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All-Time Indians-Reds Team

As much as I despise inter-league play, here it comes.  I know I am not the only recovering Reds fan here, so I self-indulgently put together an all-time team of players who plied their trades at both ends of the Buckeye State.

Please feel free to criticize or remind me of obvious choices I left out.  This mostly comes from memory and unsystematic searching.

My ideal here was to find players who did reasonably well for both teams.  This is not always possible at each position.  In difficult cases, I went with the overall best player.

In any case, a stroll down memory lane.

 

C - Bo Diaz

Represented both teams in the All-Star Game, making for an easy choice over The Immortal Joe Azcue, who barely played at the major league level for the Reds.

1B - Joe Adcock

I invoked the "best player" rule in a confusing three-way race.  Adcock was a promising young player with the Reds, a medicocre older player and failed manager with the Tribe.  Gordy Coleman and Fred Whitfield were both solid starters for their teams in the 1960s.  But Coleman was a minor leaguer when traded from the Indians and Whitfield essentially a LH pinch-hitter in two seasons with the Reds.

2B - Johnny Temple

The fiery leadoff man played the bulk of his career in Cincinnati, but also was an All-Star with the Indians.  Alfred Manuel Martin put in a season with each team. (Active players were ruled ineligible for this position.)

SS - Leo Cardenas

Choice over Frank Duffy via the "best player" rule.  Cardenas was a perennial All-Star in Cincinnati, but pretty much washed up by the time he arrived in Cleveland in 1973.  Duffy was the regular SS for the Indians for five years, but nowhere near the player Cardenas was.  Duffy played very little for the Reds, coming up as he did alongside Dave Concepcion.  His true value to the Reds was that he was traded for George Foster.

3B - Buddy Bell

The easiest choice of all.  Played many more seasons in Cleveland, but was still productive in his later years in Cincinnati.  And he practically grew up in the Reds clubhouse.  Best I can come up with as a backup here is Jeff Branson.  That's a long way down from Buddy Bell, one of the most under-appreciated players in history.

OF - Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Alex Johnson

All three were better with the Reds, the first two spectacularly so.  (All three also played for the Angels, oddly.)  But Frank's historic value as an Indian carries a bit of weight.  He didn't  play much OF in Cleveland, but it makes little sense to have a DH on this team.  If I did that, it would open up an outfield spot for Tommy Harper, but his good years were in Seattle/Milwaukee anyway.

Pinson was one of the most exciting young players in the game when he came up, but still a solid veteran in his two years with the Tribe.  

Where to begin with Alex Johnson?  He was a hitting machine, but had his head up his butt in the field and on the bases, and was a sulking presence in the clubhouse to boot.  Shortly after he got to Cleveland, he stopped hitting, too, which didn't leave a lot to like.  The Indians were the first team to tire of his act after a single season, instead of the usual two.  So maybe Harper should be the choice, but this gives me an opportunity to recommend Alex's SABR biography.  It's a tremendous read.  

(As many of you know, Alex's brother, Ron, played a year for the Browns before being dealt to the Giants for Homer Jones, who was acquired to replace Paul Warfield.  Ron had a solid career thereafter, while Mike Phipps and Homer Jones led the Browns to numerous Super Bowls in the 1970s.)

Ted Uhlaender played a little OF for both teams, as if we care.  And Wally Post, who once hit 40 home runs for the Reds, was 0-for-8 in his brief Cleveland career.

LHP - Greg Swindell

RHP - Dave Burba

Dayton native Burba put in 6+ consecutive solid seasons with the two teams.  Following 5+ seasons with the Tribe, Swindell spent only one year with the Reds, but he pitched well there.  

The other candidates are way out of balance.  Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuscahoma McLish went directly from 19-9 with the Indians to 4-14 with the Reds.  Jack Armstrong started the 1990 All-Star game, but was on the scrap heap by the end of that season and was never the All-American Boy again.  Milt Wilcox played a few seasons with each team before establishing himself in Detroit.  George Culver pitched sparingly for the Indians, but managed a no-hitter with the Reds.  Ross Grimsley was a key pitcher for the 1972 NL champs, but useless for the Tribe eight years later.  Scott Scudder sucked everywhere.  What might have been: The late-blooming Mike Cuellar was a farmhand for each team.

RP - Ted Abernathy

The submariner gets the nod against tough competition by having at least one excellent season as a more-or-less ace with each team.  Tribe bullpen mainstays Jim Kern and Mike Jackson each pitched a season for the Reds and both did well in limited duty there.  And there was Danny Greaves.

Manager - Birdie Tebbetts

Birdie actually had an overall winning record with each of the three teams he managed (Milwaukee was the other.)  Jimmy Dykes also managed both teams.

General Manager - Gabe Paul

Sorry, but it's by default.  Maybe things would have been different if enough Tribe fans had chanted HIRE BOB HOWSAM.

Play-by-Play - Ken Coleman

I had this vague feeling that the longtime voice of the Indians and Browns spent some time in Cincinnati.  And sure enough, Ken was the TV voice of the Reds from 1975-78.  Think about it, Coleman was a local announcer for four legendary teams: the 111-win Indians of 1954, the Impossible Dream Red Sox of 1967, the Big Red Machine of 1975-76, and the star-crossed Red Sox of 1986.

 

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