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Bob Lemon

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Bob Lemon

A photo of Bob Lemon.

Robert Granville Lemon (September 22, 1920January 11, 2000) was an American right-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976 along with pitcher Robin Roberts.

Born in San Bernardino, California, Lemon virtually had three careers in the baseball: one as a light-hitting lefthanded-batting third baseman, another as a stellar right-handed pitcher, and the last as a successful major league manager.

Lemon made the switch to the mound on the suggestion of Cleveland Indians manager Lou Boudreau and eventually won 20 games seven times for the team. A sinker-ball specialist, Lemon teamed with Bob Feller, Early Wynn and Mike Garcia to form one of the greatest pitching staffs in baseball history. In 1948 he won 20 games in the regular season and two more in the Fall Classic for the World Champion Indians, and in 1954 he was 23-7 as Cleveland won the pennant. He retired in 1958 with 207 wins, all but 10 of them won in a ten-year span. Lemon was the first righthanded pitcher in the lively ballera (since 1920) to record 7 20-game seasons. Ferguson Jenkins later tied him with 7, and Jim Palmer recorded 8 20-game victory seasons.

After his playing career, Lemon coached for the Indians, Philadelphia Phillies, California Angels, Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees. He won the 1966 Pacific Coast League championship as manager of the Seattle Angels. In 1970, he was promoted to manager of the Royals in midseason. The following year, 1971, he guided the Royals to their first winning season, only the franchise's third after beginning play as an expansion team in 1969, earning AL Manager of the Year honors.

Lemon served in 1976 as pitching coach for the American League champion New York Yankees, the franchise that was the chief antagonist of the Cleveland Indians during his own pitching years, and a team owned then and now by Cleveland-area native George Steinbrenner.

In 1977 Lemon managed the Chicago White Sox. He improved the Sox' record by 26 games, winning his second Manager of the Year Award, but was fired the following season by owner Bill Veeck after Chicago posted a 34-40 record in the first half. A few weeks later, he returned to the Yankees, hired to replace troubled manager Billy Martin. The move reunited Lemon with both owner Steinbrenner and Yankees President Al Rosen, an Indians teammate during the Tribe's '50s glory years.

Ironically, five days after the Martin-Lemon changeover, the Yankees divulged at their 1978 Old Timers' Day that Lemon would be moved in 1980 to general manager, and that Martin himself would then return as field manager. The announcement, made by public-address announcer Bob Sheppard after the Old Timers had been announced, was accompanied by Martin's dramatic entrance the Yankee dugout and a long standing ovation from fans.

Whatever the theatrics, Lemon responded to his new job—and to the newspaper strike that helped calm down the atmosphere in the Yankees clubhouse—by guiding the Yankees to the 1978 pennant when the Yankees caught the stunned Boston Red Sox for the lead in the American League East race. The Yanks, who trailed by at least 14 (some sources say 14 and a half) games in July, pulled even with the Red Sox by defeating them in a four-game September series known as the Boston Massacre ever since. The Yankees pulled ahead by three and a half games, but the Red Sox rallied to tie the Yanks in the final day of the season.

On October 2, 1978, the Yankees defeated Boston for the American League Eastern Division title in their famed one-game play-off, punctuated both by a dramatic three-run home run by Bucky Dent in the seventh inning, and an eighth-inning homer by Reggie Jackson that actually gave the Bronx Bombers the winning run. Lemon's Yankees then beat the Royals in the ALCS and Los Angeles Dodgers to win the World Series title. Bob Lemon became the onkly man to win a World Series Game as a pitcher (2 games for Cleveland in 1948) and manage a World Championship team.

When the Yankees struggled in the first part of 1979, Lemon, who some say was distracted by the death of his son in the off-season, took the blame and was fired by Steinbrenner, replaced by Martin. Amazingly, Lemon maintained a close relationship with Steinbrenner, and when the Yankees needed a boost late in 1981, he was brought back to skipper the team. Lemon moved on to the post-season and dispatched the Milwaukee Brewers and the Oakland Athletics, and won the first two games of the World Series against the Dodgers, only to lose four straight. Lemon survived a few weeks into the 1982 season before Steinbrenner dismissed him one last time. He had managed just over one full season of games (172) for the Yankees, winning 99 for a .576 winning percentage.

In addition to his feats, on June 30, 1948, Lemon pitched a 2-0 no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers, the first night game no-hitter (pitched under the lights). A seven times All-Star (1948 - 1954), Lemon was often used as a pinch-hitter, putting up a lifetime mark of 31 hits in 109 at-bats (.284), and his 37 career home runs batted as a pitcher put him second on the all-time career list, behind Wes Ferrell.

Lemon died at age 79 in Long Beach, California.

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