Bob LemonRobert Granville Lemon
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1976
Primary team: Cleveland Indians
Primary position: Pitcher
Bob Lemon didn’t want to be a pitcher, but thanks to the testimonials of those you faced him early on, he grudgingly became one of the game’s best.
“If it hadn’t been for baseball,” Lemon said, “I’d still be pumping gas back home Long Beach (Ca.).”
As a minor leaguer, he played the infield and outfield, once leading the Eastern League in runs and hits, but struggled at the major league level with the Cleveland Indians. While serving in the military during World War II, Lemon pitched in service games and so impressed fellow big leaguers with his arm that they advised his big league manager to convert him to a hurler.
When Lemon reported to spring training with the Indians in 1946 but his third base skills had deteriorated enough while in the service that he was switched to center field. His switch to the outfield was not a success, so while languishing on the bench, Cleveland manager Lou Boudreau began hearing positive reports from big leaguers that had faced Lemon in the service, players such as Bill Dickey, Birdie Tebbetts and Ted Williams, and gave it a shot.
Thankfully for Cleveland, the experiment worked, and Lemon was soon part of a pitching staff that included such aces as Bob Feller, Early Wynn and Mike Garcia. The right-handed Lemon, who would spend his entire 15-year career with the Indians, would go on to toss a no-hitter in 1948, win 20 games seven times, and lead the American League in complete games five times, innings pitched four times, wins three times, and strikeouts once. When the Tribe won 111 games in 1954, Lemon won 23 of them. Always a good hitter, Lemon’s career total of 37 homers is second on the all-time list for pitchers.
“You never know,” Lemon said. “If I pitched in the minor leagues, I might’ve come up with a sore arm.”
After his playing career came to an end, Lemon stayed in the game as a scout, managed in the minor leagues, coached in the major leagues, and served as a big league skipper with the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White sox and New York Yankees. In July of 1978, he took over for Billy Martin as manager of the Yankees and led them to a World Series title.
“I’ve seen the elephant, heard the owl and flown with the screeching eagle,” Lemon once said. “I’ve never looked back and regretting anything. I’ve had everything in baseball a man could ask for. I’ve been so fortunate.
“You do the best you can. That’s it.”
Year Inducted: 1976
Primary Team: Cleveland Indians
Position Played: Pitcher
Birth place: San Bernardino, California
Birth year: 1920
Died: 2000, Long Beach, California
Cleveland Indians (1941-1942)
Cleveland Indians (1946-1958)
Kansas City Royals (1970-1972)
Chicago White Sox (1977-1978)
New York Yankees (1978-1979)
New York Yankees (1981-1982)
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