Looking back at Bob Feller’s outstanding pitching career, one unresolved question keeps turning over in my mind.
In 1954, Feller was an integral part of the Cleveland Indians pitching staff. Anchored by Bob Lemon (23-7, 2.72) Early Wynn (23-11, 2.73), and Mike Garcia (19-8, 2.64), the Indians also had two spot starters that added depth to the rotation; Art Houtemann (13-7, 3.35) and Feller (13-3, 3.09)
Although the Indians coasted to the American League championship, their pitching failed in the World Series when the New York Giants swept them, 4-0. Feller did not throw a pitch.
Lemon started games one and four. In his 13.1 innings pitched, Lemon was rocked and ended up with a 6.75 ERA. Wynn, in game two, managed to pitch seven effective innings, allowing three earned runs, but took the loss. Garcia, the game three starter, was only marginally more effective than Lemon. Garcia allowed three earned runs in his five innings.
When manager Al Lopez called the bull pen, he logically summoned his two relief aces, the lefty righty combination of Don Mossi (6-1, 1.94) and Ray Narleski (3-3, 2.22) as well as well as Houtemann, Hal Newhouser (7-2, 2.51) and Garcia.
How it came to pass that Lopez, a Hall of Fame catcher and 1947 teammate of Feller, never saw the opportunity to put the seasoned veteran pitcher into a series game is a mystery, at least to me. A solid Feller post-season performance would have taken some of the sting out of his 1948 World Series disappointment.
Although the Indians beat the Boston Braves, 4-2, Feller was charged with both Indians’ losses. In the opener, Johnny Sain outdueled “Rapid Robert” in a 1-0 complete game heartbreaker.
Feller’s second start in game five was a nightmare.
His line: 6.1 IP, 7ER, 2 BB and 5 SO
For the series, Feller posted a 0-2 mark with a 5.02 ERA.
Lopez, who held the record for most games caught (1,918) until Bob Boone broke it in 1987, had a .587 winning percentage as a manager and was the only skipper from 1949-1959 to win an American League pennant besides Casey Stengel. In addition to winning with the 1954 Indians, Lopez also led the 1959 Chicago White Sox to first place.
If Lopez didn’t see a good spot for Feller during the 1954 World Series, who am I to challenge his judgment? All I’m saying is that it would have been nice.