Indians by the Numbers — #1

The Number One Number One.  



Bobby Avila was the first Mexican to enjoy success in the Major Leagues. Avila was a ten-year mainstay on one of the most dominant Indians runs in history. In 1952, he led the AL in triples. In 1954, Avila won the batting title with a .341 batting average, despite playing half of the season with a broken thumb. In all, Avila doesn’t crack the top ten in most team career categories, but the three-time All-Star remains an indelible memory of the great teams of the 40s and 50s.

A contemporary of other Indians greats like Bob Feller, Earl Averill, Bob Lemon, Larry Doby, and Al Rosen, Avila played with some of the best Cleveland has ever seen.

Avila would later enjoy success as the President of the Mexican League.

A Brief History

Jackie "Rabbit" Tavener became the first player to don #1 for the Cleveland Indians in 1929. Born in Celina, Ohio, Tavener was a former Detroit Tiger who finished his brief major league career in his only season with the Tribe. An OPS+ of 51 tends to lead to retirement.

Just as Tavener was winding down his career, Dick "Twitches" Porter began his. Porter was a good-average outfielder who also saw time at second base. Porter took uniform #3 in ’29, then switched to #1 a year later, in which he batted .350 and OPS-ed a hearty .918. Porter then wore #2 until his departure for the Boston Red Sox in 1934. By 1935, Porter was out of professional baseball.

Lyn Lary led the league (whew.) in 1937 with 741 plate appearances while wearing #1 for Cleveland.

Roy Cullenbine hit a combined .284/.395/.423 with #1 on his back from 1943-1945.

Billy Martin (yes, that one) donned his ubiquitous eins for one season with the Tribe before having that number retired after several managerial stints with the New York Yankees.

Jose Cardenal wore #1 after a six year hiatus for the number.

Tommy Hinzo claimed #1, not once, but twice as an Indian. First in 1987, and again in 1989 after spending 1988 in Colorado Springs with a sweet.598 OPS. Tommy’s awesome -68 OPS+ (21 PA) in ’89 sealed his fate as a major leaguer. 

Tony Fernandez provided post-season thrills in 1995 at the age of 35 with a #1 on his back and a Chief Wahoo on his cap. Tony batted .357 in the ALCS, and provided the series-winning home run in the 11th inning of Game 6.

Number One with a Beard.

Longtime LGT poster boy Casey Blake grabbed the mantle of uniform #1 in 2003, and with the undying love and devotion of manager Eric Wedge, held down the hot corner until his trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008.

The barbigerous Blake brought grit back to the Tribe by posting a .266/.337/.451 line over six seasons. Not bad for a career minor leaguer.

The One Year One-ders

Jackie Tavener, Del Unser, Mark Lewis, Tony Fernandez, Glenallen Hill, Sam Horn, Ken Berry, Billy Martin, Dick Porter, Jimmie Wasdel, Johnny Temple, and Jerry Kindall all wore uniform #1 for only one season.  

The All-Time List

Jackie Tavener (1929)

Dick Porter (1930)

Johnny Burnett (1931-1934)

Lyn Lary (1937-1938)

Milt Galatzer (1935-1936)

Oscar Grimes (1939-1942)

Roy Cullenbine (1943-1945)

Don Ross (1945-1946)

Jimmie Wasdell (1947)

Bobby Avila (1949-1958)

Billy Martin (1959)

Mike De La Hoz (1960-1961)

Johnny Temple (1960)

Jerry Kindall (1962)

Jose Cardenal (1968-1969)

Del Unser (1972)

Ken Berry (1975)

Johnny Grubb (1977-1978)

Tommy Hinzo (1987, 1989)

Glenallen Hill (1992)

Sam Horn (1993)

Tony Fernandez (1997)

Wil Cordero (1999-2000)

Mark Lewis (2001)

Casey Blake (2003-2008)

Luis Valbuena (2009-current)

Lest you think I’ve forgotten the exploits of past Indians who have chosen to wear either 0 or 00, I haven’t. It was just too difficult to choose between the amazing collective accomplishments of Paul DadeRick White, and Junior Ortiz for a standalone piece. Dade posted OPS percentages of .689, .660, and .697 before he departed for the sunny skies of San Diego and uniform number 21. Dade also briefly wore 31 for the Tribe. Dade is by default the best player in Indians history to have worn the goose eggs.

Up Next: Like many Germans, we’ll be taking a closer look at Number Two.

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