Three elements of a successful baseball team are outstanding hitting, outstanding fielding, and outstanding managing.
When one person helps his team in all three of these areas and the team wins the World Series, it is truly a special season for the person and his team.
Lou Boudreau and the Cleveland Indians had such a special season in 1948.
Boudreau’s excellent hitting, fielding, and managing helped the Indians win the World Series in 1948.
While 1948 was Boudreau’s most significant year (he won the American League Most Valuable Player Award), he spent 13 seasons as a player and nine seasons as a manager with Cleveland.
A career .295 hitter Cleveland #Indians legendary SS Lou Boudreau was the 1944 AL Batting champ, 1948 AL MVP, and posted (2) 100+ RBI campaigns pic.twitter.com/G6rj6ecxjt
— CirclinTheBases (@CirclinTheBases) December 18, 2020
We take a look at the life of Lou Boudreau – before, during, and after his major league baseball career.
The Early Years Through High School
Louis Boudreau was born on July 17, 1917, in Harvey, Illinois.
Harvey is a southern suburb of Chicago.
Boudreau’s father, Louis, had played third base for a semi-pro baseball team.
He would take Boudreau out to a park and hit him 100 ground balls.
When Boudreau was seven years old, his parents divorced.
Boudreau attended Thornton Township High School in Harvey.
While his high school did not have a baseball team, Boudreau excelled in another sport in high school – basketball.
Boudreau was an All-State basketball player for three years.
His play helped Thornton Township High School advance to three consecutive Illinois high school basketball championship games, finishing in first place in 1933 and in second place in 1934 and 1935.
In 1935, Boudreau left Thornton Township High School to head downstate in Illinois to attend the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (“University of Illinois”) for college.
Boudreau excelled in both baseball and basketball at University of Illinois.
As a sophomore, Boudreau played third base and had a batting average of .347 in helping University of Illinois post a 14-3 record and win the Big Ten baseball championship in 1937.
In 1937, Boudreau also helped the Illinois basketball team post a 14-4 record and win the Big Ten basketball championship.
As a junior, Boudreau was named an NCAA Men’s Basketball All-American in 1938.
He also was captain of the Illinois basketball team in 1938.
The Chicago Cubs expressed general interest in signing Boudreau in the spring of 1937, but Boudreau did not sign with the Cubs.
He told the team that he was planning to stay at Illinois.
However, when the Cleveland Indians approached Boudreau with an offer ($500 to each of Boudreau’s parents and an additional $100 per month to help cover Boudreau’s college costs) to sign with the Indians after his graduation from Illinois, Boudreau accepted.
Unfortunately for Boudreau, when the Big 10 found out that Boudreau had signed with the Indians, he was declared ineligible to play college sports.
Notwithstanding his athletic ineligibility at Illinois, Boudreau continued his studies at Illinois, ultimately graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in education in 1940.
He also worked as the freshman basketball coach for Illinois in 1939 and 1940 and as an assistant coach for the basketball team in 1942.
The Major League Baseball Years
With Boudreau being declared athletically ineligible at Illinois, Boudreau joined the Indians in 1938.
He was assigned to the Cedar Rapids minor league baseball team in the Class B Illinois-Indiana-Iowa League.
With Cedar Rapids, Boudreau had a batting average of .290.
Near the end of the 1938 season, Boudreau was transferred to Cleveland’s major league roster.
In his major league debut, on September 9, 1938, Boudreau received a walk in two plate appearances, as Cleveland lost to the Detroit Tigers 11-5.
It was his only appearance for the Indians in 1938.
With an 86-66 record, the Indians finished in third place in the American League in 1938.
Boudreau, in 1939, started the season with the Buffalo minor league baseball team in the Double-A International League.
He had a batting average of .331 with Buffalo.
#OTD in 1939, Cleveland’s future double play combination starred for the Herd. Second baseman Ray Mack had 4 RBI and shortstop Lou Boudreau went 2-for-4 with a solo home run to lead #Buffalo to a 7-2 win over Newark. #Bisons pic.twitter.com/JVXy0KUwcm
— HERD Chronicles (@HERDchronicles) July 8, 2021
With Buffalo, Boudreau (who had played third base with Cedar Rapids in 1938) played shortstop, the position that he was to play for nearly all of his major league baseball career.
Former major league shortstop Greg Mulleavy was with Buffalo in 1939 and helped teach Boudreau the shortstop position.
During the 1939 season, Boudreau (playing at a height of five feet and 11 inches and a weight of 185 pounds) was transferred from Buffalo to Cleveland’s major league roster.
After this second transfer to the Indians, Boudreau never again returned to the minor leagues.
In his first game with the Indians in 1939, on August 7, 1939, Boudreau had two hits (including a triple), drove in one run, and scored one run, in a 6-5 Cleveland win over the St. Louis Browns.
For the 1939 season with Cleveland, Boudreau had a .258 batting average, with 19 runs batted in, in 225 at bats.
Cleveland had an 87-67 record and finished in third place in the American League in 1939.
In 1940, Boudreau became the full-time starter at shortstop for the Indians.
Boudreau had a .295 batting average, with 101 runs batted in and nine home runs, in 627 at bats in 1940.
He had 46 doubles (tied for second in the American League) and 10 triples.
In 1940, Boudreau led the American League in assists by a shortstop (454), double plays turned by a shortstop (116), and fielding percentage by a shortstop (.968).
Boudreau was named to his first All-Star team in 1940.
With an 89-65 record in 1940, the Indians finished in second place in the American League.
Later commenting on Boudreau (who threw right-handed), H.S. Salsinger, sportswriter for The Sporting News, stated:
“He discounts his lack of speed by getting an uncanny jump on the ball and playing hitters with rare judgment and instinct. His hands are ‘too small,’ but there is not a surer pair on any infield. . . . As a competitor, he has few equals and no superiors.”
In 1941, Boudreau had a .257 batting average, with 56 runs batted in and 10 home runs, in 579 at bats.
Boudreau led the American League with 45 doubles.
He led the American League in putouts by a shortstop (296) and fielding percentage by a shortstop (.966), and ranked second in the American League in assists by a shortstop (444), in 1941.
On July 17, 1941, in a 4-3 Indians loss to the New York Yankees, Boudreau made an excellent defensive play on a “bad hop” ground ball hit by future National Baseball Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio and started a double play.
The play (which Boudreau later described as one of his greatest thrills) in the eighth inning helped end DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.
Boudreau was named to his second consecutive All-Star team in 1941.
In 1941, Cleveland, with a 75-79 record, finished tied for fourth place in the American League.
After the 1941 season, the Indians fired their manager, Roger Peckinpaugh.
Boudreau decided to apply for the manager job.
“I was only 24 years old at the time, with just four seasons of professional ball behind me. I figured I had nothing to lose because I didn’t tell anybody about it – not even my wife. . . . I [wrote Alva Bradley, Cleveland’s owner, and] told him I was qualified to handle the job. I thought he might ignore [the letter]. Instead, he called me into a meeting of club directors.”
Boudreau must have impressed at the meeting because the Indians hired him as their manager.
He was the second-youngest manager in major league baseball history.
Lou Boudreau is named player-manager of the Cleveland Indians. Boudreau is 24 years old, November 25, 1941. pic.twitter.com/HkxwwRj5ei
— Baseball In Pics (@baseballinpix) November 25, 2020
In 1942, Boudreau had a .283 batting average, with 58 runs batted in and two home runs, in 506 at bats.
He had 10 triples.
Boudreau led the American League in fielding percentage by a shortstop (.965) and ranked second in the American League in double plays turned by a shortstop (107) in 1942.
For the third consecutive year, Boudreau was named to the All-Star team in 1942.
The Indians had a 75-79 record in 1942 and finished in fourth place in the American League.
Boudreau had a .286 batting average, with 67 runs batted in and three home runs, in 539 at bats in 1943.
He had 32 doubles.
He led the American League in putouts by a shortstop (328), double plays turned by a shortstop (122), and fielding percentage by a shortstop (.970), and ranked second in the American League in assists by a shortstop (488), in 1943.
Boudreau was named in 1943 to the All-Star team for the fourth consecutive year.
With an 82-71 record, Cleveland finished in third place in the American League in 1943.
Boudreau (a right-handed hitter) had the best betting average in the American League in 1944, with a .327 batting average in 584 at bats.
He also led the American League in doubles (45) and ranked second in the American League in both hits (191) and on-base percentage (.406).
In 1944, Boudreau posted 67 runs batted in, hit three home runs, and stole 11 bases.
Boudreau led the American League in putouts by a shortstop (339), assists by a shortstop (516), double plays turned by a shortstop (134), and fielding percentage by a shortstop (.978), in 1944.
It was the fifth consecutive year in which Boudreau led the American League in fielding percentage by a shortstop.
Boudreau, in 1944, was named to the All-Star team for the fifth consecutive year.
With a 72-82 record, the Indians finished tied for fifth place in the American League in 1944.
Suffering a broken ankle in 1945, Boudreau appeared in only 97 games.
He had a .307 batting average, with 48 runs batted in and three home runs, in 345 at bats.
Boudreau hit 24 doubles in 1945.
In 1945, Boudreau was named to the All-Star team for the sixth consecutive year.
Cleveland finished in fifth place in the American League in 1945, with a 73-72 record.
In 1946, Boudreau had a .293 batting average, with 62 runs batted in and six home runs, in 515 at bats.
In 1946, Lou Boudreau became the first 20th century player with 5 extra base hits in a 9 inning game. pic.twitter.com/HCvYVrTGON
— Don Keko (@DonKeko1971) July 12, 2021
He hit 30 doubles.
Four of those doubles (which tied the major league record for doubles in a single game) came in an 11-10 Cleveland loss to the Boston Red Sox in the first game of a doubleheader on July 14, 1946.
Boudreau also hit a home run, drove in four runs, and scored three runs.
The second game of the doubleheader also was noteworthy, as Boudreau used “The Boudreau Shift” (also sometimes described as “The Williams Shift”) to shift infielders to the right side of the infield to defend against the hitting skill of future National Baseball Hall of Famer Ted Williams.
While the Indians lost the second game of the doubleheader to Boston 6-4, with “The Boudreau Shift”, Williams was held to only one hit in the second game of the doubleheader after having four hits (and hitting three home runs) in the first game of the doubleheader.
In 1946, Boudreau led the American League in putouts by a shortstop (315) and fielding percentage by a shortstop (.970).
The Indians had a 68-86 record in 1946, finishing in sixth place in the American League.
In 1947, Boudreau had a .307 batting average, with 67 runs batted in and four home runs, in 538 at bats.
He led the American League in doubles (45).
Boudreau in 1947 led the American League in double plays turned by a shortstop (120) and fielding percentage by a shortstop (.982) and ranked second in the American League in assists by a shortstop (475).
In 1947, Boudreau again was named to the All-Star team.
Cleveland, with an 80-74 record, finished in fourth place in the American League in 1947.
In describing Boudreau’s 1948 season, Cleveland coach and future National Baseball Hall of Famer Bill McKechnie stated:
“That year, Lou Boudreau was the greatest shortstop and leader I have ever seen.”
Further praising Boudreau’s performance in 1948, Indians owner Bill Veeck wrote:
“In 1948, Lou had the greatest season any player has ever had.”
Boudreau previously had finished in the top 10 in the voting for the American League Most Valuable Player Award in seven of the eight seasons from 1940 to 1947 (including in third place in 1947).
However, Boudreau’s performance in 1948 was so outstanding that he easily won the 1948 American League Most Valuable Player Award, receiving 22 out of a possible 24 first place votes and outpolling in the voting second-place finisher Joe DiMaggio 324-213 and third-place finisher Ted Williams 324-171.
Boudreau ranked second in the American League in batting average in 1948, with a .355 batting average in 560 at bats. He struck out only nine times in his 560 at bats.
Lou Boudreau is elected to the Hall of Fame.
Boudreau made 676 plate appearances in 1948. He struck out 9 times.
— ⚾ J. Daniel ⚾ (@JDaniel2033) January 20, 2021
He also ranked second in the American League in 1948 in on-base percentage (.453).
In addition, Boudreau posted 106 runs batted in, scored 116 runs, and had 199 hits, including 18 home runs and 34 doubles and a .534 slugging percentage, in 1948.
As a shortstop, in 1948, Boudreau led the American League in double plays turned by a shortstop (119) and fielding percentage by a shortstop (.975).
It was the eighth time in nine seasons that Boudreau led the American League in fielding percentage by a shortstop.
Boudreau also ranked second in the American League in 1948 in putouts by a shortstop (297) and assists by a shortstop (483).
In addition to winning the American League Most Valuable Player Award, in 1948, Boudreau made the All-Star team (for the eighth time in nine seasons) and was named “Major League Player of the Year” by The Sporting News.
What is especially impressive about Boudreau’s 1948 season is that he suffered various injuries, including a shoulder contusion, a bruised right knee, a sore thumb, and a sprained ankle.
These injuries were causing Boudreau to miss a key game against the New York Yankees on August 8, 1948 (the first game of a doubleheader).
However, Boudreau entered the game as a pinch hitter.
His single drove in two runs, helping the Indians overcome a 6-1 deficit and ultimately defeat New York 8-6 for a key Cleveland victory.
At the end of the 1948 regular season, Cleveland and the Boston Red Sox were tied for first place in the American League with 96-58 records.
They finished the regular season two games ahead of the New York Yankees.
“Old Days”A Packed House at Cleveland Municipal Stadium as Lou Boudreau bats and Yogi Berra is behind the plate,during a late 1940s Yankee-Indians game #Indians #Cleveland #Yankees #hof #1940s pic.twitter.com/rND7Bc6ald
— Tom's Old Days (@sigg20) July 19, 2020
On October 4, 1948, the Indians and the Red Sox met in a one-game playoff to decide the American League pennant.
Boudreau had four hits, including two home runs.
He drove in two runs, scored three runs, had three putouts and five assists, and helped turn two double plays, as Cleveland defeated Boston 8-3.
The Indians then advanced to play the Boston Braves in the 1948 World Series.
Boudreau had a .273 batting average, with three runs batted in, in 22 at bats in the 1948 World Series.
He hit four doubles.
On October 7, 1948, in the second game of the 1948 World Series, Boudreau had two hits, including one double.
He drove in one run, scored one run, had four putouts and two assists, and helped turn two double plays, as the Indians defeated the Braves 4-1 to even the World Series at one win for each team.
In the fourth game of the 1948 World Series, on October 9, 1948, Boudreau had a key double to drive in one of Cleveland’s two runs, in a 2-1 Indians victory over Boston that give Cleveland a lead of three games to one game in the World Series.
Boudreau had two putouts and four assists and helped turn one double play.
On October 11, 1948, in the sixth and final game of the 1948 World Series, Boudreau again had a key double to drive in a run.
Larry Doby and Lou Boudreau in Cleveland’s AL pennant winning year of 1948. Doby was the 1st black player in the AL soon after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in the NL. Doby suffered many of the same injustices Jackie did with less fanfare, but he deserves much respect pic.twitter.com/dh2K5RLsPj
— Sports Days Past (@SportsDaysPast) November 13, 2019
Boudreau had two putouts and two assists and helped turn two double plays, as Cleveland defeated the Braves 4-3 to win the World Series four games to two games.
It was the first World Series championship for the Indians in 28 years.
1948 was the pinnacle of Boudreau’s major league baseball career.
In 1949, Boudreau had a .284 batting average, with 60 runs batted in and four home runs, in 475 at bats.
Lou Boudreau and Joe DiMaggio before the 1949 All Star Game. pic.twitter.com/mkMv8pOUVI
— Baseball In Pics (@baseballinpix) April 28, 2021
He hit 20 doubles.
The Indians finished in third place in the American League in 1949, with an 89-65 record.
#OTD in 1949, #Indians Mgr Lou Boudreau & rookie Ray Boone chat in dugout. On 6/6 Boudreau had Boone replace him full time at SS, moving to 3B for 1st time since '38. Boone responded w/8 hits in 3 games & was Tribe's top SS into '53, but did better moving to 3B after trade to DET pic.twitter.com/nm8YTvsBp7
— Behind the Bag (@behindthebagbtb) June 9, 2020
Boudreau in 1950 had a .269 batting average, with 29 runs batted in and one home run, in 260 at bats.
In 1950, with a 92-62 record, Cleveland finished in fourth place in the American League.
On November 21, 1950, Boudreau was released by the Indians both as a player and as their manager.
The Boston Red Sox signed Boudreau on November 27, 1950.
A 50's shot 📸 ✨ … Red Sox manager Lou Boudreau visits with retired Red Sox greats Bobby Doerr, Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Grove.#Boston #RedSox #MLB #1950s pic.twitter.com/f6Gymwm0VQ
— JVAN (@VanderlansJim) July 3, 2021
In 1951, Boudreau had a .267 batting average, with 47 runs batted in and five home runs, in 273 at bats for Boston.
With an 87-67 record, the Red Sox finished in third place in the American League in 1951.
In 1952, Boudreau also became the manager of the Red Sox.
While a player-manager for Boston in 1952, Boudreau basically just managed, as he only played in four games (he had two runs batted in).
The Red Sox had a 76-78 record and finished in sixth place in the American League in 1952.
1952 was Boudreau’s final season as a major league player.
He continued to manage the Red Sox for two additional seasons after 1952.
Boston had records of 84-69 in 1953 (finishing in fourth place in the American League) and 69-85 in 1954 (also finishing in fourth place in the American League).
Boudreau was fired by Boston after the 1954 season, but he was to have two more major league manager jobs.
First, Boudreau managed the Kansas City Athletics from 1955 to 1957.
In the first two seasons, Kansas City had records of 63-91 (finishing in sixth place in the American League) and 52-102 (finishing in eighth place in the American League).
After the Athletics had a 36-67 record in 1957, Boudreau was fired as manager of the Athletics (who ultimately finished in seventh place in the American League in 1957) during the 1957 season.
Second, Boudreau completed his career as a major league manager when he managed the Chicago Cubs in 1960.
Boudreau took over for Charlie Grimm early in the 1960 season and had a 54-83 record as manager of the Cubs (who finished in seventh place in the National League in 1960).
The Years After Major League Baseball
Boudreau married Della DeRuiter (who he met at Thornton Township High School) in 1938.
They had four children, Louis, James, Sharyn (who was married to major league pitcher Denny McLain), and Barbara.
In 1958 and 1959, Boudreau broadcast Chicago Cubs games.
After his one year managing Chicago in 1960, Boudreau returned to being a broadcaster for the Cubs.
He worked as a broadcaster for the Cubs until 1987.
He also broadcast Chicago Bulls basketball and Chicago Blackhawks hockey games.
In 1970, Boudreau was inducted in the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
We celebrate National Baseball Hall of Fame member Lou Boudreau who reminds us – only 5 days until the Tribe’s home opener! One of the greatest players – and managers – in franchise history. Spent 15 seasons in an Indians uniform. pic.twitter.com/gmsR2cXNcc
— Bob DiBiasio (@BDbaseball6) March 31, 2021
Major league baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn then said about Boudreau:
“I do not believe there is in the Hall of Fame a baseball man who brought more use of intellect and advocation of mind to the game than Lou Boudreau.”
Boudreau also was inducted in the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame in 1954.
Both the Indians in 1970 and the University of Illinois in 1992 retired Boudreau’s uniform number 5 (the only other University of Illinois athletes to have their uniform numbers retired have been football greats Red Grange and Dick Butkus).
On August 10, 2001, at the age of 84, Boudreau died in Olympia Fields, Illinois.
Boudreau ranks high in many Cleveland Indians career statistics.
He ranks 40th in Indians career batting average (.296), 12th in Indians career runs batted in (740), tied for 59th in Indians career home runs (63), fifth in Indians career doubles (367), tied for 14th in Indians career triples (65), tied for 52nd in Indians career stolen bases (50), 25th in Indians career on-base percentage (.382), sixth in Indians career hits (1,706), and ninth in Indians career runs scored (823).
In addition, Boudreau helped the Indians win games.
Cleveland had a winning record in nine of Boudreau’s 13 seasons with the team.
While Boudreau managed the team, the Indians had a winning record in six of nine seasons.
Of course, the most compelling evidence of Boudreau helping Cleveland be a winning team is the World Series championship in 1948.
It is an interesting coincidence that in Cleveland’s two World Series championships, the Indians had a player-manager – National Baseball Hall of Famer Tris Speaker in 1920, and Boudreau in 1948.
Perhaps current Indians manager Terry Francona should return to the playing field and be a player-manager.
In all seriousness, it would take quite a performance by Francona to match the season that Lou Boudreau, nicknamed “Good Kid”, had in 1948 – outstanding hitter, outstanding shortstop, and outstanding manager.
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