1954 Cleveland Indians (April 12-18): Early Wynn wins on Opening Day

After four straight 90 win seasons and three consecutive second place finishes, the Indians were desperate to find a way to overcome the Yankee juggernaut.

This is the first of a weekly (I hope) look back at how the best team to never win the title fared in their pursuit of dethroning the hated Yankee dynasty in 1954.

Offseason

After the 1953 season concluded, GM Hank Greenberg and owner Bill Veeck must have been somewhat distraught. Since winning the whole enchilada in 1948, the Tribe had been one of the most consistent franchises in baseball, winning 89, 92, 93, 93 and 92 games in succeeding seasons. Those wins were never good enough for anything better than second place though, and 1952 was the only year they finished closer than five games back of the Yankees.

The only notable deal prior to spring training was a swap of backup catchers with the Washington Senators, Joe Tipton for Mickey Grasso. During spring training, a pair of minor leaguers were sent to the Athletics for outfielder Dave Philley.

Manager Al Lopez set the lineup: C Jim Hegan, 1B Bill Glynn, 2B Bobby Avila, 3B Al Rosen, SS George Strickland, LF Wally Westlake, CF Larry Doby, RF Dave Philley. The bench included backup catcher Hal Naragon, infielders Hank Majeski, Rudy Regalado, Rocky Nelson, and Luke Easter, and outfielders Al Smith, Dale Mitchell, Dave Pope, and Bob Kennedy. The starting rotation would be Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia, and Art Houtteman to begin the year, with Bob Feller returning and taking the fourth spot in May. The bullpen included Ray Narleski, Don Mossi, Dick Tomanek and Jose Santiago.

On the eve of Opening Day, Greenberg made a shrewd move, signing Hal Newhouser, who had been cut by the Tigers the previous summer. But he was not immediately added to the 25 man roster.

April 13-14, 1954

April 13: Indians 8, White Sox 2

April 14: Indians 6, White Sox 3

Opening day for 1954, was on a Tuesday in Chicago, to face the rival White Sox. Early Wynn was given the honor of that opening day start and faced Billy Pierce. They both traded zeroes until the fourth, when Westlake and Strickland both hit solo shots. The Sox got one back in the bottom half of the fourth. After the Sox knotted it up in the fifth, the Tribe plated two more in the sixth and one more in the seventh to knock Pierce from the game. Wynn continued cruising, throwing a complete game and the Indians had won their first of the year.

The Tribe also won on Wednesday, as Lemon beat Jack Harshman 6-3 and Westlake hit his second homer of the young season to complete the two-game sweep. Majeski was DL'ed and IF Sam Dente was added to the roster.

April 15, 1954

April 15: Tigers 3, Indians 2

The Indians hopped on the train after that second game as the home opener was scheduled for the next day, Thrusday, with the Tigers coming in for just that one game. Mike Garcia gave up the tying run in the eighth, and after a 90 minute rain delay, lost the game in the ninth inning. He still tossed complete game, the Tribe's third in three games. He ended up losing 3-2 with Rosen driving in both Indian runs on a sacrifice fly and solo home run.

April 17-18, 1954

April 17: White Sox 8, Indians 1

April 18: White Sox 6, Indians 2

After a day off on Friday, the Indians hosted the White Sox for a two-game set.  Before Saturday's game, Greenberg dealt Bob Kennedy to the Orioles for Jim Dyck, which opened a roster spot for C Joe Ginsberg. Art Houtteman made his first start Saturday; he was hardly awe inspiring. He didn't make it out of the first, putting the Tribe down by five. The Indians managed only four hits (all singles) in the loss. Tomanek and Santiago made their only appearances of the season in this game, while Narleski and Mosssi also made their MLB debuts, combining for five innings.

In Sunday's finale, Pierce evened his score with Wynn, as the Sox swept the series in a rain-shortened six inning affair. Wynn was knocked out of the fifth and Hegan hit a solo shot. The Indians stranded another 10 runners, scoring only one other on nine singles and four walks in those six innings.

Summary

At the end of the week, the Indians were 2-3 and set to depart Cleveland. The next home game not scheduled until May 10, which means they were headed on the road for three straight weeks.

Standings

W

L

Pct

GB

RS

RA

Pythag

Detroit Tigers

4

1

800

-

17

8

799

Philadelphia Athletics

2

2

500

1.5

15

15

500

Washington Senators

2

2

500

1.5

16

14

561

Boston Red Sox

2

2

500

1.5

18

16

554

New York Yankees

2

2

500

1.5

11

15

362

Baltimore Orioles

2

3

400

2.0

9

15

282

Chicago White Sox

2

3

400

2.0

20

20

500

Cleveland Indians

2

3

400

2.0

19

22

433

SB Nation Featured Video
X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

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