The Red Sox were still hopeful, even in the final days of August 1955. They were in fourth place, but the standings were tightly bunched and they were only five games behind the first-place New York Yankees. Before this day’s game, the Indians and White Sox were one and 1½ games back of New York, respectively. The Tigers were in fifth, but 12½ games out.
Tigers manager Bucky Harris had selected right-hander Frank Lary to start in this Saturday afternoon game at Briggs Stadium. Lary had shut out the Red Sox the last time he had faced them, on July 14. Red Sox manager Pinky Higgins went with a lefty, Frank Baumann, making just his second major-league start.1
The game began inauspiciously, with Boston first baseman Billy Goodman bouncing one back to Lary on the mound. Lary flipped to first base and there was one out. The Red Sox got their first hit in the first inning when shortstop Billy Klaus singled to center. Left fielder Ted Williams walked. A foul popup to first and a groundout ended any threat. It was the only thing approaching a threat from the Red Sox until the eighth inning.
Baumann allowed one run in the bottom of the first, walking the leadoff batter, shortstop Harvey Kuenn. Center fielder Bill Tuttle flied out to right and Al Kaline flied out to Ted Williams in left. But first baseman Jack Phillips singled into right field and scored Kuenn. Third baseman Ray Boone flied out to left field.
The 1-0 score lasted until the third, when the Tigers added two more. As he had in the first inning, Kuenn started this inning, too, with a base on balls. Tuttle homered off the façade of the upper left-field deck. Baumann retired the next three batters but he and his team were in a 3-0 hole.
Red Sox catcher Sammy White singled in the fourth. Baumann himself singled in the fifth. Both singles came with one out. Neither batter advanced even as far as second base. The Tigers were set down in order in the fourth, In the fifth Tuttle drew a two-out walk but was forced out at second base after Kaline grounded a ball to shortstop.
In the sixth, the Red Sox succeeded in getting a man to second. With two outs, White walked and third baseman Grady Hatton singled to right, but White could get no farther than second base. Jimmy Piersall grounded out. The score remained Tigers 3, Red Sox 0.
Baumann, for his part, never gave up another hit in the game. After he retired the side in order in the sixth, pinch-hitter Gene Stephens took his place in the Red Sox seventh. Nothing came of it. Stephens struck out.
Tom Hurd relieved Baumann and retired the three Tigers who came to bat in the seventh. No one got the ball out of the infield.
The Red Sox finally got a runner to third base in the top of the eighth. It was Ted Williams, who had drawn a one-out walk. Right fielder Jackie Jensen doubled to left field, Williams stopping at third base. But Lary buckled down, striking out Sammy White and getting Hatton to ground out.
Hurd retired the Tigers in order once again in the eighth.
Lary came out to pitch the ninth inning. He’d walked three Boston batters and given up six scattered base hits, but all nine runners had been left stranded. He still had a 3-0 shutout going.
Piersall popped up, foul, to the catcher. That was the first of the three outs Lary needed.
Second baseman Eddie Joost singled between shortstop and third base and into left field. Faye Throneberry pinch-hit for Hurd. He singled, too, a hard-hit ball off Lary’s foot. Billy Goodman matched Piersall’s at-bat, popping up foul to catcher Frank House.2 That was the second out.
Klaus singled to right field, but it was a ball that Kaline played routinely and Joost held at third base. The Red Sox, after all, needed three runs to tie the game, not just one. And Ted Williams was on deck. Lary had allowed three singles, but not a run had crossed the plate. It was still a shutout.
Just the day before, Williams had come up in the ninth inning with Boston trailing the Tigers by just one run. He took three called strikes and was out.4
In this game, Aber’s first pitch went for a ball. Williams fouled off the second pitch, hitting a groundball past first base. Another ball followed. Obviously. A walk — intentional or otherwise — would have given the Red Sox only one run. Jensen would be up next, and then Sammy White. Jensen was hitting .276 and White .260.
Aber’s fourth pitch was over the plate. “Mighty Casey DID NOT strike out,” wrote Arthur Sampson in the Boston Herald.5 “Ted didn’t take this one. He measured it. He ducked a little to make certain he got under the ball. With his quick wrists, he lifted it high into the upper deck of the right-field stands.”6 Sampson said the ball went halfway up into the upper-deck stands. Hy Hurwitz said it was about 10 rows up into the seats.
It was his third grand slam of the 1955 season.7
Joe Coleman relieved Aber and Jensen flied out to left for the third out.
In the bottom of the ninth, Throneberry replaced Williams in left field for the Red Sox. Taking Williams’s slot in the batting order, Ellis Kinder pitched the ninth inning. It was the third day in a row that “Old Folks” had relieved. He had worked 2⅔ innings on Thursday afternoon and earned his 16th save of the season. He had also worked the final two-thirds of the ninth inning on Friday afternoon.
Against Kinder, the Tigers’ Earl Torgeson pinch-hit for first baseman Jack Phillips and flied out to center field. Ray Boone flied out to Throneberry in left. Jim Densing pinch-hit for left fielder Bubba Phillips. He struck out.
Hurd got the win. Aber got both a blown save and the loss. Kinder picked up his 17th save. The 40-year-old reliever led both leagues, closing 38 games in 1955.
The Yankees lost to Cleveland and the Red Sox picked up a game, standing four games out of first place at the end of the day. They never edged out of fourth place for the rest of the season, but did climb to within three games of first place on September 5. They remained there through September 7, but then won only four of their final 18 games, still hanging onto their fourth-place spot but finishing 12 games behind the Yankees.
The Tigers finished in fifth place with a record of 79-75, 17 games behind New York and five behind Boston.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.
1 He had been hammered for four runs by the Yankees in New York and recorded only three outs, leaving after back-to-back triples in the bottom of the second. He had won a game in relief in one prior outing.
2 This according to databases consulted in 2020. The Boston Herald account said he fouled out to Bubba Phillips in left field. See Arthur Sampson, “Williams Silences Critics,” Boston Herald, August 28, 1955: 47.
3 Williams had hit a home run off Aber before, on July 14, into the right-field upper deck at Briggs Stadium.
4 Hy Hurwitz, “Ted’s Grand Slam in 9th Puts Red Sox Nearer Top,” Boston Globe, August 28, 1955: C1. Williams never really complained about balls and strikes, and never showed an umpire up. Right-hander Charlie Beamon once explained, “If they happened to call something he didn’t think was a strike, he never said anything. All he needed was one pitch anyway, you know!” See Dave Heller, ed., Facing Ted Williams (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013), 17.