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Birdie Tebbetts of the Detroit Tigers and Johnny Pesky of the Boston Red Sox had played against Lemon in Navy baseball games, and they spoke to Indians player-manager Lou Boudreau about switching Lemon from the outfield to the pitching mound.

Boudreau discussed the potential move to pitcher with Yankees catcher Bill Dickey, who had also played in the Navy with Lemon.

"I knew Lemon had a strong arm, and once I realized he was not going to hit with consistency as an outfielder, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at him as a pitcher", Boudreau later wrote.

Lemon resisted the idea at first, but he agreed to the change after he learned that his salary could be higher as a pitcher.

Lemon was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame as a player in 1976.

Lemon was raised in California where he played high school baseball and was the state player of the year in 1938.

There, Lemon attended Wilson Classical High School and played shortstop on the school's baseball team.

During the 1954 season, Lemon had a career-best 23–7 win–loss record and the Indians set a 154-game season AL-record win mark when they won 111 games before they won the American League (AL) pennant.

He was an All-Star for seven consecutive seasons and recorded seven seasons of 20 or more pitching wins in a nine-year period from 1948–1956.

In his final stint in the minors, Lemon hit .268 with 21 home runs for the 1942 Baltimore Orioles of the International League.

Lemon was the Indians' center fielder for Opening Day in 1946.

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