A Tale of Three Careers

The 1930s – 1950s

This card is a classic example of learning something new every day. I had never known that Lemon was a position player for Cleveland for two cups of coffee (1941, 1942) and then became a HOF pitcher over 13 years (1946-1958).

I also hadn’t known that Bob was also the centerfielder for Cleveland in Bob Feller’s second no-hitter against the Yankees in 1946. He had some decent power in the minors, but like many hitters, he had trouble with the off speed stuff. When he did hit in the bigs as a pitcher, he swatted 37 homers over his 15-year career. Though he became one of the top pitchers of his era, Lemon said he would have preferred a career as an everyday player rather than as a starting pitcher with nothing to do for three out of four days.

As the second tale of his career would show, he was an All-Star pitcher for seven consecutive years. The seven-time American League All-Star went on to win 17-or-more games from 1948 to 1956. He won 186 games in that span and pitched to the tune of a 3.16 ERA. He also threw a no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers in 1948.

Retiring after the 1958 season, Lemon played 15 seasons in the majors and pitched 13 years. He racked up 207 wins and pitched to a 3.23 ERA. He won 20-or-more games six times, led the American League in complete games five times, innings pitched four times. At the end of it all, Bob totaled 188 complete games and 31 shutouts in his career as part of the Tribe rotation that also included two other HOFers in Bob Feller and Early Wynn.

After hanging up the cleats on a HIF career, Bob worked as a coach with the Indians and Phillies before taking on a couple minor league managerial stints and a coach gig with the Angels. Lemon landed his first major league skipper position as the Kansas City Royals manager midway through the 1970 season.

He led the Royals, then in just their third season, to an 85-76 record in 1971 before being dismissed following the 1972 season. After stops back in the minors, he became the Yankees pitching coach in 1976 – the same year he was elected to the Hall of Fame.

In 1977, Lemon managed the White Sox to a 90-72 mark before being let go on June 29, 1978. Less than a month later, he replaced Billy Martin as Yankees’ skipper, leading New York to a furious down-the-stretch charge that resulted in the Yankees winning the American League East in a one-game playoff over the Red Sox.

The Yankees went on to win the World Series, but Lemon was relieved of his job 65 games into the 1979 campaign.

He returned to manage the Yankees down the stretch in 1981, leading New York to the pennant before the Yankees lost in the World Series to the Dodgers.

Dismissed again 14 games into the 1982 season, Lemon called it a career.

1951 Bowman #53 Bob Lemon
I bought this card from Brett @cardcollector77 over on Dylan’s (@CardsStory) Wednesday Night Vintage Sales Thread. I absolutely love any Bowman card from the 1950-1952 sets as they’re truly little pieces of artwork. With this shoebox, I’ve been trying to acquire at least one card of any HOFer that’s within my budget, along with any stars, minor stars, and characters of the era. Seeing that I didn’t have a card of Mr. Lemon, I couldn’t this absolute beauty pass me, and for that reason he belongs in The Vintage Shoebox Collection.

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