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Baseball Greats I Forgot Were Cleveland Indians

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A look at some of the greatest Indians in baseball history, just not the ones you actually remember as Indians.

If Morris had won a World Series Game 7 for the Indians, he'd have my HOF vote.
If Morris had won a World Series Game 7 for the Indians, he'd have my HOF vote.
Topps Stadium Club

We’re in the midst of counting down the greatest players in Tribe history. All of them were accomplished members of the team, and if you’re old enough, you almost certainly remember their time with the Indians. Of course, there have been hundreds of players in franchise history (1,760, per Baseball-Reference’s Play Index, from Fred Abbott to George Zuverint), and most of them were not particularly memorable. Today I want to take a look at a segment of those less remembered Indians, the ones I do remember, just not with Cleveland. Because each of us remembers a slightly different set of players, depending on our age, attention span, etc., there may be guys on this list you remember. Or there may have been even better players that YOU don’t remember (I’ll list a few candidates at the end).

Anyway, here’s my list of the greatest players since I became a fan (1986), whom I have no recollection of seeing on the Indians:

10) Cecil Fielder – In 1990 Fielder became the first player to hit 50+ home runs in a season since George Foster in 1977. He hit 51 that year and 44 the next. He led the league in both home runs and RBI in both of those seasons and finished 2nd in the MVP voting each year too. He finished his career with 319 home runs and 1008 RBI. In August of 1998 he signed with the Indians, going 5 for 35 over 14 games, failing to drive in a single run. Not much of a surprise that I wouldn’t remember him.

09) Jesse Orosco – In his career, Orosco appeared in 1,252 as a pitcher, the most of anyone in history. He saved 144 games, mostly with the Mets in the 1980s, before becoming a lefty-handed specialist in the 90s. He was a two-time All-Star, finished 3rd in the 1983 NL Cy Young balloting, and also saved Game 7 of the 1986 World Series. He spent 1989 to 1991 with the Indians, throwing 188.1 innings, with an ERA+ of 130. He was solid for three years, but I was too young to know much about the Indians’ bullpen.

08) Kevin Mitchell – Mitchell is best known for his fantastic 1989 season, when he led helped lead the Giants to the pennant while leading the league with 47 home runs and 125 RBI and winning the NL MVP in a landslide. Mitchell played in two All-Star Games and ended his career with 1173 hits, 491 of them for extra bases, with an OPS+ of 142. In 1997 Mitchell began the season with the Indians, but after batting just .153 in 20 games, he was released, which is why I don’t remember him.

07) Brady Anderson – Anderson played most of his career with the Orioles and put together career totals of 1661 hits, 210 home runs, and 315 stolen bases. He was a three-time All-Star and shocked baseball by hitting 50 home runs in 1996 (after never having hit more than 21 in a season before then), still a Baltimore record. In 2002 He signed with the Indians, but batted just .163 in 34 games. His play in Cleveland doesn’t merit remembrance, though I’m surprised I don’t recall his signing.

06) Harold Baines – Baines spent his best years with the White Sox and bounced around the AL for 22 seasons, compiling 384 home runs and 1628 RBI (which ranked 41st and 21st, respectively, at the time of his retirement). In August of 1999 he was traded to the Indians and put up an OPS of just 684 in 28 games. But I’m surprised I don’t remember him, because he hit a home run against Boston in Game 2 of the ALDS that October, making him the only player on this list to play for Cleveland in the playoffs.

5) Lance Parrish – Parrish was an eight-time All-Star who won six Silver Sluggers and three Gold Gloves, mostly with the Tigers. His home run provided what proved to be the game-winning run in Detroit’s World Series clinching Game 5 victory in 1984.He retired with 324 home runs and 1070 RBI, totals that rank 5th and 10th among catchers in baseball history. In 1993 he signed with the Indians, but was released just three weeks later, after collecting 4 hits in 10 games.

04) Jack Morris – Morris is most famous either for pitching ten shutout innings in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, or for having the most debated Hall of Fame case in history. Morris won 254 games, was a five-time All-Star, and finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting five times as well. In 1994 Morris finished his career by throwing 141.1 innings with the Tribe. I’m a bit surprised not to remember that, but I was away at camp much of that summer and then the strike ended the season early.

03) Mark Langston – Langston was a four-time All-Star who led the AL in strikeouts three times and K/9 four times. In 1993 he finished 3rd in innings, 2nd in strikeouts, had an ERA+ of 140 and a bWAR of 8.2, but didn’t manage a single point in the Cy Young balloting. He also received zero Hall of Fame votes in his only year on the ballot. I’m not saying he merits Cooperstown, but the man is underrated. In 1999 he quietly ended his career by throwing 61.2 innings for the Indians, mostly as a reliever.

02) Keith Hernandez – Arguably the greatest defensive first baseman in history, Hernandez won eleven consecutive Gold Gloves between 1978 and 1988. He also won the 1979 NL MVP with the Cardinals and finished 2nd in the 1984 voting and 4th in 1986 while with the Mets. He retired with 2182 hits, 426 doubles, 1124 runs, and 1071 RBI. He is featured in one of the greatest "Seinfeld" episodes ever. In 1990 he played in 43 games with the Tribe, but with an OPS of just .521, ending his career.

01) Steve Carlton – Carlton was a ten-time All-Star and won four Cy Young Awards. He won 20+ games six times, finishing his career with 329 (11th in history). He led the league in strikeouts five times and finished with 4136 (4th in history). His 1972 is one of the greatest seasons ever (41 starts, 30 CG, led the league with 346.1 innings, 310 Ks, and a 1.97 ERA. 27 wins for the Phillies, who won just 59 total). In 1987 he threw 109 innings for the Tribe. I remember him as a legend when I was first a fan, but the baseball cards I had for him with tiny print to fit all his stats, were with the White Sox and Twins.

If you’re old enough to have been around you may or may not recall the brief time Bobby Bonds, Tommy John, Ralph Kiner, Roger Maris, Hal Newhouser, Sam Rice, or Frank Robinson spent with the team (Robinson is well remembered as having been the first African-American manger in Major League Baseball, while with the Indians, but it is less remembered that he played for them as well). If you’re a more recent fan, you may not remember the brief time Tony Fernandez, Brian Giles, Dwight Gooden, Juan Gonzalez, Jeff Kent, Eddie Murray, Matt Williams, and Dave Winfield each spent with the team.

Memorable players, all of them, just maybe not for their time in Cleveland.