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Indians Retire Bob Lemon’s Number

June 20, 1998

CLEVELAND (AP) _ With a touch of his old baseball wit, Hall of Famer Bob Lemon had his No. 21 retired Saturday as teammates from the 1948 Cleveland Indians World Series championship team stood and cheered.

``It’s a great honor,″ said Lemon, who received the jersey from current manager Mike Hargrove before Cleveland’s game against the New York Yankees. ``Now, let’s get on with the game, throw out the first pitch or whatever the hell we do, and let the good times roll.″

Lemon’s son, Jim, threw the ceremonial first pitch to Mike Hegan, son of the late Jim Hegan _ Lemon’s catcher from 1946-57.

``I spoke with my mother this morning,″ Hegan said, ``and she wanted me to tell Lem how proud my dad would be.″

Lemon, 77, received a high-five from Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel as he was driven onto the field in a 1958 Chevy. He became the sixth Cleveland player to have his number retired, joining Bob Feller, Larry Doby, Lou Boudreau, Earl Averill and Mel Harder. Only Harder, the pitching coach for the ’48 Indians, is not in the Hall of Fame.

The Yankees, the team Lemon managed three times, gathered on the dugout steps and clapped as Lemon’s name and number were unveiled next to Doby’s behind the right-field stands. Coaches Jose Cardenal and Chris Chambliss came out to shake Lemon’s hand.

Hargrove, who wore No. 21 as a player, coach and manager in the majors, gave it up to honor Lemon. Hargrove, the third-winningest manager in club history behind Al Lopez and Boudreau, has switched to No. 30.

``I want to thank Mike Hargrove for his generosity,″ Lemon said. ``I wish him continued success in the pennant race.″

Lemon’s speech _ but not his wit _ are slowed by a stroke he suffered a couple of years ago. He even invoked a ``Yogi-ism,″ sounding like former Yankees catcher Yogi Berra when he said, ``If I’ve got to be somewhere, I might as well be here.″

Lemon, a converted outfielder, won 207 games as a pitcher and 833 as manager of the Royals, White Sox and Yankees. He was 20-14 in his first full season as a starter in 1948, winning 20 games with 20 complete games seven times. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1976.

Two years later, he replaced Billy Martin as manager of the Yankees and led New York from third place to a one-game playoff victory for the AL pennant against the Boston Red Sox. New York beat the Dodgers in the World Series.

``Everyone always said George was too demanding,″ said Lemon, referring to Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. ``He just wanted a winner like everybody else.″

As a member of the ’48 Indians, Lemon took part in another one-game playoff as Cleveland beat the Red Sox to advance to the Series. Lemon was 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA as the Indians beat the Boston Braves in six games.

``People ask me what my greatest thrill was,″ Lemon said. ``For me, going to the ballpark every day was my greatest thrill.″

Lemon, a seven-time All-Star, ranks third in Indians history in victories, innings pitched and strikeouts.