By Zane Miller
On Thursday, September 16th, 1926, the Cleveland Indians (now Cleveland Guardians) hosted the New York Yankees at Dunn Field in Cleveland, Ohio in a game that was rescheduled from its original August 24th date due to rain, consequently becoming the first game of a doubleheader.
Coming into the contest, the Yankees held first place in the American League, holding an 87-54 record, while the Indians took the second spot with an 81-61 showing. With a potential World Series appearance on the line, the Yankees sent recently acquired starting pitcher Dutch Ruether to the mound for game one of the twin bill.
Ruether, a veteran starter by this point, had already enjoyed a successful MLB career, winning the 1919 World Series with the Cincinnati Reds while also securing a 21-win season as a member of the Brooklyn (now Los Angeles) Dodgers in 1922. However, after spending the past couple of seasons with the Washington Senators (now Minnesota Twins), Ruether was headed back to the Big Apple following a trade on August 27th. As the Yankees traveled to Cleveland, Ruether carried a 13-7 record with a 4.52 ERA and 54 strikeouts over the course of 185 innings pitched.
However, if you thought this would be the only player named Dutch to pitch in this game, think again as Dutch Levsen took the mound for Cleveland. Unlike his name-sharing counterpart, Levsen was largely new to the MLB scene, as he had only been used sparingly by the Indians since his debut in 1923. However, the 1926 season was the first that he received significant playing time, holding a 15-11 record with an impressive 3.30 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 218 innings, including an August 28th which saw him pitch all 18 innings of a doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox, remaining the most recent occurrence of this feat as of this writing.
After a scoreless first inning, Indians third baseman Rube Lutzke drew first blood as he knocked in right fielder Homer Summa with an RBI double in the bottom of the second inning, which was followed up nicely in the top of the third with a one-two-three inning from Levsen. The contest would quickly turn into a pitching duel, as neither team would get any hits for the next two innings, including a fourth inning which saw both Ruether and Levsen set the offense down in order. This hitless streak would be broken in the bottom of the fifth with a single from Levsen himself, though New York would do one better in the sixth.
After Yankees star first baseman Lou Gehrig reached with a double, left fielder Bob Meusel drove in the Iron Horse with a groundout that was thrown errantly by Indians second baseman Freddy Spurgeon. While Cleveland was able to get a runner in scoring position in the bottom of the inning, Ruether got out of the inning unharmed, keeping the game even at one apiece. Levsen faced another scare in the seventh as Yankees third baseman Joe Dugan reached scoring position, though this threat was quickly alleviated as Dugan was thrown out at third.
The pitching battle continued deep into the afternoon, with Levsen setting down New York in order in the next two innings while Ruether did so once, although the bid for his third one-two-three inning was only broken up by a two-out eighth inning single. As the teams went into the bottom of the ninth, Ruether would be facing the bottom of the Indians order, with catcher Chick Autry leading off. In his previous three career games at the MLB level to this point, Autry had been held hitless in all of them. However, despite Ruether giving up just four hits over eight innings, Autry picked a good time for his first career hit as he slapped a single to get the potential winning run aboard for the Indians. As Autry was quickly moved over to second thanks to a successful sacrifice bunt by Lutzke, he was then pinch run for by Glenn Myatt, the team’s regular starting catcher. With the first game of the doubleheader on the line, none other than Dutch Levsen himself would come up to the plate.
Although Levsen had continued to deal on the mound, giving up only two hits and no earned runs throughout his nine-inning performance, he struggled at the plate during the year with a .184 batting average, in addition to a meager seven RBIs in 76 at-bats with 21 strikeouts. Despite this, Levsen created his own run support, swatting a single to center field for his second hit of the day, driving in Myatt to put the game away in walk-off fashion as Cleveland took game one by a 2-1 score.
The victory allowed the Indians to advance to an 82-61 record, before a 5-0 victory in the second game allowed the team to jump to 83-61 by the day’s end, although they finished the season at an 88-66 record to come up one spot short of their second World Series appearance. After being swept in the doubleheader, the Yankees dropped to 87-56, though this was of little consequence in the end as the team went on to win the American League pennant at 91-63 before losing the World Series in seven games to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Link to stats database: https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE192609161.shtml