Gene Bearden
Get Gene Bearden essential facts below. View Videos or join the Gene Bearden discussion. Add Gene Bearden to your topic list for future reference or share this resource on social media.
Gene Bearden

Gene Bearden
Gene Bearden.jpg
Born: (1920-09-05)September 5, 1920
Lexa, Arkansas
Died: March 18, 2004(2004-03-18) (aged 83)
Alexander City, Alabama
Batted: Left Threw: Left
MLB debut
May 10, 1947, for the Cleveland Indians
Last MLB appearance
September 5, 1953, for the Chicago White Sox
MLB statistics
Win-loss record45-38
Earned run average3.96
Career highlights and awards

Henry Eugene Bearden (September 5, 1920 - March 18, 2004) was an American professional baseball pitcher, a left-hander who played in Major League Baseball from 1947 to 1953 for the Cleveland Indians, Washington Senators, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Browns and Chicago White Sox. He is notable for his impressive performance during his 1948 rookie season when he led the Indians to the American League pennant and World Series championship.

World War II service and injury

His rookie season was all the more remarkable because, five years earlier, he had been seriously injured in battle in World War II. Bearden was serving in the United States Navy aboard the USS Helena in the Pacific Theater of Operations. During the Battle of Kula Gulf on July 6, 1943, he was working in the engine room of the light cruiser when it was struck by three Japanese torpedoes.[1] Forced to abandon ship as the Helena sank, Bearden fell from a ladder on the deck and sustained a fractured skull and a crushed kneecap. Hospitalized until early 1945, he underwent surgeries that inserted metal plates in his head and knee to treat his injuries.[1][2]

In a 1949 autobiographical article published in The Sporting News' Official Baseball Register, Bearden declined to discuss his wartime experience, saying: "I was just another gob [slang for sailor], luckier than many, because I met up with a doctor who is, to me, the best orthopedic surgeon in the business."[3]

Baseball career

Minor leagues

Born in Lexa, Arkansas, and raised in Tennessee, where he graduated from Memphis Technical High School, Bearden was listed at 6 feet 3 inches (1.91 m) tall and weighed 198 pounds (90 kg). He was a pitcher in the lower levels of minor league baseball before the war. Despite 18 and 17 victory seasons in the Class D Florida East Coast League in 1940 and 1941, he had bounced between three organizations before joining the military. In 1945, just months after his release from the hospital, he returned to baseball and won 15 games in the Class A Eastern League. Promoted to the Triple-A Oakland Oaks in 1946, he learned to throw the knuckleball under manager Casey Stengel[2] and had another 15-victory season. He would become primarily a knuckleball pitcher, although he also threw a fastball, slider, curveball and an occasional screwball.[4] On December 6, 1946, the New York Yankees, who held Bearden's big-league rights, traded him in a five-player deal to the Indians.

Bearden could not stick with Cleveland in 1947; he was roughed up by the lowly St. Louis Browns in his only MLB appearance on May 10. Sent to the Triple-A Baltimore Orioles of the International League, he quit the team after two defeats and refused to return until Indians' owner Bill Veeck agreed to loan Bearden back to the Oakland Oaks.[3] He then won 16 games for Stengel in the PCL.

Brilliant 1948 rookie season

Bearden earned a place on the 1948 Indians' roster out of spring training, but did not appear in a game until May 8. He won six of his first seven starting assignments, with four complete games and two shutouts, on May 22 and June 8, both against the Boston Red Sox, who would battle the Indians and Yankees down to the wire for the 1948 AL title. By September 1, Bearden had a 13-6 won-loss record with an earned run average of 2.74.

Bearden lost his first September start, on the sixth, against the White Sox, then won his next seven starts and also hurled effectively in relief. With Bearden pitching complete game shutouts on September 28 and October 2, the Indians and Red Sox finished on Sunday, October 3, in a tie for the league championship. For the one-game playoff, set for Fenway Park on Monday, October 4, Indians player-manager Lou Boudreau went with Bearden as his starting pitcher. On only one day of rest, Bearden pitched another complete game, shutting down the power-hitting Red Sox on only five hits and one earned run. Cleveland won, 8-3, behind Boudreau's four hits and two home runs.[5] The win gave Bearden 20 victories (against seven defeats) and the 1948 AL earned-run average championship (2.47).

But Bearden was not finished. On October 8, in the 1948 World Series against the Boston Braves, he threw a complete game, five-hit shutout in Game 3, defeating the Braves 2-0. An excellent-hitting pitcher, he helped his own cause at bat by getting two hits (including a double) in three at bats, and scored a run. Then, in Game 6 on October 11, he preserved the Indians' Series-clinching win for starter Bob Lemon. He allowed two inherited runners to score in the eighth inning but shut the door on the Braves, earned the save and was charged with no runs allowed himself, finishing the game as Cleveland won 4-3 to become world champions.

Sixty years later, his rookie season of 1948 was rated as the top overall rookie season of any athlete of a Cleveland professional sports franchise in The Great Book of Cleveland Sports Lists.[6] In addition to his ERA title, in 1948 Bearden finished among the top ten American League pitchers in victories (second), shutouts (second, with six), winning percentage (second), fewest hits per innings pitched (third), walks plus hits per inning pitched (fourth), wins above replacement (fifth), innings pitched (seventh), complete games (eighth), and finished eighth in the American League Most Valuable Player Award balloting. But despite his stellar season, Bearden was not named "Rookie of the Year." Only one award was given in the Major Leagues at the time, and it was won by Alvin Dark, shortstop of the National League's Boston Braves.[2] The Cy Young Award for the most outstanding pitcher would not be instituted until after the 1956 season.

Decline in effectiveness

Nineteen forty-eight was Bearden's only season as an effective big-league pitcher. In 1949, he fell to 8-8 (5.10), and his wildness increased: he led the AL in wild pitches (with 11) and walked 92 men with only 41 strikeouts. His performance continued to decline in 1950, and the Indians placed him on waivers; he was picked up by Washington in August. Then, from 1951-53, he bounced from the Senators to the Tigers, Browns and White Sox.

Apart from his 1948 brilliance, Bearden won only 25 of 56 decisions, and allowed 604 hits and 329 walks in 558​ innings pitched, with an earned run average of 4.59. He threw only two shutouts after 1948. Overall, he compiled a 45-38 win-loss mark and 3.96 earned run average in 193 games pitched in the Majors, with 791 hits and 435 bases on balls allowed, and 259 strikeouts, in 788​ innings of work.

As a child in Tennessee, he idolized Lou Gehrig[7] and was a polished, left-handed hitter who often played first base during his minor league career. As a big-leaguer, he compiled a .236 lifetime batting average with 68 total hits, four home runs and 32 runs batted in, and was sometimes used as a pinch hitter. In 1952, as a St. Louis Brown, Bearden collected 23 hits and batted .354.

After 1953, Bearden resumed his minor league career in the top-level Pacific Coast League and American Association. He won 18 games for the 1955 San Francisco Seals.


During his active career, Bearden lived in California. For off-season employment, he worked in the motion picture industry as both an extra and backstage crew member.[3] After his 1957 retirement, he was involved in a number of business ventures and was a youth baseball coach.[2] Bearden died in 2004 in Alexander City, Alabama, at 83 years of age.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Baseball in Wartime - Gene Bearden". Retrieved 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d Gene Bearden at the SABR Bio Project, by Ralph Berger, retrieved July 10, 2016
  3. ^ a b c Bearden, Gene, and Lebovitz, Hal, "Lucky Rookie", 1949 Official Baseball Register. St. Louis: The Sporting News, 1949, pages 3-26.
  4. ^ James, Bill; Neyer, Rob (2004). The Neyer/James guide to pitchers : an historical compendium of pitching, pitchers, and pitches. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 142. ISBN 0-7432-6158-5. Retrieved 2012.
  5. ^ "Bearden, Boudreau, Keltner Share Honors as Indians Win". The Milwaukee Journal. October 5, 1948. p. 8.
  6. ^ Livingston, Bill; Brinda, Greg (2008). The Great Book of Cleveland Sports List. Philadelphia: Runnings Press Books. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-7624-3416-9.
  7. ^ Shubb, William B. "Gene Bearden". Oakland Oaks. Retrieved 2012.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



Music Scenes