But they have a fine defensive outfield, anchored by the brilliant Doby, the American League's answer to Willie Mays, and they have six pitchers (it may be seven when the last returns are in) with earned-run averages of less than 3.00. That is roughly equivalent, on the offensive side, to having six .330 hitters.
They have the 20-game winners, Bob Lemon and Early (Gus) Wynn, each of whom defeated the Yankees four times. They have Mike Garcia, still with a chance to reach 20 victories. They have the fabulous Bob Feller, no longer the schoolboy fireballer, but a skilled craftsman going strong at 35. And they have Art Houtteman, living up at last to his rich promise.
LEM OR GUS OR MIKE OR BOB OR ART
These are the five regular starters. To back them up is an amazingly effective bull-pen crew of two hard-throwing freshmen, Don Mossi and Ray Narleski, and one crafty old head, Hal Newhouser, coaxed from retirement last spring.
Estimates of the part played by pitching in a team's success vary from 30% to 75%. In the case of the Cleveland Indians it would be difficult to put too high a figure on it. Because they are not a heavy-hitting, high-scoring team and because they have defied the tradition that the common denominator of champions is a leakproof infield, the Indians have placed uncommon dependence upon their pitchers, and their pitchers haven't failed them.
The difference between the second-place Indians of 1951-52-53 and the pennant-winning Indians of '54 is largely in the bull pen, in a greatly improved Doby, in the consistent hitting of Avila, in the skillful catching of Jim Hegan?and in an exciting performance by the freshman left fielder, Al (Fuzzy) Smith, a lead-off man with an incredible capacity for reaching first by every means short of stealing it.
Directing the team with quiet patience is one whose every breathing moment is an eloquent denial of the legend of the explosive Latin temperament. In Alfonso Ramon Lopez the tensions and aggravations of an interminable succession of squeakers and cliff-hangers (the Indians play no other kind of games) express themselves in "nervous stomachs," never in tantrums.
In four years as manager of the Indians he has never raised his voice in anger, never chewed out a ballplayer within hearing range of teammates. No television actor, he doesn't dispute decisions with waving arms. On one play in a game with Washington, he contended that a wide throw had pulled Mickey Vernon, the Senators' first baseman, off the base. He was telling off the umpire quietly but effectively when Vernon interrupted.
"You're wrong, Al," he said. "I shifted my feet, but I had the bag."
"Sorry," said Lopez as he turned toward the dugout. "If Mickey says it, it's good enough for me."