July 28, 2017

From the Archives: Remembering Denny Galehouse

June 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The following was originally published on October 18, 2007.

Denny Galehouse

Tuesday night’s game reminded me of another tough decision a Red Sox manager had to make about who to pitch in a crucial game. Terry Francona chose rested, but still not completely healthy veteran knuckleballer Tim Wakefield to face the Indians in Game 4 of the ALCS and the move backfired as Wakefield was touched for five runs in 4 2/3 innings in a 7-3 Boston loss that put them down three games to one in the best-of-seven series. Almost 60 years ago these same two teams met in a one-game playoff to determine who would face the Boston Braves in the World Series.

With three games left in the 1948 season the Indians held a two game lead over both the Red Sox and Yankees, but losses to the Tigers in two of their final three contests and a two-game sweep by the Red Sox over the Yankees gave Cleveland and Boston identical 96-58 records to close out the season. Boston was buzzing about a potential World Series match-up between the Red Sox and the National League’s Braves, but the Sox had to defeat the Indians one last time to advance to the Series.

Prior to the playoff game newspapers were speculating about which pitchers would be tabbed to face off in the crucial game. Some suspected 19-game winner Bob Feller would get the call for Cleveland despite having pitched the previous day against the Tigers. Feller lasted only 2 1/3 innings against Detroit in a 7-1 loss and he apparently had something left in his tank. Most figured 20-game winner Bob Lemon would get the ball. Lemon last pitched on October 1 in a 5-3 loss to Detroit and he would have been better rested than Feller, although not much. Lemon paced the junior circuit in innings pitched and complete games, so he had the arm to withstand the workload, and he had almost twice as many shutouts (10) as the runner up. Either way, Indians manager and shortstop Lou Boudreau was playing it close to the vest.

Meanwhile Boston manager Joe McCarthy had a decision of his own to make. Mel Parnell, a 26-year-old southpaw who fashioned a 15-8 record and posted a team-leading 3.14 ERA in his first full season, seemed to be the obvious choice. He’d last pitched on September 30, beating the Senators 7-3, and would have been working on three days rest. Jack Kramer, who paced the team with 18 wins, and Joe Dobson, who won 16 games on the year, had pitched Boston to wins over the Yankees during the previous two days, so neither would have been at full strength. That left Ellis Kinder, a 10-game winner who was fully rested, Mickey Harris, who went 7-10 with a 5.30 ERA in 17 starts, and Denny Galehouse, a 36-year-old journeyman hurler who’d gone 8-8 with a 4.00 earned run average in 1948, and had more losses than wins in his 15-year career.

When asked who he intended to start, McCarthy admitted he had no idea. “I had everybody working in the bullpen this afternoon and I haven’t the ghost of an idea who I’ll start tomorrow. I’ll try to dream up a starter tonight.” Indeed McCarthy had ordered several of his hurlers to continue warming up in the bullpen, including Galehouse, in Boston’s 10-5 win over the Yankees on the season’s final day. He was afraid Joe DiMaggio and company might stage a late rally and wanted to make sure he had warm arms to come into the game if needed. Unfortunately the extra work taxed Boston’s staff. It appeared that no one would be ready to throw for the Red Sox the following day.

Boudreau surprised everyone when he named 27-year-old Gene Bearden as his starter. It wasn’t that Bearden didn’t earn the assignment. On the contrary, Bearden had won 19 games to that point and would win his first ERA title with a microscopic 2.42 ERA, which was almost a half-run better than everyone else. But the left-handed knuckleballer had thrown only two days before in an 8-0 whitewash of the Tigers and had only one day to rest. Still Boudreau had faith in the rookie and well he should. Bearden had won his previous six starts, allowing no more than three runs in any of them, and was coming off consecutive shutouts. Despite making his decision well before game time, Boudreau kept it from the Red Sox until 13 minutes before game time when Bearden started warming up.

McCarthy could have and probably should have countered with his own left-handed ace, Parnell, but he feared the combination of Fenway Park’s short left field porch and Cleveland’s right-hand heavy lineup would mitigate Parnell’s effectiveness. Instead McCarthy shocked everyone when he tabbed Galehouse to get the start.

The Sporting News didn’t quibble with McCarthy’s choice. “Denny [Galehouse] is known as a money pitcher,” wrote the paper. “He was well rested and once earlier in the summer he had held the Indians to two hits in eight and two thirds innings.” Galehouse had pitched in the postseason while with the St. Louis Browns in 1944 and was very good, splitting his two decisions, and posting a 1.50 ERA in two complete game performances.

What TSN failed to mention, however, was that Galehouse had also been pasted by the Indians on August 25—he allowed nine runs in only five innings—and he’d lasted only four innings in his last start, which came on September 18. On paper Galehouse was certainly the most rested of Boston’s starters, but he admitted years later that he’d thrown the equivalent of six innings while warming up in the bullpen the day before on Joe McCarthy’s orders. It’s doubtfut the Red Sox skipper realized he’d had Galehouse warming up so long, but Galehouse followed orders and continued warming up from the fourth inning on. Now he was getting a start in the most crucial game of the season.

Nobody had any inkling that Galehouse would be taking the ball against Cleveland. Parnell went to bed early the night before, assuming he’d be getting the start. Kinder was the only member of the regular rotation who was fully rested. Yet neither was tabbed by McCarthy to pitch the most important game of the year.

“We just couldn’t understand it,” catcher Matt Batts explained. “It wasn’t logical at the time. We had Parnell ready to go, and Kinder was ready. I would say 100% of the players were against it.” Still the Red Sox were favored to win and the players were confident. When outfielder Wally Moses guessed aloud that Lemon would most likely get the start for Cleveland, Ted Williams bellowed, “I don’t care if he’s beaten us twenty games this year. We’ll knock his brains out tomorrow.”

The teams were evenly matched. Boston led the league in runs, doubles, walks, and on base percentage. Cleveland was first in home runs and batting average. The Indians had the better pitching staff, pacing the loop in ERA with a 3.22 mark that was more than a run better than Boston’s, but the Red Sox had a decent staff, finishing second in complete games, third in runs allowed per game, and fourth in ERA. And the two teams finished first and second, respectively, in fielding with Cleveland taking top honors. The Red Sox boasted a powerful lineup that featured Williams in left (.369/25/127), Vern Stephens at shortstop (.269/29/137), and Bobby Doerr at second base (.285/27/111), but the Indians were even more impressive. Six Cleveland batters finished the year with at least 14 home runs and Joe Gordon and Ken Keltner belted more than 30 each. Boudreau batted .355, left fielder Dale Mitchell hit .336, and center fielder Larry Doby hit .301.

Indians shortstop and manager Lou Boudreau reached base five times and homered twice in Cleveland’s 8-3 win.

The game got underway at 1:30 and McCarthy’s decision to start Galehouse proved to be terrible from the outset. Mitchell led off the game and slammed a high drive that Williams caught in front of the Green Monster for the first out. Allie Clark, who’d batted .310 with nine homers in 271 at-bats during the season and earned his only start of the season at first base, grounded out to Johnny Pesky at short to give Galehouse and the Sox two quick outs. But Boudreau stepped into a Galehouse offering and deposited it into the screen above the Green Monster in left-center field to give the Indians a 1-0 lead. Gordon grounded out to end the inning.

Boston responded in earnest, however, and plated a run of their own in the bottom of the frame. After Dom DiMaggio grounded out, Pesky poled a double to right-center and beat Bob Kennedy’s throw to second. Williams grounded out, but Stephens laced a two-out single down the left field line to score Pesky to knot the score at one apiece.

Early on the veteran Galehouse was actually outpitching his rookie counterpart. Except for the Boudreau homer, a Keltner single in the second and a walk to Bearden in the third, the Red Sox hurler had cruised through the Indians lineup and hadn’t allowed a Cleveland batter past first base. He needed a little help from his defense, though, which DiMaggio provided with a shoestring catch of what should have been a single for Doby (Arthur Daly wrote of the play, “Only two center fielders in the game could have made that catch. Both of them are named DiMaggio.”) Meanwhile Bearden issued two walks and a single in the second inning, but the Red Sox failed to score.

Both men pitched well in the third, but Galehouse finally tired in the fourth and the Indians took control of the game. Boudreau and Gordon singled to lead off the fourth and McCarthy ordered Kinder to begin warming up. Alas, it was too late as Keltner smashed a three-run homer to left to give the Indians a 4-1 lead. That was it for Galehouse. Kinder came on in relief and immediately surrendered a double to Doby, who eventually scored Cleveland’s fifth run after a sacrifice bunt and a ground out.

The Red Sox had no answer in the fourth and Boudreau homered again in the fifth to give Cleveland a 6-1 edge. Boston cut Cleveland’s lead in half when Doerr ripped a two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth, but that was all the offense the Red Sox could muster as Bearden settled down and allowed only one more hit, a Williams single in the eighth, the rest of the way. The Indians tacked on solo runs in the eighth and ninth to make the final score 8-3 and send Cleveland to its first World Series since 1920.

The New York Times‘ Arthur Daley summed up the game in poetic fashion:

“High-powered master-minding, strategic concepts, and Machiavellian managerial maneuvering are awesomely impressive—when they work. Marse Joe McCarthy carefully studied the wind which blew out toward the short left field fence today and abandoned all notion of using his stylish young southpaw, Mel Parnell. Instead, he gambled on the ancient Denny Galehouse, a cutie on the hill who uses guile in place of speed.

“However, Lou Boudreau, who probably doesn’t know any better, risked everything on his stylish young southpaw, Gene Bearden. Fenway Park is supposed to be poison on left-handed pitchers, particularly when the wind blows the wrong way. But Bearden fed the poison in large doses to the Red Sox and killed their pennant chances.”

Cleveland went on to face the Boston Braves in the World Series and broke the city’s heart completely when they defeated the Braves in six games. Meanwhile McCarthy escaped indictment—Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey declared, “I’d rather finish second with Joe McCarthy than first with someone else” and all of the blame for Boston’s loss fell squarely on Galehouse’s shoulders. Red Sox fans howled and demanded he be traded. Galehouse stayed with the team and appeared in only two games the following season, throwing two innings, and posting an ugly 13.50 ERA. He was released on May 11, 1949 and never pitched in another major league game.

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