The Red Sox finished 1948 in first place, but so did the Cleveland Indians. The 96-58 record they both held required a playoff for the first time in A.L. history (the N.L. had held a best-of-three playoff in 1946, but the American League decided on a single-game playoff, held at Fenway Park on October 4.
Joe Cronin had become general manager of the Red Sox, and brought in a new field manager, Joe McCarthy, who’d won pennants in eight of the 16 seasons he managed the New York Yankees. McCarthy had a great team to work with and he took it to the wire. Ted Williams chipped in with a .369 batting average and drove in 127 runs. Johnny Pesky slid over from shortstop to third base, and struggled at the plate, dropping below .300 to the first time (down to .281), but he still scored a lot of runs – Dom DiMaggio led in runs scored (127) but Pesky and Williams were both close behind, with 124 apiece.
Pesky had moved on defense to make room for incoming shortstop Vern Stephens, who brought a big bat from the Browns. He hit 29 homers (Williams hit 25) and drove in 137 runs, 10 more than Ted.
Jack Kramer had joined Stephens coming in the trade from St. Louis, and he pitched to an 18-5 season (4.35 ERA), the most wins among the mound corps. Southpaw Mel Parnell enjoyed a fine rookie season: 15-8, 3.14. Dobson (16-10), Earl Johnson (10-4) and Ellis Kinder (10-7) all had double figures in wins. Denny Galehouse was 8-8 with an even 4.00 ERA, a bit below the team average of 4.26.
Lou Boudreau brought the Indians to Boston for the playoff, and asked his rookie 19-game winner, Gene Bearden, to start. Joe McCarthy went with the veteran Denny Galehouse in a move that still has Red Sox fans scratching their heads. Parnell had had three days of rest, and Kinder had had four (and won his last five decisions). Galehouse had pitched well against the Indians once or twice earlier in the season, though perhaps McCarthy forgot the shellacking the Indians had dealt him gave him at Fenway on August 25, when he lost a 9-0 game.
Boudreau led by example, the young player/manager going 4-for-4 in the playoff game, with two solo home runs. Bearden won his 20th game and the pennant, and this was the loss that dropped Galehouse to his 8-8 final mark.By Bill Nowlin
- Denny Galehouse, Dom DiMaggio, Earl Johnson, Ellis Kinder, Gene Bearden, Jack Kramer, Joe Cronin, Joe Dobson, Joe McCarthy, Johnny Pesky, Lou Boudreau, Mel Parnell, Ted Williams, Vern Stephens