The Cleveland Indians had just swept the Chicago White Sox at home on the Fourth of July weekend. As the season neared the All-Star break, one could not blame Tribe fans if the hope of their first pennant since 1948 was being awakened.
But on the morning of July 5, the jubilation of the Tribe’s success took a backseat to a different kind of breaking story. The Cleveland Plain Dealer headline screamed in big bold letters, “Bay Doctor’s Wife Murdered.” Readers would be captivated by the story of the death of Marilyn Shepherd, the pregnant wife of Dr. Sam Shepherd. The prominent neurosurgeon was found beaten in the family living room, while Mrs. Shepherd was found dead in her bedroom. It’s a murder that has never been solved, and continues to be brought up in conversation in Cleveland.
But the Indians (52-22) were as hot the fireworks on the Fourth of July as their train pulled into Detroit for a two-game series. The Tribe had put together multiple winning streaks (April 25-May 2 — six games; May 13-23 — 11 games; June 11-18 — nine games) and currently they were on a seven-game streak as they built a 4½-game lead over New York after games of the Fourth.
The Tribe had various players atop the American League leader board in many categories. Bobby Avila (.349) and Al Rosen (.332) were 1-2 in batting average. Al Smith (.419), Avila (.408), and Rosen (.407) were the first three leaders in on-base percentage. Larry Doby was second in the AL in home runs (15) and RBIs (59).
Detroit’s fortunes were not as abundant as those of their guest. The Tigers (31-40-1) were in fourth place in the AL, but a whopping 19½ games in back of Cleveland. The Tigers only had two pitchers among the league leaders: Steve Gromek and Billy Hoeft. Gromek, a former Indian, led the AL in home runs allowed (15) and Hoeft was second in surrendering doubles (23).
The teams were scheduled for a Monday afternoon doubleheader at Briggs Stadium. The pitching matchup for Game One was Dave Hoskins (0-1, 2.19 ERA) for Cleveland and Ned Garver (5-4, 1.95 ERA) for Detroit. Hoskins, who had begun his professional baseball career with Homestead of the Negro National League, was making his first start of the season. Signed by the Indians in 1950, Hoskins posted a 22-10 record for Dallas of the Texas League in 1952. He followed that up with a 9-3 record for the Tribe in 1953. But the Indians had a surplus of quality starting pitching, relegating Hoskins to work out of the bullpen with some spot-starter duty.
Garver, a 20-game winner for the St. Louis Browns in 1951, was mostly a .500 pitcher to this point in his career. His main impediment was throwing strikes, and when Garver retired after the 1961 season, he had the same number of strikeouts as walks, 881.
The Indians jumped on Garver for two runs in the top of the first inning. With one away, Avila walked and went to third on a base hit to right field by Doby. Avila scored the game’s first run on a wild pitch by Garver. After a walk to Rosen, Vic Wertz singled Doby home.
In the top of the third inning, the Indians built on their advantage. Garver walked Doby to lead off the inning, and Rosen followed with a slow roller to the mound. Garver fielded the baseball and his throw to first nailed Rosen in the back. The ball got away from Detroit first baseman Wayne Belardi; Doby came all the way around to score and Rosen raced to third base. But home-plate umpire Ed Hurley ruled that Rosen had run inside the baseline, and called him out for interference. Despite the Indians’ protests, Doby returned to first base and Rosen was the first recorded out of the inning.
The umpire’s ruling was a temporary setback for Cleveland. Wertz walked, and consecutive singles by Wally Westlake and George Strickland plated two runs for the Tribe. Tigers manager Fred Hutchinson went to his bullpen and brought in Ralph Branca. Hal Naragon walked to load the bases. After Garver struck out Hoskins for the second out, Bill Glynn connected for a grand slam. The blast reached the upper deck in right field, just inside the foul pole. It was his second homer of the year and his first slam in the big leagues.
Detroit attempted to come back in the bottom of the fourth frame. Ray Boone and Belardi led off with back-to-back home runs. For Boone, who was headed to the All-Star Game at Cleveland Stadium later in the month, it was his 14th home run of the season. Belardi’s was his fifth. The Tigers added an unearned run that was charged to Hoskins to make the score 8-3 Cleveland. Indians manager Al Lopez also went to his bullpen early, bringing in Houtteman to relieve Hoskins.
Glynn added a two-run home run in the fifth and a solo homer leading off the seventh against Tigers relievers Ted Gray and Dick Weik, respectively. Both home runs, like the first one, reached the upper deck in right field. The offensive outburst by Glynn pushed the Indians’ lead to 11-3. Houtteman settled in and was having little trouble retiring his former teammates. Cleveland loaded the bases in the eighth inning as Glynn stepped into the batter’s box one more time. The result was a fly ball to deep center that was hauled in by Detroit’s center fielder, Bill Tuttle. A run scored to make it 12-3. Cleveland added another run and Detroit scored what ended up three meaningless tallies in the final two innings, making the final score Cleveland 13, Detroit 6.
Glynn’s eight RBIs equaled a franchise record, tying Earl Averill (September 17, 1930) and Pat Seerey (July 13, 1945). That record held until May 4, 1991 when Chris James had nine RBIs in a game against the Oakland A’s.
Houtteman pitched the final 5⅓ innings to pick up his ninth win of the year. Garver took the loss to even his record at 5-5. It was the Indians’ eighth consecutive win.
In the nightcap, Cleveland’s streak came to a halt. Detroit, behind the strong outing of starter George Zuverink, defeated the Tribe in extra innings, 1-0. Zuverink struck out five, walked four and scattered three hits in the shutout. The difference in the game was a solo home run by Harvey Kuenn off Indians pitcher Don Mossi. It was Kuenn’s third home run of the season.
The Indians’ bats fell silent in the nightcap, including Glynn, who took the collar with an 0-for-5 effort. Asked to assess his day, Glynn said, “I wish I could’ve saved a homer for the second game.”1
Glynn ended the season with five home runs and 18 RBIs. With the acquisition of Wertz from Baltimore on June 1, Glynn’s role was mostly that of a defensive replacement at first base. The 1954 season was his last in the major leagues.
The author accessed Baseball-Reference.com (baseball-reference.com/boxes/DET/DET195407051.shtml) for box scores/play-by-play information and other data, as well as retrosheet.org/boxesetc/1954/B07051DET1954.htm.
1 Hal Lebovitz, “Torrid Pace, Slight Gain for Tribe,” Cleveland News, July 6, 1954: 4-D.