Born in San Bernardino, California, Lemon virtually had three careers in the baseball: one as a light-hitting left batter and sub-par third baseman, another as a stellar right-handed pitcher, and the last as a successful major league manager.
Template:MLB HoF Lemon made the switch to the mound on the suggestion of Cleveland Indians manager Lou Boudreau and eventually won 20 games seven times for the team. A sinker-ball specialist, Lemon teamed with Bob Feller, Early Wynn and Mike Garcia to form one of the greatest pitching staffs in baseball history. In 1948 he won 20 games in the regular season and two more in the Fall Classic for the World Champion Indians, and in 1954 he was 23-7 as Cleveland won the pennant. He retired in 1958 with 207 wins, all but 10 of them won in a ten-year span.
After his playing career, Lemon managed for the Kansas City Royals. He guided the Royals to their first winning season in 1971, for which he earned AL Manager of the Year honors. In 1976 he managed for the Chicago White Sox. He improved the Sox record by 26 games in 1977, winning his second Manager of the Year Award, but was fired the following season after Chicago posted a 34-40 record in the first half. A few weeks later he was hired by the New York Yankees to replace troubled manager Billy Martin, and he responded by guiding them to a pennant when the Yankees catch the stunned Boston Red Sox for the lead in the American League East in the final day of the season. The Yankees defeated Boston in their famed one-game play-off with a dramatic three-run homer by Bucky Dent to advance to the post-season. Then beat the Royals in the ALCS and Los Angeles Dodgers to win the World Series title.
When the Yankees struggled in the first part of 1979, Lemon took the blame and was fired by controversial New York owner George Steinbrenner. Amazingly, Lemon maintained a close relationship with Steinbrenner, and when the Yankees needed a boost late in 1981, he was brought back to skipper the team. Lemon moved on to the post-season and dispatched the Milwaukee Brewers and the Oakland Athletics, and won the first two games of the World Series against the Dodgers, only to lose four straight. Lemon survived a few weeks into the '82 season before Steinbrenner dismissed him one last time. He had managed just over one full season of games (172) for the Yankees, winning 99 for a .576 winning percentage.
In addition to his feats, on June 30, 1948, Lemon pitched a 2-0 no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers. A seven times All-Star (1948 - 1954), Lemon was often used as a pinch-hitter, putting up a lifetime mark of 31 hits in 109 at-bats (.284), and his 37 career home runs batted as a pitcher put him second on the all-time career list, behind Wes Ferrell.
Lemon died at age 79 in Long Beach, California.