Loren Dale Mitchell
Left Fielder, 1946-1956
Height: 6'1" Weight: 195 lbs
Throws: Left Bats: Left
How Acquired: Amateur Free Agent, 1946
Left Via: Sold, July 59, 1956: to the Brooklyn Dodgers
Dale Mitchell was born in Colony, Oklahoma, a rural town about ninety minutes due west of Oklahoma City. As of the 2000 census, the population was a mere 147 people, so when Mitchell was born it was most likely even smaller than that. He went to Cloud Chief High School, which was about 20 miles away. Not much information is available regarding his career there as the public schools closed in 1960 and the town is now listed as a ghost town.
After high school, Mitchell enrolled at the University of Oklahoma, and played for the Sooners from 1942 to 1946, setting career batting average record of .467 and a senior season batting average of .507. Both are still Sooner records. Prior to signing with the Tribe in 1946, he also delivered gas bills for the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company.
As Cleveland's AA team was located in Oklahoma City, signing Mitchell was a natural fit. He played 108 games for those Indians, batting .337 with very little power, but a decent .451 slugging in 415 at-bats as a 24 year old. He received a cup of coffee that September as well, scorching the hide at a 432/444/500 172 OPS+ clip in 45 plate appearances and a mere 2 strikeouts.
Mitchell skipped AAA in 1947, making the roster and starting 111 games in the outfield that year, continuing his prowess as a line drive slapper, 316/347/396 109 OPS+ and finishing 26th in MVP voting as a rookie. He was the starting left fielder and leadoff hitter on the 1948 World Series champs. He hit 336/383/431 119 OPS+ and only struck out 17 times in 656 plate appearances. He did lead the league in caught stealing that year. He didn't hit all that well in the Series, but did hit a home run, which was a bit of a rarity for him.
In 1949, Mitchell probably had his best season, hitting 317/360/428, 110 OPS+, leading the league in at bats (640), hits (203) and triples (23). He only had 11 strikeouts that season. The 23 triples was the largest amount in almost 20 years, and which was only recently equaled by Curtis Granderson in 2007. He made his first All-Star game and again finished in 26th in MVP voting.
The triples dried up in 1950, but Mitchell was still very productive, 308/390/399 106 OPS+ and he set a career record in strikeouts with a whopping 21. In 1951, he showed his first burst of power, cranking 11 home runs, but this also affected his average. He dropped below .300 for the first time that year, finishing at 290/358/424 116 OPS+. This resulted in a 28th finish in MVP voting.
His average recovered in 1952, but again, barely any triples or homers, resulting in a 323/387/415 130 OPS+ line. He made his second and final All-Star appearance and reached 20th in MVP voting. In 1953, he enjoyed another solid season, 300/354/446 118 OPS+ and had his career high of 13 home runs.
Although Mitchell was still hitting fairly well, his defense was slipping even worse than it had always been. He had a career worse -0.8 dWAR in 1953. So just before spring training in 1954, Hank Greenberg acquired Dave Philley from the Philadelphia Athletics for Bill Upton and Lee Wheat. Philley was basically a carbon copy of Mitchell with the bat, a slap hitter with little power, and had finished 19th in MVP voting in 1953. Al Smith took over for Mitchell in left, while Philley landed in right.
In 1954, Mitchell only wore a glove seven times, but became pinch hitting extraordinaire for the 111 win monster club, appearing as one, 49 times. He hit fairly well too, 283/377/350 99 OPS+ in 69 plate appearances and striking out only once. He made another 54 pinch hitting appearances in 1955, but was a bit less successful, 259/302/328 67 OPS+. And although he made 38 more pinch hitting appearances in 1956, he was basically through, 133/297/133 17 OPS+. The Brooklyn Dodgers were in the midst of a pennant run and purchased him on July 29.
He would go on to appear as a pinch hitter four times in the 1956 Series for the Dodgers. He famously made the final out in Don Larsen's perfect game. He was called out on strikes, but always maintained that the pitch was a ball. Based on his track record of only 119 strikeouts in 4538 plate appearances, I'd have to agree with him. He retired from baseball following that 1956 World Series.
Over his 11 year career, Mitchell finished with a .312 batting average. From 1946 to 1960, only Ted Williams and Stan Musial had higher averages. He is tied for seventh all-time strikeout ratio, at 34-1. Based on his longevity, he found his way onto quite a few of the Top 50 lists noted below. He retired to Tulsa Oklahoma and the University of Oklahoma named their ballpark for him in 1982. He passed away at the age of 65 in 1987.
Wikipedia, Baseball Reference
Indians Career Stats
|CLE (11 yrs)||1108||4334||3960||552||1237||168||61||41||402||45||47||346||116||.312||.368||.417||.785||114||1650||63||5||21||1||3|
- AL All-Star: 1949, 1952
- AL MVP: 1947-26th, 1949-26th, 1951-28th, 1952-20th
- AL Average: 2nd, 1952-.323; 3rd, 1948-.336; 4th, 1949-.317; 6th, 1947-.316
- AL On Base Percentage: 7th, 1952-.387
- AL Hits: 1st, 1949-203; 2nd, 1948-204; 7th, 1952-165
- AL TB: 4th, 1949-274
- AL 2B: 10th, 1952-26
- AL 3B: 1st, 1949-23; 4th, 1947-10; 7th, 1951-7
- AL Stolen Bases: 4th, 1948-13; 5th, 1949-10
- AL Singles: 1st, 1948-162; 1st, 1949-161; 4th, 1952-131; 5th, 1947-129
- AL RC: 8th, 1949-99
- AL Caught Stealing: 1st, 1948-18; 4th, 1950-7; 5th, 1951-7
- AL Putouts as LF: 2nd, 1948-308; 2nd, 1952-254; 3rd, 1949-333; 4th, 1951-244; 4th, 1953-226; 5th, 1950-228
- AL Assists as LF: 1st, 1948-10; 2nd, 1949-10; 5th, 1947-5
- AL Double Plays Turned as LF: 2nd, 1948-3; 3rd, 1949-2; 5th, 1950-1; 5th, 1953-1
- AL Range Factor/Game LF: 3rd, 1948-2.27; 3rd, 1949-2.30; 5th, 1952-2.00; 5th, 1953-1.82
Cleveland Indians Career Leader
- t-31st WAR Position Players (17.9)
- 36th oWAR (16.3)
- 15th Average (.312)
- 35th On Base Percentage (.368)
- 49th OPS (.785)
- 22nd Games Played (1108)
- 24th At Bats (3960)
- 27th Plate Appearances (4334)
- 26th Runs Scored (552)
- 15th Hits (1237)
- 25th Total Bases (1650)
- t-36th Doubles (168)
- 17th Triples (61)
- 39th Runs Batted In (402)
- 37th Bases On Balls (346)
- 12th Singles (967)
- t-42nd OPS (114)
- 21st Runs Created (598)
- t-39th Extra Base Hits (270)
- 33rd Double Plays Grounded Into (63)
- 18th Caught Stealing (47)
- 3rd AB/Strikeout (34.1)
- T-25th WPA (6.3)
Cleveland Indians Season Leader
- t-47th Average (.336, 1948)
- t-12th At Bats (640, 1949)
- t-48th At Bats (608, 1948)
- t-21st Hits (204, 1948)
- 24th Hits (203, 1949)
- 2nd Triples (23, 1949)
- t-4th Singles (162, 1948)
- 6th Singles (161, 1949)
- t-7th Caught Stealing (18, 1948)