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17 Jul 1917 1
Death:
10 Aug 2001 1
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Full Name:
Louis Boudreau 1
Birth:
17 Jul 1917 1
Death:
10 Aug 2001 1
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Last Residence: Frankfort, IL 1
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Card Issued: Unknown Code (PE) 1
Social Security Number: ***-**-8198 1

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Lou Boudreau, a Longtime Player-Manager and Hall of Fame Shortstop, Dies at 84

Lou Boudreau, the Hall of Fame shortstop who both managed the 1948 Cleveland Indians and played inspired shortstop to lead them to their first American League pennant in 28 years and the World Series championship, died yesterday at a hospital in Olympia Fields, Ill. He was 84.

He was taken to St. James Hospital and Health Centers yesterday in cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead, said Julie Miller, a hospital spokeswoman. He was hospitalized last month for circulatory problems, forcing him to miss the Indians' 100th anniversary celebration honoring their top 100 players.

Boudreau was once known as the Boy Wonder because, at age 24 in 1941, he became the youngest manager in major league history. He had been the Indians' regular shortstop for two seasons when, in November 1941, the team fired its manager, Roger Peckinpaugh.

Boudreau applied for the job. ''I was only 24 years old at the time, with just four seasons of professional ball behind me,'' he later recalled. ''I figured I had nothing to lose because I didn't tell anybody about it -- not even my wife.''

He wrote a letter to Alva Bradley, the Indians' owner. ''I told him I was qualified to handle the job,'' Boudreau said. ''I thought he might ignore it. Instead, he called me into a meeting of club directors.'' It was determined that the Indians needed young blood, and Boudreau got the job, shocking the baseball world.

For his first few years, the best that Boudreau the manager could do was help make Boudreau the player better. In 1944 he led the American League in hitting with a .327 average. He also led the league's shortstops in fielding percentage, assists, putouts and double plays. In his first six years as manager, however, his team never finished higher than third and finished in the second division three times.

Bill Veeck took over as owner of the sixth-place Indians in 1946. ''My first problem,'' Veeck wrote in his book ''Veeck as in Wreck,'' ''was that the best shortstop in baseball was, in my opinion, not the best manager.'' He added, ''I particularly wanted to get Louie out of the manager's office'' -- and retain him as the shortstop -- ''because I had Casey Stengel waiting in the wings, ready to sign.''

But the reaction to removing Boudreau was so strong -- newspaper columnists condemned the change, and more than 16,000 letters of protest from fans inundated Veeck's office -- that Veeck backed off. ''Louie held all the cards, and he knew it,'' Veeck said.

Boudreau remained manager. It was among the best decisions Veeck ever made. In 1948, the Indians contended for their first pennant since 1920 with an assortment of outstanding players: outfielder Larry Doby, the first black player in the American League; Bob Feller and Bob Lemon, the ace starting pitchers; everyday stars like second baseman Joe Gordon, third baseman Ken Keltner and catcher Jim Hegan; and the legendary Negro league pitcher Satchel Paige, who was added in midseason.

''It was quite a year,'' Boudreau recalled. ''The pressure kept building and building, until I thought we'd all burst.''

Bill McKechnie, who had managed three different teams to pennants, had been hired as a Cleveland coach at Veeck's suggestion, and, Boudreau said, ''was a big, big help to me.''

''I have never known another year like the one we had in Cleveland in '48,'' McKechnie said. ''Every day was like a final game of the World Series. And that year, Lou Boudreau was the greatest shortstop and leader I have ever seen.''

    Boudreau batted .355, second best in the league, and he drove in 106 runs, hit a career-high 18 home runs, struck out just 9 times in 560 at-bats, led A.L. shortstops in fielding and was named the league's most valuable player. And he called the shots from the bench and from the field.

After the last game of the regular season, the Indians and the Boston Red Sox were tied for first, setting up a one-game playoff on a chilly afternoon at Boston's Fenway Park.

Boudreau made the unexpected move of skipping Feller and Lemon and starting the 28-year-old rookie left-hander Gene Bearden, with only one day's rest, against a lineup stocked with left-handed power. ''Bearden was one of the finest competitors I had ever known,'' Boudreau said.

Bearden pitched a five-hitter and Cleveland won, 8-3. Boudreau went 4 for 4: he homered over the left-field wall in the first inning, singled in the fourth to begin a four-run rally, homered again in the fifth and later singled again.

The Indians went on to beat the Boston Braves in the World Series, four games to two, with Boudreau batting .273.

His greatest thrill as a player beyond the playoff game, he said, was helping to end Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak in 1941. DiMaggio hit two smashes down the third-base line, which Keltner stopped, throwing him out. On DiMaggio's last chance to keep the streak alive in the eighth inning, he grounded a ball up the middle and it took a bad hop. ''But I was able to get it and threw him out,'' Boudreau said.

After the 1950 season, with his skills diminishing and with the Indians having finished fourth, Boudreau was traded to the Red Sox, ending a nine-year managerial reign. He played in 82 games for Boston in 1951 and was named the manager the following year, his last as a player. He managed the Red Sox through the 1954 season and managed the Kansas City Athletics from 1955 to 1957. He then became a WGN radio and television broadcaster for Chicago Cubs games, and in an unprecedented move changed places with Charlie Grimm, the Cubs' field manager, on May 4, 1960.

Boudreau returned to the broadcasting booth after that season.

None of the teams he managed after 1948 finished higher than fourth.

Boudreau became known for a 1946 managerial move called the Williams shift, used against Ted Williams, who was a left-handed pull hitter. Boudreau, seeking to throw him off balance, put all four infielders between second base and first and moved the center fielder into right field -- only the left fielder remained on the left side of the field -- daring Williams to hit to the opposite field. Williams would not concede and wreaked considerably less havoc on the Indians than in previous years.

''There is no doubt,'' Williams said, ''that the shift hurt me.''

Louis Boudreau was born in Harvey, Ill., on July 17, 1917. He first made his athletic reputation as a basketball player, leading Thornton High School to the Illinois state championship in 1935, then becoming the captain and star guard at the University of Illinois before leaving to sign with the Indians.

Boudreau, at 5 feet 11 inches and 185 pounds, had average size, an average arm, less-than-average speed and small hands. But he had deceptive talent, competitive zeal and a good mind. His lifetime batting average was .295, and his wide-ranging skills led him to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1970.

At the induction ceremony were his wife, Della, and their four children, the youngest of whom was Sharyn McLain, wife of Denny McLain, a longtime major league pitcher.

Boudreau retired as a sportscaster in 1988, after 30 years. In the mid-1990's, he moved to Frankfort, Ill., about 35 miles west of Chicago.

His baseball legacy remains with a plaque in Cooperstown. ''It's something you dream of and think about,'' Boudreau said when elected to the Hall of Fame. ''This is what we all strive for -- to reach the top.''

 

Lou Boudreau; Led Baseball's Indians as Shortstop, Manager

Lou Boudreau, the Hall of Fame shortstop who managed the Cleveland Indians to the 1948 World Series championship has died at 84.

Boudreau suffered a cardiac arrest in Olympia Fields, Ill., Friday afternoon and was taken to St. James Hospital and Health Centers, where he was pronounced dead.

"When Lou first came to spring training in 1938 in New Orleans . . . he didn't look like much," former Indian and Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller said. "Then I found out the guy who signed him also signed me and Herb Score and a few others. I figured Lou most have some ability there. He developed fast and he was the best shortstop I ever saw."

Boudreau's 13 seasons with the Indians, nine as a player/manager, included many milestones. He became the youngest manager in baseball history at 24 in 1941. He managed the team that integrated the American League, when Larry Doby joined the Indians in 1947.

Boudreau also is credited with turning Bob Lemon from a slight-hitting third baseman into a Hall of Fame pitcher and for inventing the Ted Williams shift, a defensive scheme that he used, unsuccessfully, when the Boston Red Sox slugger was at the plate.

There was also turmoil, as team owner Bill Veeck twice attempted to fire him. Boudreau ultimately was fired on Nov. 10, 1950, a year after Veeck sold the Indians, and replaced by Al Lopez. He played the 1950 and 1951 seasons with the Red Sox.

Boudreau left his mark primarily as a shortstop. He hit .295 during his career and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1970. His No. 5 was retired by the Indians that year.

Boudreau grew up in Harvey, Ill., and was a captain of the baseball and basketball teams at the University of Illinois. He nearly signed with the Chicago Cubs in 1937, then went with the Indians in 1938. He made his debut with the Indians late in the 1940 season.

In 1941, he hit .295 with 101 runs batted in and was named to the All-Star team. He led the league in batting in 1944 with a .327 average.

Boudreau applied for the manager's job by writing a letter to team owner Alva Bradley and was hired on Nov. 25, 1941. He was immediately dubbed the "boy manager" by the press.

"He instilled confidence in his players," Feller said.

In 1948, Feller was struggling and the press was questioning whether he should remain in the rotation.

"Lou said, 'He is going to take his turns and we're going to sink or swim with [him],' " Feller said.

Feller won 10 of his last 12 decisions.

In 1948, Boudreau was named the league's most valuable player. He hit .355 with 18 home runs and 106 runs batted in.

The Indians, Red Sox, Philadelphia Athletics and New York Yankees were all in the race during the final weeks.

"We were playing the Yankees in a doubleheader and Lou sat himself down the first game because he had a sore arm," Feller said. "Late in the game, one of our guys had two strikes on him and Lou sent himself up to pinch hit. He hit a line drive through the legs of the pitcher and into center field. We won that game and swept the doubleheader."

In the one-game playoff against the Red Sox, Boudreau had two doubles and two home runs in an 8-3 victory.

Boudreau hit .273 in helping the Indians beat the Boston Braves in six games, Cleveland's last World Series championship.

"He wasn't afraid of anybody," Feller said. "He was a great leader of men and a great strategist."

Feller, though, doesn't consider the Williams shift one of Boudreau's best moves. In the second game of a doubleheader in 1946, Boudreau moved everyone but the left fielder to the right of second base when Williams came to the plate .

Williams hit a fly ball over the left fielder's head for an inside-the-park home run.

"We lost the first game . . . and Lou told everyone what he was going to do when Williams came up in the second game," Feller said. "Everyone kind of laughed and it didn't hurt Ted's hitting one bit."

Boudreau handled a more serious situation in 1947, when Veeck signed Doby to play for the Indians. Jackie Robinson had integrated baseball earlier in the season when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Doby made his debut on July 5, 1947, and the atmosphere in the Indian clubhouse at Comiskey Park was tense.

Boudreau walked into the room with Doby and said, "Fellas, I want you to meet Larry Doby. As you know, he's going to be with us."

Boudreau made a point of warming up Doby on the sidelines before every game.

"It was a unique situation," Boudreau said in a 1987 interview with The Times. "I couldn't show too much favoritism to Larry in case I alienated other men on the team. . . . That first year, I was criticized by some for pushing him too much because he was the first black player. And I was criticized by others for not playing him more."

ut Boudreau stuck with Doby. He worked to cut down Doby's swing and found him a position.

"Larry was a second baseman, but we already had Joe Gordon there," Feller said. "So Lou put him in center field and he became a very good outfielder

While the players were behind Boudreau, owner Veeck was not.

When Veeck bought the team in 1946, he wanted Boudreau to step down so he could hire Casey Stengel. A year later, he tried to trade Boudreau to the St. Louis Browns.

Fans in Cleveland erupted. One telegram to Veeck read: "If Boudreau doesn't return to Cleveland, don't you bother to return, either."

Veeck, who sold the team in 1949, gave Boudreau a two-year contract.

"I don't know what it was that Veeck had against Lou," Feller said. "But it made Veeck an unpopular man in Cleveland. He had to back down."

Hank Greenberg, who had been the team's general manager under Veeck, fired Boudreau in 1950.

Boudreau managed the Red Sox from 1952 to 1954, the Kansas City Athletics from 1955 to 1957 and the Cubs in 1960.

He also was a popular radio broadcaster for the Cubs for nearly 30 years before retiring in 1988.

Funeral arrangements were pending.

 

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