The 1952 season in the American League was interesting because of all the teams that had a chance at the pennant through a major part of the season. Boston started it off with a flash and were at the top of the league with a 10-3 record on May 1. Three other teams, Chicago; Cleveland; and St. Louis were all tied for 2nd place at 9-6. The Yankees who would play a major role in the race started slow and were 12-12 on May 15. Boston had cooled off and were now 15-11 in 3rd place. Cleveland was in 1st, winning 9 of 12. Washington was in 2nd at 14–10, 2 1/2 games back.
An indication of the early fortunes of Cleveland and New York occurred when the Yankees travelled to Cleveland to play a 3 game series on May 6-8. The Indians swept the series 1-0; 7-2 ; and 12-5. The Indians would maintain their lead throughout the rest of May. However, by the start of June, New York was recovering it footing; and the top of the league saw 1st place switching hands between the Yankees, Red Sox, and Indians. On June 14 New York was in 1st place at 29-19. Boston and Cleveland were in a virtual tie for 2nd at 31-22 and 32-33 respectively. Chicago was in 4th 29-25 (3); and even Washington and Philadelphia who were 1 and 2 games under .500 were just 5 1/2 and 6 games out.
For the next month and a half the most interesting aspect of the season was the see-saw battle for 2nd place. Chicago (6/22; 6/29; 7/3; 7/6), Boston (6/23; 6/25; 7/17), Cleveland (6/24; 7/2; 7/5; 7/12); and Washington (6/28; 7/1) all took possession of the slot until Cleveland took control on 7/27. During that time period, in games involving these 4 teams Chicago was 8-13; Boston was 9-11; Cleveland was 10-11; and Washington was 14-7. From July 16 to July 27, the Yankees were 3 1/2- 5 games in the lead, but accept for that brief period, no more than 3 games separated 1st and 2nd place.
With New York in 1st and Cleveland in 2nd, this close pattern was maintained until August 22 when Cleveland went into 1st by 1 percentage point. New York would regain the lead by 1 game the next day. On that date there were still 5 teams in shouting distance of 1st place. The standings were as follows: CLE 69-51 (—); NYY 70-52 (—); BOS 63-54 (4 1/2); PHI 62-56 (6); CHI 64-58 (6); WAS 63-58 (6.5). The Indian’s victory on August 22 evened the season series with the Yankees at 10-10. Interestingly, the last two games of the season between the two teams would determine the pennant winner.
On August 23, the two teams played the 2nd game of a two game series at Yankee Stadium. Yankee manager Casey Stengel picked 14- game winnerVic Raschi to start. Indian Al Lopez tapped 15 game winner Early Wynn. Both pitchers posted zeroes through 3 1/2 innings. In New York’s part of the 4th they scored 1 run on doubles by Gene Woodling and Joe Collins. The score was still 1-0 when Cleveland took their turn at bat in the 8th. Barney McCosky pinch hit for Ray Boone and struck out. Another pinch hitter Bill Glynn singled. After Hank Majeski pinch hit for Early Wynn, Dale Mitchell doubled to right but Glynn was thrown out— Hank Bauer to Billy Martin to Yogi Berra. The most serious threat to Vic Raschi was over as he pitched a 6-hit shutout. The Yankees won 1-0.
New York again travelled to Cleveland for one game on Sunday, September 14. The Yankees started Ed Lopat; the Indians Mike Garcia. The Yankees would score all the runs they would need in the 3rd inning on singles by Joe Collins and Yogi Berra, and Hank Bauer’s RBI ground out. The final score was New York 7 Cleveland 1.
Yes, the New York Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians in their last two meetings of the 1952 season; and New York’s final margin over Cleveland was two games. Over the entire course of the 154-game season the Yankees record vs. Cleveland was 12-10; and the final two games was the difference of 2 games in an otherwise .500 season between the two teams. Of course the Yankees did the job against the rest of the league, going 25-7, a torrid .781 pace, after August 22. And they needed every one of those wins because Cleveland was finishing 24-10, two games off the Yankees mark. Without the two New York games, Cleveland finishes even with the Yankees torrid pace. The difference made New York the American League Champions in 1952.
And what of the other 4 contenders? The rest of their seasons were at best average. Chicago finished at 81-73, 14 games back; Philadelphia 79-75 (16); Washington 78-76 (17); and Boston 76-78 (19). This was the affect that the Yankees and Indians great finish had on the rest of the league. New York went on to beat Brooklyn 4-3 in the 1952 World Series.