Joseph Lowell Gordon (February 18, 1915 – April 14, 1978), nicknamed "Flash" in reference to the comic-book character Flash Gordon, was an American second baseman and manager in Major League Baseball who played for the New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians from 1938 to 1950. He was the outstanding player at his position during the 1940s, winning the 1942 American League MVP Award and being named to The Sporting News' Major League All-Star Team in nine of his eleven seasons. Known for his acrobatic defense, he led the AL in assists four times and in double plays three times. He was the first AL second baseman to hit 20 home runs in a season, doing so seven times, and holds the league mark for career HRs at second base (246); he held the single-season record until 2001. He played a major role on the 1948 champion Indians, leading the team in homers and runs batted in. He ranked sixth in major league history in double plays (1,160) upon retiring, and was sixth in AL history in games (1,519), putouts (3,600), assists (4,706) and total chances (8,566) and seventh in fielding percentage (.970).
Born in Los Angeles, California, Gordon attended the University of Oregon, where he also competed as a halfback on the football team as well as in gymnastics, soccer and the long jump; not limiting himself to sports, he also played the violin in the school orchestra. After batting .418 in his sophomore year, he signed with the Yankees in 1936, with scout Bill Essick reporting: "At his best when it meant the most and the going was toughest." Gordon played for the Newark Bears in 1937, hitting .280 for a team often regarded as the best minor league team in history. His success made Tony Lazzeri expendable for the Yankees, and Gordon debuted with New York in April 1938. His 25 home runs as a rookie set an AL record for second basemen which stood until 2006; Charlie Gehringer of the Detroit Tigers had twice hit 19, and Rogers Hornsby had hit 20 several times in the NL. Along with Jeff Heath of the Indians, who had batted .343, Gordon was one of the AL's top rookies, hitting .255 with 97 RBI and placing second to Gehringer in the AL with 450 assists as the Yankees won their third straight pennant. In the 1938 World Series sweep of the Chicago Cubs, he hit .400; he had an RBI single, doubled and recorded the final out in a 3-1 victory in Game 1, and doubled in the first two runs in Game 2's 6-3 win. In Game 3, a 5-2 win, he had a solo home run to tie the game 1-1 in the fifth inning, and singled home two more runs in the sixth. He scored twice in an 8-3 win in the final Game 4 as New York took their third consecutive title.
1939 saw Gordon improve his batting average to .284 and top his own home run mark with 28. He led the AL in putouts, assists and double plays, and was second on the team to Joe DiMaggio and fifth in the league in both homers and RBI (111). On June 28 he hit three home runs; he made his first of nine All-Star teams, and finished ninth in the MVP vote. In the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds he hit only .143, but scored the first run in a 2-1 Game 1 victory. In Game 4, he drove in the tying run with one out in the ninth inning, and the Yankees scored three in the tenth to win 7-4 and complete another sweep for their unprecedented fourth straight championship. In 1940 Gordon again increased his home run total to 30 and was second on the team to DiMaggio in homers and RBI (103), leading the AL in assists and posting career highs in runs (112), triples (10), slugging average (.511), total bases (315) and stolen bases (18) while hitting .281. On September 8, he hit for the cycle. But the Yankees finished two games behind Detroit, in the only year between 1936 and 1943 that they lost the pennant.
In 1941 he batted .276 with 24 HRs and 87 RBI, scoring 104 runs and teaming with rookie shortstop Phil Rizzuto to lead the AL in double plays; Gordon placed seventh in the MVP vote as New York returned to the top of the standings. In the 1941 World Series against the Brooklyn Dodgers he played phenomenally, hitting .500 with stellar defense. In Game 1 he started the scoring with a solo home run in the second inning, had an RBI single and was walked twice (once intentionally), and turned a double play with the tying run on first base to end a 3-2 win. In Game 2, he was walked three times, once intentionally, and had three double plays in a 3-2 loss. In Game 3 he tripled, walked and had four assists, one of them to end the 2-1 win. He doubled in two runs in the ninth inning of Game 4 to give the Yankees their final 7-4 lead, four batters after Dodger catcher Mickey Owen famously dropped a third strike which would have ended the game. And he drove in another run in the final 3-1 victory in Game 5. His five double plays (three of them in Game 2) remain a record for a five-game Series. After the Series, Yankees manager Joe McCarthy said, "The greatest all-around ballplayer I ever saw, and I don't bar any of them, is Joe Gordon."
Gordon led the Yankees to another pennant in his 1942 MVP season, edging Triple Crown winner Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox for the award. He batted .322, fourth in the AL, with 18 homers and 103 RBI, and finished sixth in the league in total bases (264) and slugging (.491) while he and Rizzuto again led the league in double plays. He had another poor World Series, however, batting just .095 in the five-game loss to the St. Louis Cardinals – his only Series loss in six trips; he was picked off at second base in the bottom of the ninth in the last game. By his own lofty standards he had a subpar yet productive season in 1943, batting .249 with 17 HRs (5th in the AL), 69 RBI and 82 runs, and leading the AL in assists; despite his low batting mark, he was still among the league's top ten players in both slugging (.413) and on base percentage (.365), thanks to a career-best 98 walks (second in the AL).
In the World Series rematch with the Cardinals, he gave New York a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning of Game 1 – a 4-2 win – with a solo homer, and scored the first run in a 2-1 win in Game 4. He threw out the final batter of the Series with the tying runs on base in the 2-0 Game 5 victory, with the Yankees taking home another title. He again fielded brilliantly, setting still-standing records for a five-game Series of 20 putouts, 23 assists, 43 total chances, and a 1.000 fielding average; his 8 assists in Game 1 and 3 assists in the eighth inning of Game 5 are also records. Afterwards, he served in the U.S. Army in 1944-45 during World War II, missing those seasons. He returned in 1946 with a poor campaign, batting .210 with 11 HRs and 47 RBI. The Yankees, uncertain if he would return to his pre-war form, traded him to the Indians on October 11 for pitcher Allie Reynolds. Gordon departed New York after precisely 1,000 games and 1,000 hits.
While Reynolds would go on to win 131 games in eight seasons for the Yankees, Gordon proved resilient and kept his new team from regretting the deal. In 1947 he returned to his old levels of production, batting .272 and leading the club with 93 RBI, and again pacing the AL in assists. His 29 homers and 279 total bases were second in the league to Williams, and his .496 slugging average trailed only Williams and DiMaggio; Gordon again finished seventh in the MVP balloting. Additionally, he played a major role in befriending teammate Larry Doby, the AL's first black player, who had been a second baseman in the Negro Leagues but became a center fielder with Cleveland. Over Doby's first two seasons, Gordon became close to the player who was theoretically there to replace him, and Doby would later refer to him as his first friend in white baseball; however, reports that Gordon deliberately struck out in Doby's first game to keep him from looking bad are erroneous. 1948 was even better, as Cleveland won their first AL title since 1920. Batting .280, he was second in the league to DiMaggio with 32 home runs, which remained the AL's single-season mark for a second baseman until Bret Boone hit 36 in 2001. He again led the team with a personal high of 124 RBI, and was sixth in the league in slugging (.507). Gordon placed sixth in the MVP vote, won by teammate and manager Lou Boudreau. In the 1948 World Series against the Boston Braves, batting cleanup, he had an RBI single and later scored to give Cleveland a 2-1 lead in Game 2; they went on to win 4-1. In the final Game 6, he homered to give the Indians a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning, and they went on to win 4-3 to capture the championship. His seven double plays in the Series are still the record for a six-game Series. In 1949 he slipped to a .251 average, though his 20 HRs and 84 RBI were still second on the team to Doby. His major league career ended in 1950 as he hit .236 with 19 HRs and 57 RBI.
Gordon was a career .268 hitter with 253 home runs, 975 RBI, 914 runs, 1,530 hits, 264 doubles and 89 stolen bases in 1,566 games. His .466 slugging average then placed him fifth among second basemen, behind Hornsby (.577), Gehringer (.480), Lazzeri (.467) and Nap Lajoie (.466), and only Hornsby had more homers among second basemen. Gordon might have had even higher batting totals had he played in other stadiums. His first several seasons were spent in Yankee Stadium, with its immense "Death Valley" in left field that frustrated right-handed power hitters; during his New York years, he hit 69 HRs at home and 84 on the road. Municipal Stadium in Cleveland was also an unhelpful venue, being hostile to power hitters on both sides of the plate. Over his career, he batted 23 points higher on the road (.279) than he did at home (.256). He was selected for the All-Star team nine times, in all but his first and last seasons. He was also selected to The Sporting News Major League All-Star Team in 1939-42 and 1947-48, and was runnerup to Gehringer in 1938 and to Billy Herman in 1943. In 2001 he was selected as one of the Indians' 100 greatest players.
Louis "Lou" Boudreau (July 17, 1917, in Harvey, Illinois – August 10, 2001) was an American Major League Baseball player and manager. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1970. He was also a radio announcer for the Chicago Cubs of the National League.
In 1948, he won the American League Most Valuable Player Award and managed the Cleveland Indians to the World Series title.
Boudreau was an eight-time All Star Game selection, starting three times. He won the 1944 AL batting title (.327), and led the league in doubles in 1941, 1944, and 1947. He led AL shortstops in fielding 8 times. Boudreau still holds the record for hitting the most consecutive doubles in a game (four), set on July 14, 1946.
Boudreau made his Major League debut on September 9, 1938 for the Cleveland Indians, at the age of 21, playing first base in a single game. In 1939, manager Ossie Vitt informed Boudreau, who normally played third base, that he would have to move to shortstop as Ken Keltner already had the regular third base job.
In 1940, his first full year as a starter, he batted .295 with 46 doubles and 101 RBI. He was also selected to play in his first All Star Game.
Boudreau helped make history in 1941 as a key figure in stopping the 56-game hitting streak by Joe Dimaggio. After Ken Keltner made two fine stops at third base earlier in the game, Boudreau snagged a bad hop grounder at short barehanded and started a double play to retire Dimaggio. He finished the season with a .257 batting average and a league leading 45 doubles.
After the season, owner Alva Bradley promoted manager Roger Peckinpaugh to general manager and appointed Boudreau as the player manager. Boudreau was 25 years old.
Boudreau managed the Indians throughout World War II. Playing basketball had put a strain on Boudreau's ankles which later developed arthritis and he was classified 4-F and thus, ineligible for military service.
Boudreau's first four years as manager were not an overwhelming success. His star pitcher Bob Feller enlisted in the United States Navy in 1941 and starters Keltner and Ray Mack were drafted in 1945. The Indians managed no better than a third place finish during the war. They were fifth in 1944 and 1945.
However in 1944 Boudreau did register one of his best offensive seasons. He led the American League in batting with a .327 batting average and 45 doubles, and a .406 OBP which was second in the league. He also set a record defensively, turning 134 double plays. That record would stand for 26 years and only three shortstops have turned more double plays in a season.
Boudreau was a patient hitter who was difficult to strike out. From 1946-1949, Boudreau struck out a total of 43 times in 2,088 at bats (one strikeout every 48 at bats). He had a career best of only nine strikeouts in 560 at bats in 1948.
In 1947 he led the league in doubles for the third time, and came in third in MVP voting. However, he almost lost his job at the end of the season. New owner Bill Veeck intended to hire Al Lopez as his new manager. The reaction from fans and media was almost overwhelmingly negative to the news that Boudreau would lose his job. In the end, Veeck offered Boudreau a new two-year deal.
The move paid off for the Indians and for Boudreau who had his best overall year as a player and as a manager. In 1948, he not only won the MVP award, setting personal bests in nearly every offensive statistic, but also managed his team to victory in the World Series. Boudreau batted .355 (2nd behind Ted Williams) and had a personal best 18 home runs, 199 hits, 106 RBI and 116 runs scored.
He led the Indians to a first-place tie with the Boston Red Sox, then got 4 hits including two home runs in a one-game playoff at Fenway Park, depriving the city of an all-Boston World Series. The Indians went on to defeat the Boston Braves 4 games to 2 win the Series (their last Series win as of 2008).
As both shortstop and manager, he was the inventor and most ardent practitioner of the "Williams shift" (a.k.a. "Boudreau shift"), stacking all but one defensive player on the right side of the field when Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox would come to bat in certain situations.
The new Indians ownership fired Boudreau after a disappointing campaign where the team finished fourth. Boudreau, who was now a part time infielder, was also released as a player.
The Red Sox signed Boudreau as a utility infielder for the 1951 season and he would play in 82 games. He would receive another chance to manage after Steve O'Neill was forced out by health problems in 1952. Boudreau managed three years in Boston and ended his playing career by playing in four games in 1952. His tenure in Boston was largely unsuccessful, managing the team to only one winning season.
Connie Mack sold the Philadelphia Athletics in 1954 who moved to Kansas City for the 1955 season. Boudreau signed on as the manager. The Athletics, however, were already a bad team before he took over and Boudreau was unable to turn it around. In three years, Kansas City posted a 151-260 under Boudreau, who received his walking papers during the 1957 season.
After, the debacle in Kansas City, Boudreau returned to his native Illinois and found work as a color announcer for the Chicago Cubs. He would receive one final opportunity to manage when the Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley took Boudreau out of the broadcast booth and made him the manager in 1960. Manager "Jolly Cholly" Grimm became the team's radio announcer. The experiment failed, as Chicago went 36-67 the rest of the year under Boudreau.