How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Three, #3 Licks.
Earl Averill is easily the choice for best Indian who wore #3. He is after all, a Hall of Famer who spent 11 seasons with the Tribe. After being purchased from the San Francisco Seals of the PCL before the 1929 season, he initially wore #5 for his first season with the Tribe. In 1930, he switched to #3 and wore that until June 14, 1939 when he was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Harry Eisenstat and cash.
During his tenure with the Indians, The Earl of Snohomish (WA) appeared in 6 consecutive All-Star games (1933-1938) and received MVP votes during 7 seasons, the highest being third in 1936. He was fourth twice, eighth, fifteenth, seventeenth and nineteenth as well.
Earl’s best season was most likely 1936, where he batted .378, had an OPS of 1.065 (157 OPS+), led the league in 3B with 15, had 28 HR and 126 RBI.
For historical career Indian statistics, Averill is first in RS, 3B, RBI, TB and PA, second in AB, third in H and 2B, fourth in HR and BB, fifth in SLG, sixth in OBP and AVG, and eighth in G. He also has a career 940 OPS (sixth overall for players with 1000+PA) and 136 OPS+ with the Tribe.
Earl is also known for being the batter who broke Dizzy Dean’s toe in the 1937 All-Star Game, basically ended Dean’s career as an elite starter. He hit for the cycle once, and was the sixth player to start his career with a HR in his first at-bat.
Earl was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1975 by the Veteran’s Committee, and the Tribe retired his #3 jersey that year as well.
Earl’s son Earl D Averill was also a major leaguer, who appeared briefly with the Tribe in 1956 and 1958.
A Brief History
After Averill was traded in 1939,Rusty Peters assumed #3 in 1940. He was a backup middle infielder mostly, accumulating 778 PA with a 64 OPS+ over six seasons (his final season in 1946 he wore #12).
Dutch Meyer, wore #3 for a season in 1945, with an OPS+ of 125 in 567 PA as the starting 2B.
Eddie Robinson, the starting 1B in 1947 and the World Champions in 1948 also wore #3.
When the Tribe traded Robinson to the Senators after the 1948 season, one of the players they received along with Early Wynn was Mickey Vernon who also assumed #3. He was the starting C in 1949 and early in 1950, before he was traded back to the Senators for Dick Weik.
After Vernon left, Dale Mitchell pounced on the chance to wear #3 from 1951-1956 (he wore #34 for 3 seasons before that). Mitchell was the starting LF from 1951-1953, with OPS+ of 115, 129, and 117 in those seasons. He also made the All-Star Game in 1952
Woodie Held wore #3 from 1958-1962. He was the starting SS who was a bit of a slugger. He hit 29, 21, 23, and 19 home runs in his full seasons as the starting SS wearing the #3. In 1963 he switched to #12 for some reason. He was also the last guy to wear #3 until it was retired in 1975.
The One Year Wonders
The All-Time List
Dick Porter (1929)
Earl Averill (1930-1939)
Rusty Peters (1940-1944)
Bob Rothel (1945)
Dutch Meyer (1946)
Lyman Linde (1947)
Eddie Robinson (1947-1948)
Mickey Vernon (1949-1950)
Dale Mitchell (1951-1956)
George Strickland (1957)
Woodie Held (1959-1962)
Statistics and such
Other #3 fun facts, the uniform #3 has been worn 35 times by 11 different players covering 34 seasons (all consecutive) of a possible 82 seasons since 1929. Only once was #3 shared in a season, 1947.