Bearden was 20-7 with a league-leading 2.43 ERA, and he completed 15 of his 29 starts with six shutouts.
Bearden's 20th victory came in a one-game playoff for the AL pennant. Picked by manager Lou Boudreau to start on only one day of rest, Bearden responded by pitching a five-hitter and leading the Indians over Ted Williams and the Boston Red Sox 8-3.
The World Series was tied at 1 when Bearden started Game 3 at Cleveland. The 28-year-old lefty was at his best, shutting out the Boston Braves on five hits in a 2-0 victory — at the plate, he contributed a double and a single.
In Game 6 at Braves Field, Bearden was summoned from the bullpen to relieve Lemon in the eighth inning. Bearden got the final five outs for a save and the Indians held on for a 4-3 win that clinched the championship.
Bearden's success was even more amazing considering he had pitched in only one major league game prior to 1948. The year before, he worked one-third of an inning for the Indians and allowed three earned runs, giving him an 81.00 ERA.
There was just Rookie of the Year picked in the majors that season, and the award went to Alvin Dark of the Braves.
"Indians fans will always remember his contributions to the team's last World Series title in 1948," team owner Larry Dolan said in a statement. "His victory in the 1948 American League playoff game against Boston still ranks as one of the greatest wins in franchise history."
Bearden, however, never came close to duplicating his rookie season. He never won more than eight games in a year after that, and twice led the AL in wild pitches.
The Indians put him on waivers during the 1950 season, and he was claimed by Washington.
Bearden finished with a 45-38 record and a 3.96 ERA in a career that lasted until 1953. He also pitched for Detroit, the St. Louis Browns and the Chicago White Sox.
Bearden's one big year, however, was enough to make an impression on the man regarded by many as the best hitter in baseball history.
Bearden is survived by his wife, Lois, and a daughter. Burial will be Tuesday in West Helena, Ark.
Gene Bearden Obituary
Like many in "the Greatest Generation" Henry Eugene (Gene) Bearden gave up a normal life and went to war. In Genes case that life included a chance to pitch in professional baseball. But as with most Veterans of World War 2, Gene recovered from his injuries and then carried on with his life.
After retiring from baseball Gene remained active in his Helena, Arkansas community. He was partners in several buisness ventures including auto dealerships. He was a Sports announcer for a local radio station, and devoted time to organizing and coaching youth baseball.
He also maintained that despite his war wounds he was "not a hero". He downplayed his service sacrafices saying, "I just abandoned ship after they they torpedoed us. I survived, others weren't so lucky".
Gene passed away in 2004 at the age of 84. He is buried in his longtime home of Helena, Arkansas.
Other Comments: Henry (Gene) Bearden was a left handed professional baseball pitcher. He was property of the New York Yankees prior to World War 2. Gene was a Machinists Mate on USS HELENA ( CL-50) when she was sunk in 1943. Bearden had answered the call to military service, joining the Navy in 1942 and being assigned to the engine room of the ill-fated USS Helena.
As any student of history knows, the USS Helena was torpedoed by Japanese U-boats on July 6, 1943 in the Battle of Kula Gulf, in the Solomon Islands, east of Papua New Guinea.
The ship was struck three times. After the first torpedo rocked the cruiser, U.S. troops began evacuation. When the second and third struck seconds apart, Bearden was hurtled from a ladder and landed awkwardly onto the boat’s deck—head first.
Bearden suffered a deep gash in his head and a fractured skull. His right kneecap was crushed to the point of being irreparable. Multiple ligaments in his knee were shredded. Medics figured he would never walk again.
Multiple surgeries were performed, and an aluminum cap was screwed into his knee as a substitute for his shattered patella. A metal plate was implanted into his fractured skull.
At the hospital, doctors gave him zero hope of playing professional baseball ever again.
Bearden’s rehabilitation was so tedious that he remained in the hospital for some two-and-a-half years before he was finally discharged early in 1945.
A trade to the Cleveland Indians earned Gene an oportunity in the Major Leagues. He made his major league debut and pitched briefly for the Indians in 1947. But his big year when he was American League Rookie of The Year in 1948, with a 20-7 record. Included was a win in a one game playoff vs the Red Sox to clinch the pennant for the Indians. But after getting his chance late due to the war, his sucess was short lived and his war injuries took thier toll on his careeer.