The best player to wear #20 for the Cleveland Indians is not the same as the best #20 in Cleveland Indians history. Frank Robinson, the first African American manager in the Major Leagues wore #20 in his brief time in Cleveland. A sure-fire Hall of Famer, Robinson spent his best seasons in places other than Cleveland, accumulating 95.9 WAR in his 10 seasons in Cincinnati and subsequent six with Baltimore. In his time on the field for the Indians, Robinson had only 289 plate appearances and an OPS of .796.
Robinson guided the Indians as a player-manager to a .496 winning percentage. In the competitive American League East of the mid-seventies, his Cleveland teams never finished above 4th.
The best 2-oh in Cleveland history is Ray Narleski. Narleski's 10.1 career WAR ranks him a little above fellow 20-somethings like short right fielder Ronnie Belliard (7.1 WAR) and beloved lady magnet/center fielder Rick Manning (8.3 WAR).
The two-time All Star pitched five seasons in Cleveland before finishing a shortened career with a lone season for the Detroit Tigers. Overshadowed by fellow staff members Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, Mike Garcia and Bob Feller, Narleski debuted for the 1954 American League Champions with 13 saves.
Paired with left-handed relief pitcher Don Mossi, the twenty-six year old Narleski led the American League in saves in 1955 with 19. He made a league-leading 60 appearances that season, finishing thirty-six games. He managed to still pitch 111 innings in a relief role, striking out 94 and walking 55.
1956 saw Narleski post an unreal 279 ERA+ in 59.1 innings of work. He posted his best K/BB ratio of his career, striking out 42 and walking 19.
By 1957, Narleski would move into a hybrid role, making 39 starts while appearing in 90 games through the 1958 season. He posted a combined 24-15 record in 337 1/3 innings pitched. He also returned to the All Star game in '58, pitching 3.1 scoreless innings.
Recurring shoulder problems limited Narleski's promise and workload, and ulitimately derailed his career.
The One Year Wonders
Whit Wyatt, Charlie Brewster, Roger Wolff, Lyman Linde, Clarence Maddern, Mickey Harris, Bob Chakales, Al Cicotte, Mike Lee, Russ Heman, Ron Taylor, Dick Donovan, Wally Post, Lou Clinton, Don Demeter, Cap Peterson, Alex Johnson, Gorman Thomas, Willie Upshaw, Oddibe McDowell, Turner Ward, Tony Perezchica, Ruben Amaro, Jeromy Burnitz, Dave Hollins, Bruce Aven, Victor Martinez, Mike Gosling, Anderson Hernandez and Orlando Cabrera all wore uniform #20 for only one season.
The All-Time List
Al Milnar SP, RP (1938-1943) 54-53 176 G 119 GS 4.11 ERA 945 IP 99 ERA+; sold to Browns; All-Star in 1940
Charlie Brewster PH, SS (1946) 4/25-5/29: 000/333/000 2 OPS+ 3 PA
Bob Kuzava SP (1946-1947) 46: 9/21-9/27, 47: 9/3-9/25; 5-7 6 G 6 GS 3.74 ERA 33.2 IP 94 ERA+; traded to White Sox for Frank Papish
Roger Wolff RP (1947) 4/15-6/8: 0-0 7 G 2 GS 16 IP 3.94 ERA 91 ERA+; traded from Senators for George Case; Sold to Pirates
Lyman Linde RP (1948) 5/1-5/9; 0-0 3 G 0 GS 10 IP 5.40 ERA 78 ERA+; Rule 5 draftee from White Sox
Sam Zoldak RP (1948-1950) 6/22-10/3; 14-10 83 G 15 GS 222.1 IP 3.48 ERA 119 ERA+; also #26 and #30 in 1948; traded from Browns to Tribe for Bill Kennedy; traded to Philadelphia A's with Ray Murray and Indians sent Minnie Minoso to White Sox, Tribe received Lou Brissie from A's
Clarence Maddern PH (1951) 167/167/167 -8 OPS+ 12 PA; from Cubs for Max West
Mickey Harris RP (1952) 3-0 29 G 0 GS 46.2 IP 4.63 ERA 73 ERA+; waivers from Senators
Ray Narleski RP (1954-1958) 39-21 111 G, 16 GS 597.2 IP 3.22 ERA 119 ERA+; 6th in MVP in 1955, All Star in 56 & 58; traded with Ossie Alvarez and Don Mossi to Tigers for Al Cicotte and Billy Martin
Al Cicotte RP (1959) 3-1 26 G 1 GS 44 IP 5.32 ERA 70 ERA+; sold to Toronto (International League)
Russ Heman RP (1961) 0-0 6 G 0 GS 10 IP 3.60 114 ERA+; traded from Orioles for Bobby Avila; sold to Angels
Ron Taylor SP, RP (1962) 4/11-5/20; 2-2 8 G, 4 GS 33.1 IP 5.94 ERA 66 ERA+; traded to Cardinals with Jack Kubiszyn for Fred Whitfield; also #22
Dick Donovan SP (1962) 4/10-9/29: 20-10 34 G 34 GS 250.2 IP 3.59 107 ERA+; also #23; All Star, 5th in MVP; traded by Senators with Gene Green and Jim Mahoney for Jim Piersall
Wally Post PH, RF (1964) 4/14-5/9: 000/273/000 -16 OPS+ 11 PA 5 G
Paul Dicken PH (1964, 1966) 6/7-10/4: 000/000/000 -100 OPS+ 13 PA 13 G
Lou Clinton LF (1965) 176/243/294 52 OPS+ 37 PA 12 G; off waivers from Angels; traded to Yankees for Doc Edwards
Don Demeter LF (1967) 207/256/364 80 OPS+130 PA; traded with Tony Horton from Red Sox for Gary Bell
Jimmie Hall PH, LF (1968-1969) 69: 4/8-4/13: 182/256/240 51 OPS+ 133 PA; traded by Angels for Vic Davalillo; sold to Yankees
Cap Peterson PH, LF (1969) 4/15-EOS; 227/365/282 81 OPS+ 137 PA; traded by Senators for George Woodson
Alex Johnson LF (1972) 239/283/340 82 OPS+ 384 PA; traded by Angels with Jerry Moses for Frank Baker, Alan foster and Vada Pinson; traded to Rangers for Vince Colbert and Rich Hinton
George Hendrick CF (1973-1974) 274/315/448 115 OPS+ 1007 PA; All Star in 1974; traded with Dave Duncan from A's for Ray Fosse and Jack Heidemann; traded to Padres for Johnny Grubb, Fred Kendall and Hector Torres
Frank Robinson DH, PH (1975-1976) 232/366/454 136 OPS+ 228 PA; player manager both seasons - 160-158 record. Fired in 1977. Acquired from Angels for Ken Suarez and Rusty Torres
Horace Speed RF, PR, CF, LF (1978-1979) 217/326/257 69 OPS+ 143 PA
Rick Manning CF(1981-1983) also #28 in 1981, most likely switched in Sept when Fischlin joined team; 272/330/345 70 OPS+ 828 PA traded with Rick Waits for Ernie Camacho, Jamie Easterly and Gorman Thomas
Gorman Thomas CF (1983) 221/322/404 96 OPS+ 437 PA; traded with Jack Perconte to Mariners for Tony Bernazard
Otis Nixon LF, PR, CF (1984-1987) 214/276/266 50 OPS+ 407 PA; traded with George Frazier and Guy Elston (PTBNL) from Yankees for Toby Harrah and Rick Browne (PTBNL)
Willie Upshaw 1B (1988) 245/330/269 95 OPS+ 564 PA
Dion James CF, 1B, PH, CF (1989-1990) 290/357/381 108 OPS+ 551 PA
Turner Ward RF (1991) 230/300/300 67 OPS+ 114 PA; traded with Tom Candiotti to Blue Jays for Denis Boucher, Glenallen Hill and Mark Whiten
Tony Perezchica 3B, 2B, SS (1992) 100/182/150 -5 OPS+ 24 PA
Mark Lewis SS, 3B (1993-1994) 224/236/328 47 OPS+ 129 PA; traded to Reds for Tim Costo
Ruben Amaro CF (1995) 200/273/300 49 OPS+ 68 PA; traded by Phillies for Heathcliff Slocumb
Jeromy Burnitz RF, DH, LF (1996) 281/406/523 135 OPS+ 155 PA; traded to Brewers for Kevin Seitzer
Kevin Seitzer DH, 1B, 3B (1996-1997) 302/373/420 104 OPS+ 318 PA
Steve Karsay RP (1998-2001) 15-14 164 G 4 GS 3.23 ERA 151 ERA+ 223 IP22 SV; traded by A's for Mike Fetters; traded with Steve Reed to Braves for John Rocker and Troy Cameron
Dave Hollins DH (2001) 200/333/200 46 OPS+ 7 PA
Bruce Aven LF (2002) 5/15-5/27118/286/118 15 OPS+ 21 PA; traded to Phillies for Jeff D'Amico
Karim Garcia RF, CF (2002-2003) 265/290/514 111 OPS+ 306 PA
Victor Martinez C (2003) 289/345/333 84 OPS+ 174 PA
Ronnie Belliard 2B/RF (2004-2006) 285/337/433 104 OPS+ 1629 PA; All Star in 2004; traded to Cardinals for Hector Luna
David Dellucci LF, DH (2007-2009) 238/305/394 85 OPS+ 619 PA
Mike Gosling RP (2009) 0-0 15 G 0 GS 5.04 ERA 85 ERA+ 25 IP
Anderson Hernandez SS (2010) 246/270/295 59 OPS+ 63 PA
Orlando Cabrera 2B (2011) 244/277/321 67 OPS+ 344 PA; traded to Giants for Thomas Neal
1. What kind of relationship does Mike Gosling have with his brother, Ryan?
2. Did Bruce Aven's immortality create clubhouse issues and inadvertantly cut short a Hall of Fame career?
3. Where did Lyman Linde go to high school? And why?
4. How many of the Cleveland Indians to wear #20 also appeared as DC comics characters?
5. How many fans were accidentally maimed by George Hendrick's mustache?
6. How many fans were accidentally killed by Gorman Thomas's mustache?
7. How did Horace Speed fool the Topps company into actually featuring him on a 1979 baseball card?
8. How awesome was Mark Lewis going to be?
9. Was Charlie Brewster the inspiration for the film Brewster's Millions?
10. Did Bob Chakales switching from #20 in 1953 to #23 in 1954 have anything to do with him going from 0-2 to 2-0?
11. Who the heck was runnning the Orioles when they dealt Vic Wertz for The Golden Greek (Chakales) in 1954?
12. What was Anderson Hernandez's nickname? Seriously. I can't remember.
13. Who thought Oddibe McDowell was a good idea?
14. Why was Wally Post never an All Star? (Not for Cleveland, obviously.)
15. Who feels sorry for Paul Dicken?
16. How much worse than replacement level was Karim Garcia for his career?
17. Did Sam Zoldak ever solve that crime?
18. Why was Ronnie Belliard an extra in Battlefield Earth?
19. Did Bob Kuzava really form a secret association with Sam Zoldak, Bob Chakales, and Mike Lee called The Cleveland Indians Who Wore #20 And Had Interesting Names Club?
20. Will this be the last time you do this stupid Twenty Questions thing?
Statistics and such
Other fun facts, the uniform #20 has been worn 81 times by 48 different players covering 68 seasons of a possible 83 seasons since 1929. Uniform #20 was shared in a season thirteen times, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1962, 1964, 1969, 1983, 1989, 1996, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2009.
Okay, who really was the best #20 in Cleveland Indians history?
You're right, it was Narleski, even though he was a relief pitcher. (5 votes)
It was Frank Robinson, whose 153 OPS+ in 1975 looks even more impressive in those all-red uniforms. (4 votes)
Ronnie Belliard can play shallow right field in my heart anytime. (6 votes)
You can't spell Manning without MAN ...or Ning. (3 votes)
How soon you forget the Karim Garcia glory days! (0 votes)
Karsay you, Karsay me ... say it for always .. that's the way it should be. (2 votes)
20 total votes