave Lemon a five-game cup of coffee.

In 1942, the front office promoted Lemon to the Baltimore Orioles (International League, AA). His average declined to .268, but he had a spike in power, posting a .440 slugging percentage with 21 home runs. He was viewed as a talented prospect, however he was blocked by Ken Keltner at third base. He might have spent years more in the minors, waiting for an opportunity, but World War II called Lemon into service in 1943. This ultimately proved to be a huge break. While enlisted, Lemon played on the Navy's baseball team, which suffered a rash of injuries to the pitching staff, and Lemon was asked to fill in filled in. He did, and he performed admirably. He competed against fellow major leaguers Birdie Tebbetts (Tigers) and John Pesky (Red Sox) and played alongside Bill Dickey (Yankees).

After serving for three years, Lemon was discharged, and he reported to the Indians for spring training in 1946. He won the center field job and played the position for the season's first couple weeks, including a game on April 30 in which he made a fantastic catch that Bob Feller credited with saving his no-hitter. After a dozen games though, Lemon was hitting just .154/.223/.179. He went to the bench and became only a pinch hitter. He also kept busy by throwing batting practice before games.

Manager Lou Boudreau and pitcher Mel Harder noticed he had a good delivery, and Tebbetts and Pesky had both spoken to Boudreau about how well Lemon had pitched in the Navy. A conversation with Dickey in early May finally convinced Boudreau to have Lemon switch positions yet again. Boudreau and Harder approached Lemon about the switch. Lemon balked at first, but was convinced when he learned starting pitchers typically earned more money than hitters. He did well in three relief outings in May, then struggled in his first two starts. He stayed in the bullpen much of the year, but earned his first win as a starter in late August, and then threw a complete game against the Athletics two weeks later. In 94 innings that year, he had a 2.49 ERA (133 ERA+), despite a WHIP of 1.543.

Lemon opened 1947 in the bullpen, but in August he cracked the rotation again. This time he'd stick there for good, becoming one of the most dominant starters in the American League over the next decade. In the glorious championship season of 1948, Lemon was fantastic. He went 20-14 with a 2.82 ERA (144 ERA+). He pitched 293.2 innings, with 20 complete games, 10 shutouts, and a 1.226 WHIP, leading the league in all four categories. In the World Series against the Braves, he won both of his starts with a 1.65 ERA in 16.1 innings.

From 1948 to 1956, Lemon put up numbers to rival the top stretches by any pitchers in Tribe history. He was 186-106 in 312 starts (just 20 no-decisions!). His ERA was 3.16 (123 ERA+), he completed 179 games, including 30 shutouts. He even worked in 18 saves as well. He won 20+ games 7 times, leading the league in wins 3 times, complete games 5 times, and innings pitched 4 times. He was an absolute workhorse, but one who delivered great production too. He pitched a pair of one-hitters during his career, nabbed 7 All-Star nods, and placed in the top ten in MVP voting 6 times.

His most dominant season occurred in 1954, the only other postseason appearance the Tribe had during a decade of Yankees dominance. He went 23-7 in 33 starts, with a 2.72 ERA (139 ERA+) and 21 complete games. Unfortunately, he took losses in both Game 1 and Game 4 of that year's World Series, as the Giants tagged him with a 6.75 ERA in 13.1 innings.

As he was a former outfielder and infielder, Lemon would become one of the better-hitting pitchers of his time. He hit .230/.289/.479, with 35 HR as a pitcher (second only to Wes Ferrell's MLB record total). He was also used successfully as a pinch hitter, hitting .291/.319/.518 with 2 HR in 116 PA. His best stretch as a hitter was from 1947 to 1950, when he hit .282/.341/.520 (128 OPS+) with 28 doubles, 6 triples and 20 homers in 467 plate appearances, roughly All-Star production at the plate.

After that long stretch as a workhorse, he finally had his first significant injury in 1957, at the age of 36: Bone chips in his elbow. He struggled mightily, going 6-11 with a 4.60 ERA (82 ERA+) in just 117.1 innings before being shut down in August. He made it through spring training in 1958, but he made just one relief appearance and one start before having to go on the disabled list. He made 9 more relief appearances for the Tribe before being placed on waivers in July. He tried a comeback with the Indians in spring training of 1959, but officially hung them up in March.

Lemon did some scouting for the Tribe on the west coast that year and was a member of the Indians coaching staff in 1960. The Phillies hired him to their coaching staff in 1961. He stayed there for a few seasons before being hired as manager of the Hawaii Islanders in 1964. He moved on to the Seattle Angels in 1965, and won the Pacific Coast League championship with them in 1966.

The Indians needed a manager for 1967. Lemon applied, but Gabe Paul hired Joe Adcock instead. Paul later acknowledged this as one his grander mistakes. Lemon stayed in the minors for another three years before finally making it back to the majors in 1970 when the Royals hired him to succeed Charlie Metro midseason. The Royals had their first winning record in 1971 under Lemon, but finished a disappointing fourth in 1972 and Lemon was let go. He resurfaced in 1974, back in the PCL, this time as manager of the Sacramento Solons. In 1975, he switched over to manage the Richmond Braves in the International League.

In 1977, old pal Bill Veeck hired him to manage the White Sox. The White Sox finished 90-72 that year but got off to a poor start in 1978, and Veeck replaced Lemon midseason with former teammate Larry Doby. Shortly thereafter Billy Martin resigned from the Yankees during one of his feuds with George Steinbrenner. Former teammate Al Rosen called Lemon and offered him the job.

New York was 10.5 games back of Boston at the time, but Lemon guided them to a 48-20 finish, and they beat the Red Sox in a one-game playoff (%$#@ Bucky Dent), then defeated the Dodgers for the World Series crown. Lemon worked for the Yankees for another three and a half years, rotating between the manager's seat, the front office, and the scouting department, based on the ever-changing whims of Steinbrenner. He retired for good in 1982.

Lemon then returned to Long Beach, California, where he lived with his wife Jane, whom he had married just prior to joining the Navy. The couple had three sons, one of whom was tragically killed in a car accident 10 days after the Yankees won the World Series in 1978. Lemon suffered in his later years from the effects of a stroke. He passed away in 2000 at the age of 79.

Lemon was voted into the Indians Hall of Fame in 1960. He was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976, his twelfth year on the ballot. The Indians retired his #21 jersey in 1998.

Sources

Wikipedia, Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia by Russell Schneider, Baseball Reference Bullpen

Indians Career Stats
Year Age W L W-L% ERA G GS CG SHO SV IP HR BB SO ERA+ WHIP Awards
1946 25 4 5 .444 2.49 32 5 1 0 1 94.0 1 68 39 133 1.543
1947 26 11 5 .688 3.44 37 15 6 1 3 167.1 7 97 65 101 1.476
1948 27 20 14 .588 2.82 43 37 20 10 2 293.2 12 129 147 144 1.226 AS,MVP-5
1949 28 22 10 .688 2.99 37 33 22 2 1 279.2 19 137 138 133 1.244 AS,MVP-9
1950 29 23 11 .676 3.84 44 37 22 3 3 288.0 28 146 170 112 1.483 AS,MVP-5
1951 30 17 14 .548 3.52 42 34 17 1 2 263.1 18 124 132 108 1.397 AS
1952 31 22 11 .667 2.50 42 36 28 5 4 309.2 15 105 131 134 1.101 AS,MVP-8
1953 32 21 15 .583 3.36 41 36 23 5 1 286.2 16 110 98 111 1.371 AS,MVP-16
1954 33 23 7 .767 2.72 36 33 21 2 0 258.1 12 92 110 136 1.239 AS,MVP-5
1955 34 18 10 .643 3.88 35 31 5 0 2 211.1 17 74 100 103 1.382
1956 35 20 14 .588 3.03 39 35 21 2 3 255.1 23 89 94 139 1.249 MVP-10
1957 36 6 11 .353 4.60 21 17 2 0 0 117.1 9 64 45 82 1.645
1958 37 0 1 .000 5.33 11 1 0 0 0 25.1 3 16 8 70 2.250
13 Yrs 207 128 .618 3.23 460 350 188 31 22 2850.0 180 1251 1277 119 1.337

Selected Awards/Leaders
  • Hall of Fame: 1976
  • AL All-Star: 1948, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954
  • AL Pitcher of the Year (TSN): 1948, 1950, 1954
  • AL MVP: 5th, 1948; 5th, 1950; 5th, 1954; 8th, 1952; 9th, 1949; 10th, 1956; 16th, 1953
  • AL WAR: 3rd, 1949-7.2; 6th, 1948-6.5; 6th, 1952-5.8; 9th, 1956-5.9; 10th, 1950-4.8
  • AL WAR Pitchers: 3rd, 1948-4.8; 3rd, 1949-5.5; 5th, 1952-4.8; 6th, 1956-5.2; 7th, 1954-4.1; 10th, 1953-3.0
  • AL ERA: 3rd, 1948-2.82; 3rd, 1954-2.72; 4th, 1952-2.50; 4th, 1956-3.03; 5th, 1949-2.99; 10th, 1950-3.84
  • AL Wins: 1st, 1950-23; 1st, 1954-23; 1st, 1955-18; 2nd, 1948-20; 2nd, 1953-21; 2nd, 1956-20; 3rd, 1949-22; 3rd, 1952-22; 9th, 1951-17
  • AL W/L Percentage: 4th, 1952-.667; 4th, 1954-.767; 4th, 1955-.643; 5th, 1947-.688; 5th, 1950-.688; 6th, 1950-.676
  • AL WHIP: 1st, 1948-1.226; 2nd, 1952-1.101; 4th, 1949-1.244; 6th, 1956-1.249; 8th, 1954-1.239
  • AL Hits/9 IP: 1st, 1952-6.859; 2nd, 1948-7.080; 2nd, 1949-6.790; 8th, 1947-8.068; 10th, 1951-8.339
  • AL Bases on Balls/9IP: 7th, 1956-3.137
  • AL Strikeouts/9 IP: 4th, 1950-5.313; 5th, 1951-4.511; 6th, 1948-4.505; 9th, 1949-4.441
  • AL Games Played: 5th, 1951-42; 5th, 1952-42; 7th, 1950-44; 9th, 1948-43; 10th, 1953-41
  • AL Innings: 1st, 1948-293.2; 1st, 1950-288.0; 1st, 1952-309.2; 1st, 1953-286.2; 2nd, 1951-263.1; 3rd, 1949-279.2; 4th, 1954-258.1; 5th, 1956-255.1; 10th, 1955-211.1
  • AL Strikeouts: 1st, 1950-170; 2nd, 1948-147; 3rd, 1949-138; 3rd, 1951-132; 7th, 1952-131; 10th, 1953-98; 10th, 1955-100
  • AL Games Started: 1st, 1950-37; 1st, 1951-34; 1st, 1952-36; 2nd, 1948-37; 2nd, 1953-36; 2nd, 1956-35; 3rd, 1949-33; 4th, 1954-33; 6th, 1955-31
  • AL Complete Games: 1st, 1948-20; 1st, 1950-22; 1st, 1952-28; 1st, 1954-21; 1st, 1956-21; 2nd, 1929-22; 2nd, 1953-23; 5th, 1951-17
  • AL Shutouts: 1st, 1948-10; 2nd, 1950-3; 3rd, 1952-5; 3rd, 1953-5
  • AL Home Runs: 2nd, 1950-28; 4th, 1949-19; 7th, 1956-23; 8th, 1951-18; 8th, 1952-15
  • AL Bases on Balls: 2nd, 1950-146; 2nd, 1951-124; 3rd, 1948-129; 3rd, 1949-137; 3rd, 1952-105; 3rd, 1953-110; 6th, 1947-97; 9th, 1954-92
  • AL Hits: 1st, 1950-281; 1st, 1951-244; 1st, 1953-283; 4th, 1952-236; 4th, 1954-228; 5th, 1955-218; 8th, 1956-230; 10th, 1948-231
  • AL Strikeouts/Bases on Balls: 6th, 1950-1.164; 10th, 1949-1.007; 10th, 1952-1.351
  • AL Home Runs/9 IP: 3rd, 1953-0.502; 7th, 1948-0.368; 8th, 1947-0.377; 8th, 1952-0.436; 9th, 1954-0.418
  • AL Losses: 1st, 1951-14; 2nd, 1953-15; 4th, 1956-14; 9th, 1948-14
  • AL Earned Runs: 2nd, 1950-123; 3rd, 1953-107; 4th, 1951-103; 5th, 1955-91; 9th, 1952-86
  • AL Wild Pitches: 2nd, 1952-8; 2nd, 1953-9; 3rd, 1954-6; 3rd, 1955-8; 5th, 1947-6; 7th, 1946-5; 9th, 1950-5; 10th, 1951-4
  • AL Hit By Pitch: 2nd, 1953-11; 5th, 1947-4; 5th, 1949-6; 7th, 1957-7; 9th, 1952-6; 10th, 1956-6
  • AL Adjusted Era+: 4th, 1948-144; 4th, 1954-136; 4th, 1956-139; 5th, 1949-133; 6th, 1952-134
  • AL Win Probability Added: 1st, 1949-6.9; 3rd, 1950-3.1; 3rd, 1952-4.8; 4th, 1948-2.6; 4th, 1956-4.1; 8th, 1951-2.7; 9th, 1954-2.5
  • AL Double Plays Turned as CF: 3rd, 1946-2
  • AL Putouts as P: 1st, 1948-23; 1st, 1949-34; 1st, 1952-32; 1st, 1953-31; 1st, 1954-22; 2nd, 1950-22; 2nd, 1951-21; 2nd, 1956-24; 4th, 1955-16
  • AL Assists as P: 1st, 1948-86; 1st, 1949-71; 1st, 1951-60; 1st, 1952-79; 1st, 1953-74; 1st, 1956-61; 2nd, 1950-66; 2nd, 1954-57; 4th, 1947-46; 4th, 1955-43
  • AL Errors as P: 1st, 1956-6; 2nd, 1948-4; 3rd, 1954-3; 4th, 1949-4; 5th, 1950-4
  • AL Range Factor/Game P: 1st, 1948-2.53; 1st, 1949-2.84; 1st, 1953-2.56; 2nd, 1952-2.64; 2nd, 1956-2.18; 3rd, 1950-2.00; 3rd, 1954-2.19; 4th, 1951-1.93; 5th, 1955-1.69
Cleveland Indians Career Leaders
  • 6th WAR Pitchers (37.5)
  • t-27th ERA (3.23)
  • 3rd Wins (207)
  • t-12th W/L Percentage (.618)
  • t-44th WHIP (1.337)
  • 21st Hits/9 IP (8.081)
  • 4th Games Played (460)
  • t-28th Saves (22)
  • 3rd Innings Pitched (2850.0)
  • t-3rd Strikeouts (1277)
  • 3rd Games Started (350)
  • 4th Complete Games (188)
  • t-3rd Shutouts (31)
  • 4th Home Runs (180)
  • 2nd Bases on Balls (1251)
  • 4th Hits (2559)
  • 40th Home Runs/9 IP (0.568)
  • 4th Losses (128)
  • 4th Earned Runs (1024)
  • 3rd Wild Pitches (63)
  • 6th Hit By Pitch (57)
  • 33rd Games Finished (73)
  • t-13th ERA+ (119)
  • 1st WPA (28.3)
  • t-50th Sacrifice Hits (49)
Cleveland Indians Season Leaders
  • t-14th Wins (23, 1950, 1954)
  • t-24th Wins (22, 1949, 1952)
  • t-34th Wins (21, 1948, 1956)
  • t-39th Wins (20, 1951)
  • t-15th W/L Percentage (.767, 1954)
  • t-36th WHIP (1.101, 1952)
  • 23rd Hits/9 IP (6.790, 1949)
  • 24th Hits/9 IP (6.859, 1952)
  • 42nd Hits/9 IP (7.079, 1948)
  • 19th Innings Pitched (309.2, 1952)
  • 26th Innings Pitched (293.2, 1948)
  • 29th Innings Pitched (288.0, 1950)
  • 33rd Innings Pitched (286.2, 1953)
  • 46th Innings Pitched (279.2, 1949)
  • t-42nd Strikeouts (170, 1950)
  • t-16th Games Started (37, 1948, 1950)
  • t-28th Games Started (36, 1952, 1953)
  • t-40th Games Started (35, 1956)
  • t-18th Complete Games (28, 1952)
  • t-41st Complete Games (23, 1953)
  • t-49th Complete Games (22, 1949, 1950)
  • t-1st Shutouts (10, 1948)
  • t-22nd Shutouts (5, 1952, 1953)
  • t-20th Home Runs (28, 1950)
  • 6th Bases on Balls (146, 1950)
  • 9th Bases on Balls (137, 1949)
  • t-16th Bases on Balls (129, 1948)
  • t-20th Bases on Balls (124, 1951)
  • t-32nd Bases on Balls (110, 1953)
  • t-46th Bases on Balls (105, 1952)
  • 30th Hits (283, 1953)
  • t-31st Hits (281, 1950)
  • t-34th Losses (15, 1953)
  • 11th Earned Runs (123, 1950)
  • t-50th Wild Pitches (9, 1953)
  • t-26th Hit By Pitch (11, 1953)
  • t-50th ERA+ (144, 1948)
  • 2nd WPA (6.9, 1949)
  • t-14th WPA (4.8, 1952)
  • t-23rd WPA (4.1, 1956)
  • t-42nd WPA (3.1, 1950)

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to SB Nation going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Let's Go Tribe

You must be a member of Let's Go Tribe to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Let's Go Tribe. You should read them.

Join Let's Go Tribe

You must be a member of Let's Go Tribe to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Let's Go Tribe. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker