After being beaten by the Detroit Tigers in the season's last game, the dejected Cleveland Indians gathered in their clubhouse. Their loss and Boston's win over New York had forced a one-game playoff that would decide the American League pennant. The October 4 game would be played in Boston's Fenway Park.
Player-manager Lou Boudreau spoke to his team about his plans for the next day.
"Lou thought (Gene) Bearden was our best pitcher at the time, and he wanted to pitch him the next day," outfielder Bob Kennedy remembered. "'But,' he told us, 'everybody's got a choice in this thing, and I want to hear something about it.'"
Though Bob Lemon was more rested, Boudreau wanted the rookie. However, he wanted his team united behind him. With the biggest pitching decision of his career on the line, Boudreau listened to differing opinions over the next 45 minutes. Finally, the team's veteran second baseman spoke.
"Joe Gordon popped up," Kennedy described, "and said to Lou, 'We followed you this far and look where we are. There's no sense in changing anything now.' So everybody said, 'Okay, Bearden's it, let's go.'"
Twenty-game winner Lemon agreed with Gordon. "Lou was our leader," he said. "Whoever he picked was fine with me."
Because Boudreau did not want Bearden bothered by reporters, he asked the players to keep their next-day starter a secret.
At 9 p.m., the Indians left Cleveland and began their 12-hour train ride to Boston. "The train was a 'sleeper jump,'" said Lemon. "We made that trip three times that season. Everybody was rested when we got into Boston, and no one seemed tired."
"When we got there," said groundskeeper Marshall Bossard about the team's 10 a.m. arrival, "we couldn't find any cabs for the ball players. They got very irritated. Most of them walked the 8-10 blocks to the Kenmore Hotel where we were staying to drop off their bags. At the workout at Fenway Park before the game, they were still complaining and seemed to be taking their anger out with their bats on the ball."
At the field, reporters asked Boudreau who his starting pitcher was. He named three—Lemon, Feller, and Bearden. And, to confuse clubhouse spies, Boudreau also put a ball under each pitcher's hat, signifying the starting assignment.
The three hurlers also helped with the manager's shell game. "When anybody asked us if we were starting," laughed Lemon, "we said, 'Yes sir, we're pitching.' We ran their club house boys to death—they kept running back to the Red Sox every five minutes, saying a different one of us was going."
While pitching a left-handed rookie in Fenway seemed a gamble, Boudreau also surprised everyone with his starter at first base—outfielder Allie Clark.
"When I came into the dressing room," Clark said, "I saw a first baseman's glove in my locker. I asked Lou, 'What's this?' He said, 'You're playing first base today'—that's how I found out. I had never played first base before in my life."
Boudreau wanted Clark's right-handed bat in the line-up to aim at Fenway Park's shallow left field wall, the "Green Monster."
"I was scared," Clark recalled of his infield debut, "especially with Ted Williams and all the great hitters over there. I didn't want to be the goat if I made an error and we lost."
Inside the Red Sox clubhouse, another surprise choice was made. The Indians thought they would face either Boston's well-rested Mel Parnell (15-8) or Ellis Kinder (10-7). Instead, McCarthy chose 36-year-old Denny Galehouse, an 8-8 pitcher.
"When we knew Galehouse was going to pitch," said Kennedy, "that buoyed us up pretty good. We knew he wasn't going to beat us."
McCarthy's choice of Galehouse remains an enigma. The Boston manager might have wanted the pitcher's experience on the mound. Galehouse had pitched outstanding baseball in the 1944 Word Series, going 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 18 innings for the losing St. Louis Browns. But Parnell remembers the reason being the wind.
When Parnell arrived at Fenway Park, the game ball was under his cap, confirming he was the starter. Instead of going out to the field during batting practice, Parnell stayed in the clubhouse, killing time before the game.
"McCarthy came out of his office and approached me from the back," Parnell, a career 123-75 pitcher, recounted. "He put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Kid, I've changed my mind, the elements are against a lefthander, the wind's blowing out to leftfield. I'm going with a righthander.' With that, he told our clubhouse boy to run out on the field and call Denny Galehouse in.
"Galehouse came in and, when McCarthy said he was pitching, it seemed like a shock to him. It certainly shocked me because I felt it was my game to pitch.
"When I ran out on the field, all the fellows asked, 'What are you doing here?' When I said I wasn't pitching, they thought I was kidding. When I told them Galehouse was, I think it affected on our ball club. It kind of set us back."
Before 33,957 Boston fans, Boudreau drew first blood for Cleveland. With two out in the first, he slammed a Galehouse pitch for a homer, giving the Tribe a 1-0 lead. However, Boston quickly tied the game in the home half of the first.
The game stayed deadlocked until the fourth. Boudreau and Gordon started the inning with singles to left, bringing Ken Keltner to the plate. Galehouse delivered, and the third baseman swung and mashed a towering drive onto the screen at the top of the Green Monster.
Keltner's blow chased Galehouse, but the Tribe assault continued against Kinder, the Boston reliever. Doby followed with the first of his two doubles, and scored on Jim Hegan's sacrifice for a 5-1 lead. After the inning, Boudreau replaced a grateful Clark at first with Eddie Robinson. No balls were hit in Clark's direction during the game.
In the top of the sixth, Boudreau homered again, giving the Tribe a 6-1 advantage.
Bossard, a guest of Boudreau who watched the game from the Cleveland bench, sensed a change in the Indians as their lead grew.
"At the start of the game, the players were upbeat—shaking hands, saying 'let's go get 'em,' things like that," Bossard said. "But as soon as we got four or five runs ahead, the bench became quiet. When it got quiet like that, I knew they were concentrating. It was like they were cutting a big business deal—they were all clear eyed and alert."
Though the Tribe was battering the Boston staff, Bearden was struggling, needing double plays to get out of the second, fourth, and seventh innings.
"I was in the bullpen the entire game," said Lemon, "and could see from there that Bearden was wild. He didn't have his good control, and he had men on almost every inning—that's why Feller and I warmed up so much. We kept saying, 'We're going in this inning.' We warmed-up seven times. I don't know if I had anything left when the game ended."
In the sixth, Feller and Lemon almost got their chance. With Boston's Williams aboard on an error, Bobby Doerr smacked a home run over the Green Monster, bringing the Bosox within three. However, Bearden fanned the next batter to end the inning.
The Tribe scored single runs in the eighth and ninth to give them their winning 8-3 margin. Boudreau's single in the ninth was his fourth hit in four at bats, giving him two singles and two home runs.
"I bet I was the most surprised person in the ball park," Bearden said after throwing the game-ending pitch. "I didn't even know what inning it was. I thought it was the eighth inning until the fellows—what a bunch—carried me off the field on their shoulders."
"Bearden had all the guts in the world," said Boston catcher Birdie Tebbetts. "He had the confidence of a con man. He threw a knuckleball curve, but he never threw it for a strike—something we didn't know during that game. Cleveland had a hell of a ball club. And they beat a hell of a ball club."