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by Harold Friend
Going to the bottom of the ninth inning, the Chicago White Sox' opening day crowd was in a frenzy. The Sox were trailing the Cleveland Indians, 1-0, but that wasn't the story. Twenty-one- year-old Bob Feller had not allowed a hit.
Feller had walked four batters and struck out eight going to the ninth. He had made well over 100 pitches to the 29 batters he had faced, and managed to work out of a bases loaded jam in the second inning by striking out Bob Kennedy.
The home crowd was torn between pulling for a Chicago win and seeing a no-hit game. They chose the potential no-hitter.
What Was Happening?
The tension was unbearable as the Indians took the field, but a few fans, and then more fans, and then everyone in the ballpark realized that something was wrong.
Bob Feller had not left the dugout. No one was on the pitching mound.
Some fans looked toward the Indians' bullpen. More and more fans soon realized what was happening. It was unbelievable.
Veteran right-hander Johnny Allen was walking in from the bullpen.
What Was Wrong?
The fans were confused. Was Feller injured? That had to be it. Feller was hurt, and he had to be taken out. After all, no manager would ever remove a pitcher who was pitching a no-hitter going to the ninth inning.
The tension left the crowd. All the emotion leading to a ninth inning that would produce ultimate delirium or disappointment was gone.
A game in which the home team's fans were rooting for the visitors became merely one in which the home team trailed, 1-0, in the ninth inning.
Bob Feller would not have the chance to pitch a no-hitter, and 14,000 temporary Cleveland Indians' fans once again were pulling for the Chicago White Sox.
The Real Reason
After the game, Indians' manager Ossie Vitt told the baseball writers that Feller was not injured. He explained that Bob Feller was only 21 years old. The Indians were legitimate pennant contenders,
"You have to think big picture. The pitch count was 110 to 115. The big picture is the month of October. You have to think ahead.
"My job is to make tough calls. Anybody with baseball sense would have understood. To push the envelope on April 16 wouldn't make any sense. Bobby Feller is a smart guy. He understood."
In 1940, Bob Feller pitched 320 and one-third innings, won 27 games, lost 11, and led the league with a 2.61 ERA. He faced 1,304 hitters, struck out 261, and walked 118.
The Indians did contend all season, but the Detroit Tigers edged them out by a single game to win the pennant.
Cobbledick, Gordon. "Feller Hurls No-Hitter to Win, 1-0." Cleveland Plain Dealer. 17 Apr. 1940, p1.