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Bob Lemon

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Robert Granville Lemon

Inducted into Hall of Fame in 1976

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Contents

[edit] Biographical Information

[edit] Overview

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Bob Lemon played 18 seasons from 1938 to 1958, 15 in the Major Leagues (1941-1942; 1946-1958) and six in the minors (1938-1942; 1958), losing three years to the Military. He graduated from High School at Woodrow Wilson High in Long Beach, CA in 1938 and was then signed as a Free Agent for the Cleveland Indians by Jack Angel. He served in the United States Navy for three years during World War II (1943-1945) (N&C).

He was a position player for Cleveland for two cups of coffee (1941-1942) and then primarily a pitcher 13 years (1946-1958). Bob Lemon was the centerfielder for Cleveland in Bob Feller's 2nd no-hitter - against the Yankees in 1946. Mostly an infielder in the minors, he hit 37 home runs and was 2-6 as a pitcher. He was 20 years old when he broke into the big leagues on September 9, 1941. He married Jane H. McGee on January 14, 1944 and had two sons. After his playing days were over, he was a minor league manager, MLB manager and coach and a New York Yankees scout until his death, giving him 61 years of activity in baseball. His hobby was golf.

Lemon in 1953

He managed three years in the minors, three years for the Kansas City Royals (1970-1972), two years for the Chicago White Sox (1970-1978) and four years for the Yankees (1978-1979 and 1981-1982), bringing home the World Series title in 1978 after replacing Billy Martin midway through the season and rallying the team past the Bostion Red Sox in an epic pennant race. He was a coach for the Indians (1960); the Philadelphia Phillies (1961); California Angels (1967-1970); and Yankees (1976). He was a scout for the Indians (1959); Royals 1973) and Yankees (1979-1981 and 1982-2000).

The story of Bob Lemon is the tale of three careers: as a mediocre infielder prior to World War II, as a star pitcher during post-war era, and finally as a successful major league manager.

His first Baseball Card appearance was in the 1949 Bowman set.

[edit] Bob Lemon, the Infielder

The easygoing Lemon learned to pitch in the Major Leagues and went on to become one of the most successful righthanders of the post-WWII period. Prior to World War II, Lemon had struggled as a light-hitting third baseman. In two trials as a third baseman before the war, he failed to stick with the Indians because of his mediocre hitting. He showed a strong arm in the field, but his throws had a natural sinking effect. The Indians first placed him in center field in 1946, but Lemon had pitched a lot in the navy during World War II while he couldn’t hit enough to be a center fielder, so manager Lou Boudreau placed him on the mound. He became a phenomenal pitcher. Lemon played ceter field during Bob Feller's 2nd no-hitter (at Yankee Stadium) in 1946.

[edit] Bob Lemon, the Pitcher

Lemon learned to pitch on the job with the Indians and eventually won 20 games seven times. A sinker-ball specialist, Lemon teamed with Bob Feller, Early Wynn, and Mike Garcia to form one of the greatest pitching staffs in baseball history. He retired in 1958 with 207 wins, all but 10 of them won in a ten-year span.

Lemon was one of the best hitting and fielding pitchers, as he first came up to the big leagues as an infielder/outfielder. However, his pitching stints in Hawaii during World War II kept his pitching arm in shape and helped him get noticed as a pitcher.

Bob literally went from saving Bob Feller's ballgame on opening day in 1946, by throwing to second base and doubling off a baserunner after a daring catch in center field, to taking the pitcher’s mound and becoming a tremendous pitcher. Bob had a good curveball, a good slider, and a vicious sinker pitch (BA).

Although bothered by wildness, Lemon showed enough promise in his first season on the mound (2.49 ERA in 94 innings) to continue the experiment. In 1947 he was 11-5 and became the Indians' second most effective starter behind Hall of Famer Feller.

Cleveland won the 1948 pennant, as Feller, Lemon, and rookie Gene Bearden combined for 59 wins. Lemon, at 20-14, led the American League in shutouts (10), complete games (20) and innings pitched (294). On June 30, he threw a no-hitter to top the Tigers 2-0 (1st no-hitter under the lights). In the World Series, he picked up two wins (1.65 ERA) as the Indians defeated the Boston Braves.

Lemon became the leader of the outstanding Indians pitching staffs of the 1950s that also included Feller, Wynn, Garcia, Art Houtteman and later Herb Score. In a remarkably consistent nine-year stretch (1948-1956), Lemon won 20 or more games seven times. He missed the magic number only in 1951 with 17 victories and 1955 when his 18 wins topped the league. A workhorse, he led in complete games five times and innings pitched four. TSN named him the Outstanding AL Pitcher three times (1948, 1950 & 1954).

The 1954 Indians set an AL record with 111 victories (in 154 games) as Lemon led the pitching staff with a 23-7 mark. He opened the World Series against the Giants and took a 2-2 tie into the tenth inning before giving up a three-run home run to pinch hitter Dusty Rhodes. When the Indians lost the next two games, manager Al Lopez brought Lemon back on two days' rest, but he was shelled early as the Giants swept the Series.

Lemon's money pitch was his sinking fastball. He led the AL in strikeouts with 170 in 1950, but he was most effective when opposing batters were beating the ball into the dirt. Always slightly wild, his season bases on balls and strikeout marks were usually similar, as were his career bases totals of 1,251 walks and 1,277 strikeouts.

Lemon was considered to be one of the best-hitting pitchers of his time and was often used as a pinch hitter, totaling 31 hits in 109 pinch-hit appearances (.284). His 37 home runs lifetime is just one behind Wes Ferrell's record for pitchers, and his seven home runs in 1949 ties him for second on the pitchers' season list.

After leaving the majors, Lemon pitched briefly in the Pacific Coast League, then turned to scouting, coaching, and managing.

[edit] Bob Lemon, the Manager

In 1966, The Sporting News named him Minor League Manager of the Year when his Seattle team won the PCL championship. From 1970 to 1972, he managed the Royals, with a 1971 second place the team's best mark, earning him Manager of the Year honors in certain polls. In July of 1972 Lemon was quoted as saying he was happy he was only a few years from retirement and that he wanted to leave baseball for some remote island. Even though Lemon says he was mis-quoted, Ewing Kauffman decided he wanted a younger manager, and Lemon was fired after the season.

He took over the Chicago White Sox in 1977, managing another mediocre team to a strong finish, and again won Manager of the Year consideration, but he was replaced the next season with the team in fifth place. A few weeks later, Lemon began a bewildering series of ups and downs with the New York Yankees. First, he succeeded fiery Billy Martin as skipper of the third-place Yankees. The team responded to his relaxed leadership and finished the regular schedule tied with the Boston Red Sox for the division title. New York won the one-game playoff on Bucky Dent's home run. After taking the ALCS, Lemon's Yankees went on to a World Series win over the Dodgers, rallying after losing the opening two games.

Midway through the 1979 season, Martin replaced him as Yankee manager. In 1981, when the player strike split the season into two halfs, Gene Michael managed the Yankees to a first-half division lead, but when the team faltered in the second half after the strike, Lemon returned as manager. Even though the Yankees had a losing record under his helm, he took them to victory in the divisional playoff with second-half winner Milwaukee and then to a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics in the ALCS. The Yankees lost the World Series to the Dodgers in six games, and Lemon was widely criticized for a managerial decision he made in the last game, when he called in Bobby Murcer to pinch hit for ace pitcher Tommy John with two on and two outs in the 4th inning; Murcer flied out to right field, and the bullpen imploded after John's departure, giving the game and the series away to the Dodgers. When New York started slowly in 1982, Lemon was again replaced as manager after 14 games only, this time by Michael. He did not even get to manage the AL team in the 1982 All-Star Game, a traditional perk of the previous year's World Series manager, and was replaced by Billy Martin, whose Athletics had been swept by Lemon's Yankees in the ALCS. (BC)

[edit] Bob Lemon postscript

Lemon died at age 79 from a heart attack/stroke after a long period of failing health at Palmcrest Convalescent Home in San Bernardino, CA and was cremated. He was survived by his wife, Jane, and two sons. The hard-drinking, easygoing Lemon had been seriously ill and housebound, a virtual recluse in his native Long Beach, CA but was nevertheless still on the Yankees payroll as a scout. It was a "lifetime contract" reward from George Steinbrenner for the 1978 Yankee World Championship.

He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame on January 22, 1976 by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

His biography Bob Lemon, the Work Horse was written by Ed McAuley.

[edit] Career Highlights

  • Led Eastern League in At Bats, Runs and Hits as a batter, 1941
  • Pitched no-hitter, 30 June 1948
  • Had 207 wins, all but 10 of them won in a ten-year span
  • Compiled a 207-128 won-loss record for Cleveland in 15 seasons.
  • Hit seven homeruns and allowed only 19 in a season
  • Established Major League Record for most double plays by a pitcher, season, 1953 (15)
  • Named by TSN as American League Pitcher of the Year, 1948, 1950 & 1954
  • Named by TSN as Pitcher on MLB All-Star Team, 1948, 1950 & 1954
  • His #21 was retired by the Cleveland Indians on June 20, 1998 .
  • First manager to win a World Championship after starting the season with another club, 1978

[edit] Notable Achievements

  • 7-time AL All-Star (1948-1954)
  • 3-time AL Wins Leader (1950, 1954 & 1955)
  • 4-time AL Innings Pitched Leader (1948, 1950, 1952 & 1953)
  • AL Strikeouts Leader (1950)
  • 5-time AL Complete Games Leader (1948, 1950, 1952, 1954 & 1956)
  • AL Shutouts Leader (1948)
  • 15 Wins Seasons: 9 (1948-1956)
  • 20 Wins Seasons: 7 (1948-1950, 1952-1954 & 1956)
  • 200 Innings pitched Seasons: 9 (1948-1956)
  • 300 Innings Pitched Seasons: 1 (1952)
  • Won a World Series with the Cleveland Indians in 1948
  • Division Titles: 2 (1978 & 1981)
  • AL Pennants: 2 (1978 & 1981)
  • Managed one World Series Champion with the New York Yankees in 1978
  • Baseball Hall of Fame: Class of 1976


Preceded by
Charlie Metro
Kansas City Royals Manager
1970-1972
Succeeded by
Jack McKeon
Preceded by
Paul Richards
Chicago White Sox Manager
1977-1978
Succeeded by
Larry Doby
Preceded by
Billy Martin
New York Yankees Manager
1978-1979
Succeeded by
Billy Martin
Preceded by
Gene Michael
New York Yankees Manager
1981-1982
Succeeded by
Gene Michael

[edit] Year-By-Year Managerial Record

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs Notes
1964 Hawaii Islanders Pacific Coast League 60-98 10th Los Angeles Angels
1965 Seattle Angels Pacific Coast League 79-69 4th California Angels
1966 Seattle Angels Pacific Coast League 83-65 2nd California Angels League Champs
1969 Vancouver Mounties Pacific Coast League 71-73 6th (t) Seattle Pilots/Montreal Expos
1970 Kansas City Royals American League 46-64 4th Kansas City Royals replaced Charlie Metro (19-33) on June 9
1971 Kansas City Royals American League 85-76 2nd Kansas City Royals
1972 Kansas City Royals American League 76-78 4th Kansas City Royals
1974 Sacramento Solons Pacific Coast League 66-78 7th Milwaukee Brewers
1975 Richmond Braves International League 33-45 6th Atlanta Braves replaced Clint Courtney (29-30) on June 16
1977 Chicago White Sox American League 90-72 3rd Chicago White Sox
1978 Chicago White Sox American League 34-40 -- Chicago White Sox replaced by Larry Doby on July 1
New York Yankees American League 48-20 1st New York Yankees World Series Champs replaced Billy Martin (52-42) and
Dick Howser (0-1) on July 25
1979 New York Yankees American League 34-31 -- New York Yankees replaced by Billy Martin on June 19
1981 New York Yankees American League 11-14 3rd New York Yankees Lost World Series replaced Gene Michael (48-34) on September 6
1982 New York Yankees American League 6-8 -- New York Yankees replaced by Gene Michael on April 27

[edit] Records Held

  • Double plays, pitcher, season, 15, 1953

[edit] Quotes

  • "Baseball was made for kids, and grown-ups only screw it up."
  • "I don't care how long you've been around, you'll never see it all."
  • "I had bad days on the field. But I didn't take them home with me. I left them in a bar along the way home."
  • "The two most important things in life are good friends and a strong bullpen."
  • "Lemon can put about four speeds on the ball, which ruins your timing. ...His fastball is a natural sinker. I'd either top it to the infield or golf it for a lousy single." -- Joe DiMaggio.

[edit] Sources

Principal sources for Bob Lemon include newspaper obituaries (OB), government records (VA,CM,CW), Sporting Life (SL), Baseball Digest, The Sporting News (TSN), The Sports Encyclopedia:Baseball 2006 by David Neft & Richard Cohen (N&C), old Who's Who in Baseballs (1947-1958) (WW), old Baseball Registers (1948-1958;1961;1967-1982) (BR), TSN's Daguerreotypes (1968;1971;1990) (DAG), The Historical Register, The Baseball Necrology by Bill Lee (BN), Pat Doyle's Professional Ballplayer DataBase(PD), The Baseball Library (BL); various Encyclopediae including The Official Encyclopedia of Baseball by Turkin & Thompson (T&T), MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia (Mac), Total Baseball (TB), The Bill James Historical Abstract (BJ) and The Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball (LJ); Retrosheet (RS), The Baseball Chronology (BC), Baseball Page (BP), The Baseball Almanac (BA), Baseball Cube (B3), Bob Lemon, the Work Horse by Ed McAuley and obituaries at deadballera.com (DBE) as well as research by Reed Howard (RH), Pat Doyle (PD) and Frank Hamilton (FH).

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