Pitching To The Pennant
edited by Joseph Wancho
University of Nebraska Press, 2014
They won more games than the 1927 Yankees, boasted five future Hall of Fame players and a future Hall of Fame manager, featured two twenty-game winners, and fielded players who led the league in home runs, runs batted in, batting average, pitching victories and earned run average. Yet after four-game sweep by the New York Giants in the World Series and the most memorable catch in postseason history by Willie Mays, many people forget that the Cleveland Indians were that good in 1954.
Imagine having a pitching staff led by Early Wynn and Bob Lemon, who each won 23 games, and Mike Garcia with his 19 victories and league-leading 2.64 ERA. Add to that effective performances by Art Houtteman and an aging Bob Feller, and a bullpen that included Hal Newhouser. Not to be outdone, the offense featured hitting leader Bobby Avila and top slugger Larry Doby, along with a strong performance by Al Rosen. This was a team that had all the right pieces fall into place all season, until the World Series. General manager Hank Greenberg famously said, “We had a great season. It just lasted four games too long.”
The spirit of that 1954 season is captured in Pitching To The Pennant, edited by Jospeh Wancho, with biographies of each player written by members of the Society for American Baseball Research and monthly recaps of each game. Other articles discuss Cleveland Stadium, the All-Star Game that was played there, and game-by-game accounts of the 1954 World Series. Perhaps the most interesting piece, though, is “A Seven-Year-Old’s Perspective on the 1954 Indians” by David Bohmer, describing the writer’s personal recollections of that team from so long ago through the fog of time.
Pitching To The Pennant is another fine offering from the University of Nebraska Press, a book that delight the Tribe’s followers and educate baseball fans.