July 7, 1923: Rube Lutzke, Riggs Stephenson spearhead Cleveland to record 27-3 rout
As the Cleveland faithful filed into Dunn Field on a pleasant July Saturday afternoon, they had no clue the day would be one of the most auspicious in the history of Cleveland professional baseball. Hopes were running high. The Indians were vying for second place behind the New York Yankees, at the moment 12½ games out but with 2½ games separating five teams contending for second. A sweep of the twin bill soon to unfold with the last-place Boston Red Sox might allow Cleveland to gain an edge. The fans were pumped to see their local heroes make a fight of it.
The batteries for game one were spitballer Stan Coveleski and Glenn Myatt for the home team and Curt Fullerton and Roxy Walters for the Red Sox. Coveleski was formerly the ace of the pitching staff and had won 22 or more games four years running, from 1918 to 1921. He was still number two but was 8-8 coming into this game. His batterymate Myatt had been acquired during the offseason from the Philadelphia Athletics. This was his third big-league year. Fullerton, who sported mediocre credentials, was playing in his third year. Walters was a veteran, playing his ninth year, the first three of which had been with the Yankees.
Boston’s leadoff batter, Mike Menosky, fired the first offensive shot of the day beating out a hit to shortstop. However, his hit was quickly nullified by a double play, followed by a fly out.
As a portent of things to come, the Indians’ leadoff batter, Charlie Jamieson, tripled and quickly scored the first run of the day on Homer Summa’s single.1 The home team added two more runs to take a 3-0 lead into the top of the second.
The Red Sox failed to challenge in the second in spite of two singles, leaving both hitters stranded. The Indians added two more tallies in the second. Both were unearned by virtue of an error by pitcher Fullerton. Player-manager Tris Speaker singled to drive in the second run.2
The Red Sox bats remained silent in the third. However, the Cleveland bats continued to produce with the help of a critical error by Boston shortstop Ira Flagstead. The Clevelanders scored three runs and left three runners stranded. By the end of the inning the Indians held a comfortable 8-0 lead.
The Red Sox came to life in the fourth, narrowing the gap by two runs on the strength of three singles. Manager Frank Chance sent Lefty O’Doul up to pinch-hit for Fullerton and Dick Reichle pinch-hit for Walters.3 Reichle hit into a double play and O’Doul grounded out. The score was now 8-2 in favor of the Indians.
In the bottom of the fourth a new battery faced the Indians hitters, O’Doul and Al DeVormer. O’Doul had been obtained by the Red Sox during the offseason from the Yankees, with whom he spent three years as a left fielder and pitcher. As a pitcher he had worked in only 11 games and pitched 24⅔ total innings over his three-year tenure. DeVormer had seen a tad more action in his three previous seasons, playing in 54 games with the White Sox and Yankees, from whom he was acquired in the offseason.
O’Doul hurled respectably well, giving up only one run on two hits. Frank Brower stroked a triple to left and was driven in by pinch-hitter Steve O’Neill with a single. O’Neill stayed in the game to take over catching duties. The Indians still owned a comfortable lead, 9-2.
The Red Sox were three up and three down in the top of the fifth. The Indians extended the lead in their half of the inning. Rookie Rube Lutzke hit a bases-loaded double to drive in Speaker and Joe Sewell. Riggs Stephenson tried to score from first but was thrown out at the plate. Brower popped out to second to end the frame. The Indians held their biggest margin of the day, 11-2.
In the sixth the Red Sox got two runners aboard. However, they could not capitalize.
The sixth inning did not start off auspiciously for the Indians. Lefty O’Doul was still on the mound for the Bostonians. O’Neill walked but was forced out by Coveleski’s tapper to the pitcher. One out. Jamieson singled to right. Joe Connolly flied out to left. Two down.
With two outs the floodgates opened to totally swamp the Red Sox. Before they could execute a third out, the Indians sent 13 more batters to the plate. They more than doubled the 11 tallies they had already put on the board by adding 13. O’Doul walked six and shortstop Flagstead made another error. The Indians batters fueled the fire with two doubles and five singles. Finally Stephenson, who had doubled in two runs, was thrown out trying to steal third, O’Doul to third baseman Norm McMillan. The score after six innings was 24-2 in favor of the Indians.
The next day the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported: “The wildest man ever discovered even in the dense jungles of Africa, turned up today in the first game of a scheduled double-header. … He was none other than Lefty O’Doul, who draws his pay from the Boston management. Through his generous efforts the Indians almost established a new record for registering runs in an inning.”4 To earn his keep during his three-inning stint on the mound, O’Doul yielded 16 runs and 11 hits, and doled out eight passes.
In the top of the seventh, Speaker replaced Coveleski with Dewey Metivier, who held the Red Sox in check, allowing only a single run in the ninth. In the Cleveland seventh the Red Sox relieved the reeling O’Doul from any further toil with rookie Carl Stimson, who finished the game.5 The Indians added a run in the seventh and two in the eighth to win by a final score of 27-3.
The Indians scored 27 runs with 24 hits and 14 walks and one hit batsman. Seven of the 24 hits were for extra bases. Neither team connected for a home run. Both teams chalked up one strikeout. The Red Sox scored only three runs but nicked Coveleski and Metivier for 13 hits and left 13 men on base. Coveleski upped his record to 9-8, snapping a four-game losing streak.
Twelve of the 13 Indians in the game scored at least one run. Only the final pitcher, Metivier, did not score. Jamieson led the team with four runs. Lutzke led in hits with four and RBIs with six. Stephenson drove in five runs. All but two of the 13 in the lineup connected for at least one hit. The starting Red Sox pitcher, Fullerton, took the loss, but O’Doul bore the brunt of the beating. Three future Hall of Famers played for the Indians: Speaker, Sewell, and Coveleski. A fourth, Frank Chance, managed the Red Sox in his only season at the helm.
In spite of the fact that there were 105 plate appearances, the time of the game was only 2:10.
The Indians tied the major-league record (set by Boston in 1903) by scoring in all eight innings of the game.
Cleveland’s 27-run output set a new American League record. The old mark belonged to the Philadelphia Athletics, who beat the Detroit Tigers 24-2 on May 18, 1912. The Indians came within one run of tying the Yankees record (modern era) for most runs in an inning: 14. The Yankees accomplished that feat on July 6, 1920, against Washington. Twice since then the Indians have scored 14 in an inning, on June 18, 1950, against the Philadelphia A’s and on April 18, 2009, against the Yankees. Although the 27-run output has been eclipsed as the American League record, it still stands as the Indians’ team record.
The Indians went on to win the second game, 8-5, and climbed into second place uncontested in the American League. They could not hold onto second place and finished third, a half-game behind the Detroit Tigers. Later in the season the Indians were again on the winning side of a high-scoring game, defeating Washington 22-2 on August 7.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author consulted Baseball-Reference.com, Retrosheet.org, SABR.org, and Baseball-almanac.com.
1 Jamieson was a solid fixture in the Cleveland lineup. In 1923 he led the major leagues in plate appearances with 746 and the AL with 644 at-bats and 222 hits. He was sixth in MVP voting.
2 In 1923, the Gray Eagle led the majors in doubles with 59 and tied with Babe Ruth in RBIs with 130.
3 O’Doul pitched a total of 53 innings in 1923. It was the only year he played for the Red Sox and the last year he pitched in the major leagues. Arm problems forced him to devote his entire focus to the outfield and hitting.
4 Francis J. Powers, “Tribe Piles Up 27 Runs in First One,” Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 8, 1923.
5 Stimson pitched only four innings of major-league baseball, two in this game and two in a previous game about a month earlier. He was not the pitcher of record for either. He would leave his major-league career (and a 22.50 ERA) behind when he exited this game.
Cleveland Indians 27
Boston Red Sox 3
Game 1, DH
Box Score + PBP:
If you can help us improve this game story, contact us.