July 15, 1939: Red Sox blow their second straight 5-0 lead, but win again thanks to ‘Ted the Terror’

This article was written by Bill Nowlin

Ted Williams (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)For 20-year-old Ted Williams, this was the third visit to Cleveland. The rookie right fielder had already accumulated a dozen home runs by the mid-July visit.

The Red Sox were riding an eight-game winning streak when they arrived. They took the July 13 game, winning in 10 innings. A win in this game would make it 10 in a row. They were in second place, six games behind the New York Yankees. Cleveland was 13 back, tied for third place with the Chicago White Sox. In the game on July 13, the Red Sox had scored five runs in the fourth inning, only to see the Indians come back and tie the game with five runs of their own in the bottom of the ninth. Three walks (one intentional) and then an RBI single in the 10th inning by Lou Finney gave the Red Sox a 6-5 lead, which they held.

The July 15 game drew 12,000, with 9,000 of them thanks to a ladies day promotion.

Indians manager Ossie Vitt started right-hander Willis Hudlin, a veteran with more than a dozen years in the majors. Hudlin had a 3.51 ERA and a record of 6-5 coming into the game but hadn’t started since July 1. He got bombed. After second baseman Bobby Doerr flied out to lead off the first, center fielder Doc Cramer singled to right. Jimmie Foxx singled to left, Cramer running to third base and Foxx taking second on the throw.

With first base open, Ted Williams was given an intentional walk, loading the bases.1 Hudlin walked manager-shortstop Joe Cronin, forcing in Cramer. Left fielder Joe Vosmik grounded out to first unassisted, but everyone moved up a base, Foxx crossing home plate for a 2-0 Red Sox lead. The grounder “would have resulted in a force play at the plate had Harold [first baseman Hal Trosky] handled it cleanly, but he fumbled long enough to make that play impossible” and he ran to step on first base instead, a Cleveland sportswriter observed.2

Third baseman Jim Tabor bounced a single between third and short and into left field, driving in both Williams and Cronin. Catcher Johnny Peacock reached on an infield single, and pitcher Fritz Ostermueller singled, driving in Tabor and helping himself to a 5-0 lead before he took the mound. Vitt replaced Hudlin with Johnny Broaca, who got Doerr to ground out.

Ostermueller was a left-hander who had broken in with Boston in 1934. He was 13-5 in 1938 and at this point midway through 1939 was 5-1 with a 3.32 ERA. Catcher Rollie Hemsley led off for the Indians with a single, but Ostermueller got a force out at second and center fielder Ben Chapman hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

Broaca had broken in with the Yankees and done well but been suspended for absenting himself from the team without permission in mid-1937. The Yankees placed him on waivers at the end of 1938 and the Indians picked him up, though they didn’t use him often. He pitched very well in this game, though, working an impressive 6⅔ innings of relief, allowing just five hits and two runs, only one of which was earned. He didn’t allow a run in the second through the seventh and only two base hits over those six innings, with not a runner reaching second. Cramer led off the second with a single and Doerr bunted for a single in the fourth, but those were the only two batters to reach base.

In the meantime, the Indians got to Ostermueller. They scored three runs in the third. After Broaca struck out, Hemsley doubled to left. He went to third when right fielder Roy Weatherly grounded out. Chapman walked. So did Trosky, loading the bases. The left fielder, former Red Sox Moose Solters, doubled to right field and drove in three runs, the third able to score because of an error by Williams, who “wasted so much time looking for the handle that all three runners scored.”3 He did get an outfield assist, though, finally getting hold of the ball and throwing out Solters attempting to reach third base.

For the second game in a row, the Red Sox had taken a 5-0 lead but then lost it. The Indians tied it in the bottom of the fifth. Broaca again led off and again made an out. Hemsley again doubled, this time to center field. After Weatherly singled to right, driving in Hemsley, Cronin replaced Ostermueller with reliever Emerson Dickman. Chapman singled. Then Trosky singled, a slow roller to Foxx at first base, driving in Weatherly with the tying run.

The only batter to reach base for either team in the sixth was Hemsley, with a single. He had a 5-for-5 game, accounting for just over half of the nine hits the Indians had mustered by game’s end. 

No one reached base at all in the seventh inning.

In the top of the eighth, Foxx grounded out. Ted Williams blasted Broaca’s first pitch for “a vicious clout into the far-off right-field stands,”4 which gave Boston the lead, 6-5, a lead they maintained. The Cleveland Plain Dealer said it landed about six rows into the stands, not far from the foul pole. The Boston Herald agreed, to the row, with Burt Whitman describing “Ted the Terror” slamming the ball and rejuvenating the Red Sox.5

The next two batters combined to produce another run. Joe Cronin singled to left, getting to second base on an error by Solters. Vosmik singled over second base and into center, which drove in Cronin. Johnny Allen relieved Broaca and secured two outs, but Boston had a 7-5 lead.

Dickman got three groundouts and the game moved to the ninth.

Dickman struck out. Doerr singled to left field. Doc Cramer hit a triple to right-center and Doerr scored. Foxx hit a sacrifice fly nearly to the warning track in center field and Cramer tagged and scored to make it 9-5. Williams grounded out to first base unassisted. Foxx’s drive would have been a home run in many parks; it was caught 20 feet in front of Cleveland Stadium’s center-field barrier, which stood some 470 feet from home plate.

Bruce Campbell pinch-hit for Allen and grounded out to second base. Hemsley got his fifth hit, a single to left-center. Weatherly tried to bunt for a base hit but popped up to the pitcher. Chapman grounded into a force play, Doerr to Cronin covering second base.

With 4⅔ innings of relief work, allowing four scattered hits and no runs, Dickman earned a well-deserved win, improving his record to 4-1 and his third win in eight days.

The outcome gave the Red Sox their 10th win in a row; they won their next two games, too, sweeping the July 16 doubleheader in Detroit, 9-2 and 3-0.

The Red Sox and Indians finished second and third in the standings, but nowhere near the Yankees, who ended the year 17 games ahead of the Red Sox and 20½ games ahead of the Indians.

The walk Ted Williams got in this game was one of 107 he got in his rookie year. The game-winning run he batted in was one of 145 RBIs, enough to lead both leagues and to set a rookie record that has never been matched. 


In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com and Retrosheet.org.




1 It wasn’t his first. This was the fifth of his career, building toward a total of 258 intentional walks.

2 Gordon Cobbledick, “Tribe Again Ties, 5-5, Then Fades,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 16, 1939: 1-C.

3 Burt Whitman, “Red Sox 9-5 Victors; Bees Win, 7-3,” Boston Herald, July 15, 1939: 23.

4 Hy Hurwitz, “Williams Puts Red Sox Over for 10 in Row,” Boston Globe, July 16,1939: B1.  

5 Whitman.

Additional Stats

Boston Red Sox 9
Cleveland Indians 5

Cleveland Stadium
Cleveland, OH


Box Score + PBP:

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1930s ·