1954 Cleveland Indians
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1954 Cleveland Indians / Franchise: Cleveland Guardians / BR Team Page
Clinched Pennant: September 18, 1954, At Detroit Tigers
Managed by Al Lopez
History, Comments, Contributions
The 1954 Cleveland Indians can only be described as awesome. They won 111 games in the regular season, beating the New York Yankees by eight games, the Chicago White Sox by seventeen games, and the rest of the teams in the league by at least 42 games. They finished well ahead of the Yankees even though the Yankees had the most wins of any team managed by Casey Stengel.
The Indians' total of 111 victories was not only the best of the 1950s in the American League, it was also the only time an American League team bested 100 victories in a season that decade, other than the 103 victories of the Yankees who finished behind the Indians. The total was an American League record at the time, and it would not be topped by any major league team until the 2001 Seattle Mariners won 116 games - albeit in a 162-game season. The Indians had an 11-game winning streak from May 13-23 which put them in first place, then after a four-day fall back to second place, they reeled off a nine-game streak of wins starting on June 11th to claim first place to stay. But they were far from done, as they had a streak of 9 wins in late June and early July, another nine-game winning streak in August, and a streak of 11 wins from September 8-20. They were the last major league team to have two strings of at least 11 wins until the 2015 Toronto Blue Jays.
The pitching staff was simply incredible. Three of the members of the Indians' starting rotation finished in the top five in the American League in ERA: Mike Garcia, Hall of Famer Bob Lemon, and Early Wynn, another future Hall of Famer. The other two starters, Hall of Famer Bob Feller (at age 35) and Art Houtteman, had ERA's that were both better than the league average ERA. Lemon, Wynn, and Garcia were in the top five in the league in wins, and Feller was second in the league in winning percentage. Their five-man starting rotation is considered the best of all time.
Among relievers, rookie Ray Narleski was third in the league in saves, while another rookie, Don Mossi, with a 1.94 ERA and a 6-1 record, was fourth. Veteran Hall of Famer Hal Newhouser also tied for fourth in the league in saves, along with a 7-2 record and a 2.51 ERA.
Then there was the hitting. Bobby Avila led the league in batting (Ted Williams had a higher batting average, but insufficient at-bats). Al Rosen was in the top five in the league in both OBP and Slugging. Al Smith tied for second in the league in doubles. Larry Doby led the league in both home runs and RBI, and finished second in the MVP voting. Doby, Smith, and Rosen were all in the top five in the league in walks. Avila led the league in sacrifice hits and Rosen led the league in sacrifice flies.
The team was managed by Hall of Famer Al Lopez, who had a .584 winning percentage in his career as a major league manager. In six years as the Indians' skipper, he won the pennant in 1954 and finished second the other five times. He finished second five more times with the Chicago White Sox and won the pennant in 1959.
Although the Indians destroyed their competition in the regular season, it all fell apart for them in the 1954 World Series, as the New York Giants utterly dominated. One of the few bright spots was mid-season acquisition Vic Wertz, who hit .500 and slugged .938 in the Series, and would have slugged even better had Willie Mays not made the famous catch to deprive him of a key extra-base hit in Game 1.
The Indians, who had won the 1948 World Series and finished second in the league every year from 1951 to 1953, would finish second again in 1955 and 1965. They would not return to the World Series until 1995, however.
Awards and Honors
|1||Indians – 2, Giants – 5 (10 innings)||September 29||Polo Grounds||52,751|
|2||Indians – 1, Giants – 3||September 30||Polo Grounds||49,099|
|3||Giants – 6, Indians – 2||October 1||Cleveland Stadium||71,555|
|4||Giants – 7, Indians – 4||October 2||Cleveland Stadium||78,102|
|New York Yankees||103||51||.669||8|
|Chicago White Sox||94||60||.610||17|
|Boston Red Sox||69||85||.448||42|
- Associated Press: "Lopez' Success Confirms Belief Ball Players Are Human Beings", New York Times, September 19, 1954
- Douglas Jordan: "The .700 Club: Blessedly Good Baseball", The Baseball Research Journal, SABR, Volume 45, Number 2 (Fall 2016), pp. 26-33.
- Joseph Wancho, ed.: Pitching to the Pennant: The 1954 Cleveland Indians, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, NE, 2014. ISBN 978-0-8032-4587-7
- Gary Webster: .721: A History of the 1954 Cleveland Indians, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2013. ISBN 978-0-7864-7655-8