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Great Players in Cleveland Indians History

Great Players in Cleveland Indians History
December 02
06:00 2017

Cy Young

Before they were known as the Indians, the Cleveland baseball team had boasted several future Hall of Famers, such as slugging outfielder Jesse Burkett and slick-fielding shortstop Bobby Wallace.

In 1895 the Cleveland Spiders won the Temple Cup, the “world series” of the time. In addition to Burkett and Wallace the team had a literal ace in the hole – a pitching ace named Denton True Young.

Better known as “Cy” Young (Cy was short for cyclone) the Ohio native would go on to become baseball’s all-time winningest pitcher, with 511 victories. His 313 losses are also a record.

Prior to the 1899 season the Cleveland owner, Frank Robison, also bought the St. Louis Browns – thus owning two teams in what was then the “Major League.”

Robison decided to make the St. Louis team a powerhouse so he sent Cleveland’s best players to St. Louis. The plan didn’t work as St. Louis finished fifth in 1899 and 1900.

But Cleveland’s fate was worse. In 1899 the team set a record for futility, winning only 20 games against a staggering 134 losses. It finished 84 games out of first place!

But fate intervened and Cleveland ended with Rhode Island-born Napoleon Lajoie, one of he biggest stars in the game. The Cleveland fans that had abandoned the team in 1899 (the team was forced to play most of their games on the road because no one would come to their home park) flocked back to League Park to see Lajoie.

 

Nap Lajoie

Lajoie, who won the Triple Crown in 1901, has a lifetime batting average of .339, one of the highest all-time. He also amassed more than 3,000 hits. He was so popular the Cleveland team became known as the Naps.

When Nap Lajoie left Cleveland after 1914 the team held a contest to find a new name. They became the Cleveland Indians.

And speaking of batting averages, in 1911 the team had a rookie named Joe Jackson who batted an astounding .408! Even more amazing is that “Shoeless Joe” didn’t win the batting title that year. A feller named Cobb hit .420!

Jackson was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 1915. His career would come to a sudden end in 1920 after it became known that eight Chicago players had conspired to lose the 1919 World Series.

His career ended when he was 32 – but his .356 batting average in third all-time, behind Ty Cobb (.366) and Rogers Hornsby (.358).

The year after trading “Shoeless Joe” the Indians made another trade, bringing the “Gray Eagle,” Tris Speaker to Cleveland. Speaker played for Cleveland from 1916 to 1926, batting over .350 six times during that span. Like Lajoie, Speaker would pass the sacred 3,000-hit mark.

Other Cleveland batting stars through the years include Earl Averill, Elmer Flick, Lou Boudreau, slugger Jim Thome (612 homers), Manny Ramirez (555 homers), Al Rosen and Larry Doby; the American League’s first black player.

Joining Speaker on the 1916 squad was right-hander Stan Covelski, who would win 17 or more games from 1917 to 1922. He won 215 games in his career.

The Indians had other great pitchers over the years, including Hall of Famer Addie Joss, fireballer Herb Score, Bob Lemon, “Sudden Sam” McDowell, Mel Harder, 300-game winner Early Wynn and 2017 Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber.

But perhaps the greatest pitcher in Cleveland Indians’ history was Bob Feller. The flame-throwing righty would win 266 games while piling up strikeouts faster than anyone since Walter Johnson. He joined the team in 1936 as a 17-year-old phenom. Feller lost four years serving in World War II or his career stats would likely put him in the discussion for the greatest pitcher of all-time.

During his prime, however, Feller lost three seasons of his career because he was fighting in World War II.

He won 19 games in 1948 to help the Indians win the World Series. They have yet to win another. That 1948 team also featured a pair of 20 game winners, Lemon and Gene Bearden, and a 41-year-old rookie named Satchel Paige, who would go 6-1 that year.

Another Hall of Famer associated with Cleveland is the legemdary Frank Robinson. Though Robinson – the only player to win MVP in both leagues – whacked 586 homers during his career, only managed to hit 12 for the Indians. But in 1975 he became baseball’s first black manager.

In 1981 Robinson would manage the San Francisco Giants, becoming the first black manager in the National League.

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