Gene Bearden

Henry Eugene Bearden (September 5, 1920 – March 18, 2004) was an American left-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Cleveland Indians, Washington Senators, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox from 1947 to 1953. He is best known for his pitching heroics during his rookie season, 1948, when he led the Indians to the American League pennant and World Series championship. Born in Lexa, Arkansas, and raised in Tennessee, Bearden was listed at 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) tall and weighed 198 pounds (90 kg).

Gene Bearden
Gene Bearden
Born: September 5, 1920
Lexa, Arkansas
Died: March 18, 2004 (aged 83)
Alexander City, Alabama
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
May 10, 1947, for the Cleveland Indians
Last MLB appearance
September 5, 1953, for the Chicago White Sox
MLB statistics
Win–loss record45–38
Earned run average3.96
Career highlights and awards

World War II service and injury

Bearden's rookie season was all the more remarkable because, five years earlier, he had been seriously injured in battle in World War II. Serving in the United States Navy aboard the USS Helena in the Pacific Theater of Operations, he was working in the engine room of the light cruiser when it was struck by three Japanese torpedoes on July 6, 1943, during the Battle of Kula Gulf.[1] Forced to abandon ship as the Helena sank, Bearden fell from a ladder on the deck and sustained a fractured skull and a crushed kneecap. Hospitalized until early 1945, he underwent surgeries that inserted metal plates in his head and knee to treat his injuries.[1][2]

In a 1949 autobiographical article published in The Sporting News' Official Baseball Register, Bearden declined to discuss his wartime experience, saying: "I was just another gob, luckier than many, because I met up with a doctor who is, to me, the best orthopedic surgeon in the business."[3]

Baseball career

Minor leagues

Bearden had been a pitcher in the lower levels of minor league baseball before the war. Despite 18 and 17 victory seasons in the Class D Florida East Coast League in 1940 and 1941, he had bounced between three organizations before joining the military. In 1945, just months after his release from the hospital, he returned to baseball and won 15 games in the Class A Eastern League. Promoted to the Triple-A Oakland Oaks in 1946, he learned to throw the knuckleball under manager Casey Stengel[2] and had another 15-victory season. He would become primarily a knuckleball pitcher, although he also threw a fastball, slider, curveball and an occasional screwball.[4] On December 6, 1946, the New York Yankees, who held Bearden's big-league rights, traded him in a five-player deal to the Indians.

Bearden could not stick with Cleveland in 1947; he was roughed up by the lowly St. Louis Browns in his only MLB appearance on May 10. Sent to the Triple-A Baltimore Orioles of the International League, he quit the team after two defeats and refused to return until Indians' owner Bill Veeck agreed to loan Bearden back to the Oakland Oaks.[3] He then won 16 games for Stengel in the PCL.

Brilliant 1948 rookie season

Bearden earned a place on the 1948 Indians' roster out of spring training, but did not appear in a game until May 8. He won six of his first seven starting assignments, with four complete games and two shutouts, on May 22 and June 8, both against the Boston Red Sox, who would battle the Indians and Yankees down to the wire for the 1948 AL title. By September 1, Bearden had a 13–6 won-loss record with an earned run average of 2.74.

Bearden lost his first September start, on the sixth, against the White Sox, then won his next seven starts and also hurled effectively in relief. With Bearden pitching complete game shutouts on September 28 and October 2, the Indians and Red Sox finished on Sunday, October 3, in a tie for the league championship. For the one-game playoff, set for Fenway Park on Monday, October 4, Indians player-manager Lou Boudreau went with Bearden as his starting pitcher. On only one day of rest, Bearden pitched another complete game, shutting down the power-hitting Red Sox on only five hits and one earned run. Cleveland won, 8–3, behind Boudreau's four hits and two home runs. The win gave Bearden 20 victories (against seven defeats) and the 1948 AL earned-run average championship (2.47).

But Bearden was not finished. On October 8, in the 1948 World Series against the Boston Braves, he threw a complete game, five-hit shutout in Game 3, defeating the Braves 2–0. An excellent-hitting pitcher, he helped his own cause at bat by getting two hits (including a double) in three at bats, and scored a run. Then, in Game 6 on October 11, he preserved the Indians' Series-clinching win for starter Bob Lemon. He allowed two inherited runners to score in the eighth inning but shut the door on the Braves, earned the save and was charged with no runs allowed himself, finishing the game as Cleveland won 4–3 to become world champions.

Sixty years later, his rookie season of 1948 was rated as the top overall rookie season of any athlete of a Cleveland professional sports franchise in The Great Book of Cleveland Sports Lists.[5] In addition to his ERA title, in 1948 Bearden finished among the top ten American League pitchers in victories (second), shutouts (second, with six), winning percentage (second), fewest hits per innings pitched (third), walks plus hits per inning pitched (fourth), wins above replacement (fifth), innings pitched (seventh), complete games (eighth), and finished eighth in the American League Most Valuable Player Award balloting. But despite his stellar season, Bearden was not named "Rookie of the Year." Only one award was given in the Major Leagues at the time, and it was won by Alvin Dark, shortstop of the National League's Boston Braves.[2] The Cy Young Award for the most outstanding pitcher would not be instituted until after the 1956 season.

Decline in effectiveness

Nineteen forty-eight was Bearden's only season as an effective big-league pitcher. In 1949, he fell to 8–8 (5.10), and his wildness increased: he led the AL in wild pitches (with 11) and walked 92 men with only 41 strikeouts. His performance continued to decline in 1950, and the Indians placed him on waivers; he was picked up by Washington in August. Then, from 1951–53, he bounced from the Senators to the Tigers, Browns and White Sox.

Apart from his 1948 brilliance, Bearden won only 25 of 56 decisions, and allowed 604 hits and 329 walks in 558​23 innings pitched, with an earned run average of 4.59. He threw only two shutouts after 1948. Overall, he compiled a 45–38 win-loss mark and 3.96 earned run average in 193 games pitched in the Majors, with 791 hits and 435 bases on balls allowed, and 259 strikeouts, in 788​13 innings of work.

Growing up near Memphis, Tennessee, he idolized Lou Gehrig[6] and was a polished, left-handed hitter who often played first base during his minor league career. As a big-leaguer, he compiled a .236 lifetime batting average with 68 total hits, four home runs and 32 runs batted in, and was sometimes used as a pinch hitter. In 1952, as a St. Louis Brown, Bearden collected 23 hits and batted .354.

After 1953, Bearden resumed his minor league career in the top-level Pacific Coast League and American Association. He won 18 games for the 1955 San Francisco Seals.


During his active career, Bearden lived in California. During his off-seasons he worked in the motion picture industry as both an extra and backstage crew member.[3] After his 1957 retirement, he was involved in a number of business ventures and was a youth baseball coach.[2] Bearden died in 2004 in Alexander City, Alabama, at 83 years of age.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Baseball in Wartime – Gene Bearden". Retrieved July 10, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d Gene Bearden at the SABR Bio Project, by Ralph Berger, retrieved July 10, 2016
  3. ^ a b c Bearden, Gene, and Lebovitz, Hal, "Lucky Rookie", 1949 Official Baseball Register. St. Louis: The Sporting News, 1949, pages 3–26.
  4. ^ James, Bill; Neyer, Rob (2004). The Neyer/James guide to pitchers : an historical compendium of pitching, pitchers, and pitches. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 142. ISBN 0-7432-6158-5. Retrieved October 9, 2012.
  5. ^ Livingston, Bill; Brinda, Greg (2008). The Great Book of Cleveland Sports List. Philadelphia: Runnings Press Books. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-7624-3416-9.
  6. ^ Shubb, William B. "Gene Bearden". Oakland Oaks. Retrieved September 10, 2012.

External links

1947 Cleveland Indians season

The 1947 Cleveland Indians season was the 47th in franchise history. On July 5, Larry Doby broke the American League color barrier. Doby was signed by the Indians by owner and team president Bill Veeck in July, 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson appeared with the Brooklyn Dodgers in the National League. In his rookie season, Doby hit 5-for-32 in 29 games.

1948 American League tie-breaker game

The 1948 American League tie-breaker game was a one-game extension to Major League Baseball's (MLB) 1948 regular season, played between the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox to determine the winner of the American League (AL) pennant. The game was played on October 4, 1948, at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. It was necessary after both teams finished the season with identical win–loss records of 96–58. This was the first-ever one-game playoff in the AL, and the only one before 1969 when the leagues were split into divisions.

The Indians defeated the Red Sox, 8–3, as the Indians scored four runs in the fourth inning and limited the Red Sox to five hits. The Indians advanced to the 1948 World Series, where they defeated the Boston Braves, four games to two, giving them their second and most recent World Series championship. In baseball statistics, the tie-breaker counted as the 155th regular season game by both teams, with all events in the game added to regular season statistics.

1948 Cleveland Indians season

The 1948 Cleveland Indians season was the 48th in franchise history. When the regular season resulted in a first place tie, the Indians won a one-game playoff against the Boston Red Sox to advance to the World Series. Cleveland won the championship by defeating the Boston Braves 4 games to 2 for their first World Series win in 28 years. The Sporting News ranked the 1948 Indians the 9th-best team ever.

As of 2018, this would be the Cleveland Indians' most recent World Series championship. With the Chicago Cubs' 2016 World Series championship being their first since 1906, the Indians now own the longest active world championship drought in Major League Baseball and the second-longest of any of the big 4 american sports leagues. Only the National Football League's Arizona Cardinals franchise owns a longer active world championship drought of the big 4 american sports leagues, having not won a world championship in 1947.

This memorable season was the first to be broadcast on television in the Cleveland area on WEWS-TV.

1948 Major League Baseball season

During the 1948 Major League Baseball season which began on April 19 and ended on October 11, 1948, the Boston Braves won the NL pennant and the Cleveland Indians won a 1-game playoff against the Boston Red Sox to take the AL pennant.

1948 World Series

The 1948 World Series saw the Cleveland Indians against the Boston Braves. The Braves had won the National League pennant for the first time since the "Miracle Braves" team of 1914, while the Indians had spoiled a chance for the only all-Boston World Series by winning a one-game playoff against the Boston Red Sox for the American League flag. Though superstar pitcher Bob Feller failed to win either of his two starts, the Indians won the Series in six games to capture their second championship and their first since 1920 (as well as their last to the present date).

It was the first World Series to be televised beyond the previous year's limited New York-Schenectady-Philadelphia-Baltimore-Washington network and was announced by famed sportcasters Red Barber, Tom Hussey (in Boston) and Van Patrick (in Cleveland). This was the second appearance in the Fall Classic for both teams, with the Indians' lone previous appearance coming in a 1920 win against the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Braves' lone previous appearance coming in a 1914 win against the Philadelphia Athletics. Consequently, this was the first, and to date only, World Series in which both participating teams had previously played in, but not yet lost, a previous World Series. Currently, this phenomenon can only be repeated if either the Miami Marlins or the Arizona Diamondbacks play against either the Toronto Blue Jays or the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a future World Series.

Television coverage of the World Series increased this year, but due to the medium still being in its infancy coverage was strictly regional. Games played in Boston could only be seen in the Northeast, while when the series shifted to Cleveland those games were the first to be aired in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Detroit and Toledo.

This was the only World Series from 1947 to 1958 not to feature a New York team, and also the last World Series until 1957 not won by a New York team (which the Braves won over the Yankees, after they had relocated to Milwaukee). The teams would meet again in the 1995 World Series won by the Braves—by then relocated to Atlanta. This was the first World Series and the last until 2016 where the series score was even.

1949 Cleveland Indians season

The 1949 Cleveland Indians season was the 49th in franchise history. The club entered the season as the defending World Champions. On March 5, 1949, Indians minority owner Bob Hope donned a Cleveland Indians uniform and posed with manager Lou Boudreau and vice president Hank Greenberg as the World Series champions opened spring training camp in Tucson, Arizona.

1950 Washington Senators season

The 1950 Washington Senators won 67 games, lost 87, and finished in fifth place in the American League. They were managed by Bucky Harris and played home games at Griffith Stadium.

1951 Detroit Tigers season

The 1951 Detroit Tigers season was a season in American baseball. The team finished fifth in the American League with a record of 73–81, 25 games behind the New York Yankees.

1951 Washington Senators season

The 1951 Washington Senators won 62 games, lost 92, and finished in seventh place in the American League. They were managed by Bucky Harris and played home games at Griffith Stadium.

1952 St. Louis Browns season

The 1952 St. Louis Browns season was a season in American baseball. It involved the Browns finishing 7th in the American League with a record of 64 wins and 90 losses. This was the franchise's penultimate season in St. Louis.

1953 Chicago White Sox season

The 1953 Chicago White Sox season was the team's 53rd season in the major leagues, and its 54th season overall. They finished with a record 89–65, good enough for third place in the American League, 11.5 games behind the first place New York Yankees.

Al Gettel

Allen Jones "Al" "Two Gun" Gettel (September 17, 1917 – April 8, 2005) was a Major League Baseball pitcher who played from 1945 to 1955 with several teams. He batted and threw right-handed. Gettel had a 38–45 record in 184 career games. He was born and died in Norfolk, Virginia. He spent his first two seasons with the New York Yankees, then was traded to the Cleveland Indians with Hal Peck and Gene Bearden in exchange for Sherm Lollar and Ray Mack.

Bearden (surname)

Bearden is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Gene Bearden (1920–2004), American baseball player

Milton Bearden (born 1940s), American intelligence officer

Romare Bearden (1911–1988), African-American artist

Ben Taylor (first baseman)

Benjamin Eugene Taylor (September 30, 1927 – May 11, 1999) was an American Major League Baseball first baseman.

Born in Metropolis, Illinois, Taylor originally signed as a free agent in 1944 with the Brooklyn Dodgers. In 1949, he was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the Minor League Draft. He would be returned to the Dodgers the following year. In 1951, he was traded to the St. Louis Browns for Johnny Bero, Joe Lutz, and cash. He would play at the Major League level with the team that year.

In 1952, Taylor was traded along with Matt Batts, Dick Littlefield, and Cliff Mapes to the Detroit Tigers for Gene Bearden, Bob Cain, and Dick Kryhoski. He was with the Tigers for only a short time before he was traded to the Cleveland Indians for Hal Erickson. The following year he joined the Dallas Eagles of the Texas League. In 1954, he was traded along with two other players and $20,000 to the Cubs for Buster Clarkson and Les Fleming. He was later returned to the Texas League, joining the Beaumont Exporters, before becoming a member of the Milwaukee Braves.

He was the uncle of Hawk Taylor, also a native of Metropolis, who played for the Braves and three other MLB clubs between 1957–1970.

Cienfuegos (Cuban League baseball club)

The Petroleros de Cienfuegos (Cienfuegos Oilers) first participated in the Cuban Professional League championship during the 1926-27 season. Although representing the south coast city of Cienfuegos, the team played their home games in Havana. Cienfuegos did not play in the 1927-28 season, contending again from 1928-29 through 1930-31. After eight long years of absence, Cienfuegos reappeared in the 1939-40 tournament. In the 1949-50 season, the team was renamed as the Elefantes de Cienfuegos (Cienfuegos Elephants). "The pace of the elephant is slow but crushing", exclaimed the slogan of the Cienfuegos franchise that contended until the 1960-61 season. Following the 1959 Cuban Revolution, political tensions rose with the Fidel Castro government. In March 1961, one month after the regular season ended, the new Cuban regime decreed the abolition of professional baseball in Cuba.

In 26 Championships in which Cienfuegos participated, the team won five league titles in 1929-30, 1945–46, 1955–56, 1959–60 and 1960–61, finishing second 6 times, third 7 times, and fourth 8 times, posting a 732-793 record for a .480 average. Cienfuegos also won the Caribbean Series in 1956 and 1960.

Some notable Cienfuegos players include George Altman, José Azcue, Gene Bearden, Cool Papa Bell, Bob Boyd, Leo Cárdenas, Sandalio Consuegra, Martín Dihigo, Tony González, Adolfo Luque, Sal Maglie, Seth Morehead, Ray Noble, Alejandro Oms, Camilo Pascual, Pedro Ramos, Cookie Rojas, Napoleón Reyes, and Willie Wells.

Deaths in March 2004

The following is a list of notable deaths in March 2004.

Entries for each day are listed alphabetically by surname. A typical entry lists information in the following sequence:

Name, age, country of citizenship at birth, subsequent country of citizenship (if applicable), reason for notability, cause of death (if known), and reference.

Hal Peck

Harold Arthur "Hal" Peck (April 20, 1917 – April 13, 1995) was an American professional baseball right fielder. He played seven seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1943 to 1949 for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Philadelphia Athletics, and Cleveland Indians. He appeared in the 1948 World Series while a member of the Indians. Peck reached MLB despite losing two toes in a shooting accident.

List of knuckleball pitchers

Knuckleball pitchers are baseball players who rely on the knuckleball as their primary pitch, or pitch primarily based on their ability to throw a knuckleball. The inventor of the knuckleball has never been established, although several pitchers from the early 20th century have been credited. Baseball statistician and historian Rob Neyer named four individuals in an article he wrote in the 2004 book The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers as potentially deserving credit, any of whom may have originated the pitch in either the 1907 or 1908 seasons. Nap Rucker of the Brooklyn Dodgers came up to the majors in 1907, initially throwing hard stuff but later switching to the knuckleball. A 1908 article credited Lew Moren as the inventor of the pitch. Ed Cicotte earned a full-time spot with the Detroit Tigers in 1908, earning the nickname "Knuckles" for his signature pitch. A picture of Ed Summers showed him gripping what he called a "dry spitter" using a variation of the knuckleball grip using the knuckles of his index and middle fingers.Unlike almost every other pitch in baseball, the knuckleball's erratic trajectory has often required teams to use dedicated catchers, often using specialized mitts, to field the deliveries. Clint Courtney used a specially constructed catcher's mitt, about 50% larger than the conventional mitts used at the time, to catch knuckleballer Hoyt Wilhelm during a game in May 1960. Umpire Al Smith credited the use of the glove with preventing three or four passed balls in that one game. The lower velocity of the knuckleball is credited with giving some who use it the ability to pitch more often and to sustain pitching careers far longer than those who rely on their fastball to get outs. Tim Wakefield pitched on consecutive days, when most starting pitchers in the 21st century throw after four days of rest. Hoyt Wilhelm pitched until he was almost 50 and Phil Niekro used the pitch until he was 48. Wakefield retired at 45.

The prevalence of the knuckleballer has varied over time. The 1945 Washington Senators finished 1½ games out of first place with a starting pitching staff that almost exclusively used the pitch, with four knuckleballers in the rotation. That season, the team's three catchers — regular catcher Rick Ferrell and backups Al Evans and Mike Guerra — combined for 40 passed balls, more than double that of any other team in the league.Baseball funnyman Bob Uecker, who was Phil Niekro's personal catcher with the Braves in 1967, has been quoted as saying "The way to catch a knuckleball is to wait until it stops rolling, then go pick it up."Wilbur Wood, Joe Niekro, and R.A. Dickey have won The Sporting News Pitcher of the Year Award. In 2012, Dickey became the only knuckleballer to have won the Cy Young Award. Phil Niekro is the only knuckleball pitcher to win 300 games.

Ray Mack

Raymond James Mack (born Raymond James Mlckovsky on August 31, 1916 – May 7, 1969) was a second baseman in Major League Baseball from 1938 to 1946 with the Cleveland Indians (with 2,629 at bats) and in 1947 with the New York Yankees (0 AB's) and the Chicago Cubs (78 AB's). He attended Case School of Applied Science, now known as Case Western Reserve University, where he was known as an outstanding football player, earning the nickname the "Case Ace." In fact, he was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 1938 NFL Draft, but declined professional football to play his passion of baseball. After playing semipro baseball, we was eventually scouted and signed by the Cleveland Indians in 1938.

Mack was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Listed as 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and 200 pounds (91 kg), he was known more for his fielding than his hitting, teaming up with Cleveland shortstop Lou Boudreau for a great double play combination in the early 1940s. Mack was selected to the 1940 American League All-Star team and pinch hit for starting second baseman Joe Gordon in the eighth inning. Mack struck out against Larry French of the Cubs and handled no chances in the field as the AL bowed, 4–0, at Sportsman's Park. Ironically, Gordon would succeed Mack as the Indians' regular second baseman in 1947.

Mack ended with a .966 career fielding percentage and helped complete 597 double plays. He saved Bob Feller's 1940 opening day no-hitter with a diving stop on the final out. After the 1946 season, Mack was traded to the Yankees by new Indians' owner Bill Veeck. It was one of many deals orchestrated by Veeck, but in it Cleveland obtained pitcher Gene Bearden, who would pitch the Tribe to the 1948 pennant as a rookie.

In a nine-season career, he had a batting average of .232 with 34 home runs and 278 RBIs. He stole 35 bases, scored 273 runs, and accumulated 113 doubles and 24 triples. He had 629 career hits in 2707 at-bats.

Mack died in Bucyrus, Ohio. His son, Tom played for the Los Angeles Rams in the National Football League and was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1999. Ray, too, had the option of playing football, but passed it up for baseball.

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