Neyer: When Indians’ Boudreau shifted Bob Lemon to the mound in 1946

From SABR member Rob Neyer at The National Pastime Museum on April 14, 2017:

It would, I think, be impossible today. Practically speaking.

Can you imagine an Opening Day center fielder in the Major Leagues, just a few weeks later, giving up outfielding forever and becoming instead a pitcher? And what’s more, before long a star pitcher?

Well, it happened in 1946. And our outfielder-turned-pitcher not only turned the 1948 Cleveland Indians into pennant winners and World Champions but also ultimately surpassed mere stardom with his election to the Hall of Fame.

As a young player in the Cleveland Indians farm system before the war, Bob Lemon was an outfielder, pure and simple. In five minor league seasons, he pitched just twice: one inning in 1938, another in 1941. Lemon wasn’t a tremendous prospect, but he showed enough in the minor leagues to earn September call-ups in both 1941 and ’42. He turned just 22 in September of ’42 and seemed to have a bright future in the game—as a third baseman, his primary role by then.

Then, of course, war broke out.

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Originally published: April 14, 2017. Last Updated: April 14, 2017.