Dave “Boo” Ferriss came out of nowhere to win 21 games in his rookie season of 1945. With many of the major-league players still in military service during World War II in 1945 and rosters consequently being filled with many less experienced players, there was speculation that Ferriss was just a flash in the pan in the unexpected beginning of his major-league career.
Ferriss had only 130 innings of experience in the minors before joining the US Army Air Corps in 1943. He was released from military service in February 1945 because of problems with asthma, and the right-hander soon found his way to the Boston Red Sox roster. He proceeded to win his first eight starts; in his first 22⅓ innings he didn’t give up a run.1
During the 1945 season Red Sox manager Joe Cronin had assured sportswriters that Ferriss was no fluke.2 Later, when Ted Williams returned to baseball from the Navy for the 1946 season and faced Ferriss in spring training, he also defended Ferriss as a legitimate leading pitcher.3
However, when Ferriss suffered horrendous starts in his first two outings of the 1946 season, the skeptics resurfaced, declaring that Ferriss wouldn’t be around by June 15 roster cutdown day.4 But the skepticism would soon be squelched again, as he proceeded to run off a string of nine consecutive victories against no losses. (Ferriss escaped defeats in the first two games when Boston wound up winning those games.)
Ferriss was going for his 10th straight win on June 9 when he faced the Detroit Tigers. Detroit had won the World Series in 1945, so the team’s expectations for another pennant were understandably high at the start of the 1946 season with the return of their regular players from military service.
However, the Tigers weren’t fulfilling those expectations as they took on the Red Sox in a June 9 doubleheader at Fenway Park. Going into the twin bill, Detroit was 25-22, in fourth place behind New York and Washington and 12½ games behind the league-leading Red Sox. The Red Sox had trounced the Tigers the day before with an 18-hit attack that ended in a gaudy 15-4 victory. Tigers ace Hal Newhouser had been chased from the game after yielding five runs in the first inning.
The Detroit Free Press reported on rumors of dissension and jealously that had been brewing within the team because of the disparity of salaries of a few players with the rest of the team, a situation exacerbated by the Tigers’ recent difficulties on the field.5
Boston further added to Detroit’s woes by winning the first game of the doubleheader, 7-1. Drama that occurred in that game seemed to validate the rumors of troubles within the team. After the Red Sox batted in the sixth inning, pitcher Dizzy Trout argued with first baseman Hank Greenberg on the way to the dugout over a ball hit by Hal Wagner that got past Greenberg at first base. Trout was overheard by one of the umpires to tell Greenberg, “You’re not worth $65, let alone $65,000.” They then exchanged punches in the dugout and had to be separated by Tigers manager Steve O’Neill and umpire Cal Hubbard.6
O’Neill held a closed meeting of the players after the game, presumably to address the team’s exasperation; but to the sportswriters he denied there had been any scuffling among players in the dugout, instead dismissing it as loud talking.7
O’Neill started right-hander Fred Hutchinson against Ferriss in the second game of the doubleheader. Hutchinson came into the game with a 2-2 record, having lost his most recent outing, 5-3 to the Washington Senators.
The Red Sox got the scoring started in the bottom of the first inning when Ted Williams slammed a mammoth home run that also scored George Metkovich, who had reach base on a single. Williams’s blast was initially reported at a distance estimated at 450 feet, but a measurement after the game by the Red Sox indicated the ball actually traveled 502 feet, the longest home run he ever hit at Fenway Park. The landing spot of Williams’s monumental blast, a seat in the right-field bleachers, is now painted red among the sea of green outfield seats.8
In the bottom of the second inning, the Red Sox got to Hutchinson again. Dom DiMaggio began the frame with a triple. Rip Russell drove in DiMaggio with a single to left. Eddie McGah sacrificed, Ferriss struck out, and Metkovich walked. Johnny Pesky singled, scoring Russell, and when Tigers right fielder Pat Mullin made an error on the play, Metkovich scored. Boston led 5-0.
After two scoreless innings pitched by Ferriss, Detroit posted its first run in the top of the third inning when Doc Cramer singled to score Birdie Tebbetts. Ferriss gave up another run in the fourth inning, on a solo home run by Greenberg, making the score 5-2.
Ferriss led off the bottom of the fourth with a single, followed by a double by Metkovich. Pesky doubled, scoring Ferriss and Metkovich. Al Benton replaced Hutchinson on the mound and retired Williams on a fly out and Bobby Doerr on a strikeout. However, Rudy York salvaged Pesky with a double that increased the Red Sox lead to 8-2.
Ferriss held the Tigers scoreless in the fifth and sixth innings, and then gave up their third run in the seventh on singles by Mullin, Jimmy Bloodworth, and pinch-hitter Anse Moore. Dick Wakefield hit a solo homer off Ferriss in the top of the eighth inning to make the score 8-4.
Red Sox bats remained active in the bottom of the eighth inning. With one out, Williams walked. Following Doerr’s fly out, York tripled to score Williams. DiMaggio then hit a home run off Johnny Gorsica, who had relieved Benton in the seventh inning.
The Tigers weren’t through with Ferriss either, as they put up two consolation runs in the ninth inning for a final score of 11-6.
Ferriss benefited from a hot-hitting Red Sox lineup that amassed 14 hits. Metkovich led Boston hitters with three hits and three runs scored. Pesky knocked in three runs, while Williams, York, and DiMaggio each drove in two with extra-base hits.
Since the game was never really in jeopardy for the Red Sox, Ferriss wound up pitching a complete game. However, he gave up 10 hits and 6 earned runs, while striking out four, in his third defeat of Detroit. His 10-game win streak had started on April 26 and involved eight complete games, including four shutouts. He also had four relief appearances, which accounted for one of his 10 wins, as well as two (retrospective) saves. The streak ended on June 15 in a 7-6 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
The Detroit Free Press’s headline above the box scores of the day’s two games, “Just a Sample … of Things to Come,” best captured the most recent setbacks of a frustrated team and its fan base. However, the Tigers would ultimately win 92 games for a second-place finish, although they still finished a distant 12 games behind the high-flying Red Sox.
Ferriss would record a second winning streak of 12 games later in the season.9 Altogether, he won 25 games in the season, second-most in the American League behind Hal Newhouser and Bob Feller with 26.
The Red Sox won their first American League pennant since 1918, but lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
In addition to the sources cited in the Notes, the author also consulted:
Cleveland, Rick. Boo: A Life in Baseball, Well-Lived (Battle Ground, Washington: Pediment Publishing, 2008).
Moore, Gerry. “Fists Fly as Sox Sweep On,” Boston Globe, June 10, 1946: 1.
Zerilli, James. “Red Sox Slaughter Tigers, 7-1, 11-6,” Detroit Free Press, June 10, 1946: 14.
2 Ed Rumill, “The Ferriss Wheel,” Baseball Digest, August 1945: 39-42.
3 Rick Van Blair, “Boo Ferriss: His Love for the Game Is Still Strong,” Sports Collectors Digest, July 24, 1992: 90-92.
4 John Drohan, “Delta Dave Kayoes Sophomore Jinx,” The Sporting News, June 19, 1946: 11.
9 SABR Games Project. September 2, 1946: Boo Ferriss Puts Nail in the Yankees’ Coffin with 12th Consecutive Win.