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The glory years

By 1940, a veteran Cleveland team bolstered by rookies Boudreau and Ray Mack offered legitimate pennant hopes, and Feller launched the season with a no-hitter against the White Sox in Chicago. But, players mutinied against Vitt and went to Bradley to request the ouster of the manager.

Bradley refused and the story became national news. Cleveland's players were branded "The Crybabies." Thwarted by a late season hitting slump, the Indians finished a game behind the Tigers, concluding Vitt's career as a major league manager.

Cleveland's near miss in 1940 could not diminish the brilliant season of the magnificent right-handed fastball hurler Bob Feller. Bob won 27 games in 1940, a win total not equaled by any Tribe pitcher since. From his arrival in Cleveland in 1936 to his enlistment in the U.S. Navy in 1941, Feller was the focus of Cleveland's baseball attention. Signed by superscout Cy Slapnicka, the 17-year old Feller became the youngest player ever to play a regular season game in a Tribe uniform. Among his 14 regular season appearances in 1936 was a 15- strikeout effort against the St. Louis Browns (in his first major league start), and a then major league record 17 against the Athletics. During his first six seasons, Bob won 107 games and led the A.L. in strikeouts four times (consecutively from 1938- 41). He had a record setting 18-strikeout game against Detroit on October 2, 1938. His departure for military service came just as Boudreau was becoming player-manager at the tender age of 24.

Feller and O'Neill
Bob Feller & manager Steve O'Neill (Cleveland Indians)

Boudreau won the A.L. batting title in 1944 (he also led all major league players with 1,578 hits during the 1940s), but the Indians were out of the running throughout the war years. Feller returned to a hero's welcome in 1945 and returned to the forefront of big league pitchers in 1946, leading the majors with 26 wins and a club record 348 strikeouts.

Veeck and Doby
Bill Veeck & Larry Doby (Cleveland Indians)

Colorful Bill Veeck ushered forth the next great era in Tribe history when he led a syndicate to purchase the club on June 21, 1946. Veeck put the Indians in Cleveland Municipal Stadium on a full-time basis starting with the 1947 season. His innovative promotions helped spark record attendance. His solid baseball judgment built a pennant contender. Gambles such as signing Larry Doby, the A.L.'s first African-American player (in 1947) and venerable Satchel Paige (in 1948) paid off handsomely. Keeping Boudreau, player-manager since 1942, rather than trading him to the St. Louis Browns, might have been the best non-trade in club history.

The 1948 Indians' was Veeck's masterpiece. The '48 Tribe led the A.L. in Batting Average, ERA, and Fielding Average. Boudreau won the MVP award, rookie sensation Gene Bearden joined infielder/outfielderturned- pitcher Bob Lemon as a 20- game winner, and Feller added 19 wins.

Ken Keltner, Joe Gordon, and Eddie Robinson joined Boudreau to form a great infield and Jim Hegan was an outstanding backstop. The Indians took the A.L. pennant in a sizzling pennant race capped by a historic one-game playoff against the Red Sox at Fenway Park, and then beat the Boston Braves in six games to win the World Series.

Rosen and Lemon
Al Rosen & Bob Lemon (Cleveland Indians)

Veeck departed in 1949, but Hall of Fame slugger turned- executive Hank Greenberg remained as general manager. Greenberg dismissed Boudreau after the 1950 season in favor of Al Lopez. "El Senor" began a Hall of Fame managerial career at the helm of the Tribe in 1951.

Herb Score
Herb Score (Cleveland Indians)
Also that year, the 50th anniversary of the A.L., the Indians established a team Hall of Fame. The first 10 inductees (Trosky (1B), Lajoie (2B), Joe Sewell (SS), Keltner (3B), Speaker (OF), Averill (OF), Jackson (OF), O'Neill (C), Young (P), and Harder (P), chosen by fan balloting, comprised an all-time team for the first 50 years of the Indians.

The Lopez-managed Indians, dominated by pitchers Lemon, Early Wynn, and Mike Garcia, never finished lower than second place and won the third pennant in club history with a then A.L. record 111 wins in 1954. Throughout his regime, Lopez' Indians were thwarted by New York teams, finishing behind the Yankees five times and losing the '54 World Series to the Giants in a shocking four game sweep. The slugging Cleveland offense, led by Doby, Al Rosen and Luke Easter, actually out-powered the Bronx Bombers in the 1950s, leading the A.L. in home runs six times.

Next in line to succeed the aging Lopez- Greenberg Indians were such young talents as 1955 Rookie of the Year Herb Score, Rocky Colavito, Roger Maris, Jim Perry and Jim Grant. Tragedy struck again in 1957 when Score was felled by a line drive off the bat of New York's Gil McDougald.

Read on:   Early Years | First World Series | Glory Years | Trying Time | Renewed Glory