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Indians by the Numbers — #4

De4ense.

"If I had been able to catch like Hegan I wouldn't have needed to hit". – Bill Dickey

53topps-080_medium

via www.vintagecardtraders.com

Jim Hegan, a light-hitting catcher known more for his defensive skills and handling of the dominant pitching staffs of his era, donned el cuatro from 1951 through 1957.

A five-time All Star, Hegan led all American League catchers in putouts, assists, double plays, total chances per game, and fielding percentage three times. His career .990 fielding percentage was second only to Buddy Rosar among retired catchers at the time of Hegan’s exit from the game.

As a game-caller, the Indians pitching staff was the best in baseball — leading the league in ERA six times.

Hegan is the Indians’ all-time leader in games played at catcher with 1,491. Hegan caught six 20-game winners and caught three no-hitters. 

After 1957, Hegan was traded to the Detroit Tigers, and ending his playing days in 1960 with the Chicago Cubs at the age of 39.

Hegan later went on to coach future catching greats Thurman Munson and Rick Dempsey, before succumbing to a heart attack at the age of 63 in 1984.  Hegan would also spawn Mike Hegan, beloved voice and master of the obvious for the Indians in one medium or another since 1989.

The only other close #4 in history is Hall of Famer Joe “Flash” Gordon. Gordon donned #4 for the World Champion Tribe of 1948. In a brief 4 seasons with Cleveland, Gordon smacked 100 home runs and OPS-ed .817. He drew 278 walks to only 194 strikeouts. 

A former MVP with the Yankees. Gordon won his 5th and final ring with the Indians in 1948.

Gordon would later return to manage the Tribe from 1958-1960. His winning percentage of .549 ranks 5th among all Cleveland managers.

 

A Brief History.

From Urban Johnny Hodapp to Odell “Bad News” Hale, the Indians fielded a string of good-hitting infielders wearing #4. 

Apart from his sweet nickname, Odell Hale was a pretty good, if forgotten, member of the Indians’ clubs of the thirties. Hall OPS-ed .800 in 4,122 plate appearances for the Tribe from 1931 through 1940.  In 1935, the slow-footed Hale led the American League in the prestigious caught-stealing category with a lucky 13. 

Chalmer William “Bill” Cissel wore #4 as he hit .320 in 1932 and then .230 in 1933.  The significance of this finding is still being explored and debated by baseball illuminaries to this day.

Joseph Michael Morgan wore #4 for the Tribe from 1960 through 1961, and proved to be so ineffective in his limited role, that a pair of writers from the hit sitcom My Three Sons donned strange psuedonyms and penned a weekly Fire Joe Morgan! column in the Cleveland Press. Morgan was soon dismissed before re-appearing as a St. Louis Cardinal in 1964.

A rookie named Tommie Agee put #4 on his back in 1962. Unfortunately, he failed to put a bat in his hands, putting together a robust OPS+ of 18 in 14 at-bats. The future All-Star would bat .170 in his early years at Municipal Stadium before coming of age for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. Agee hit only 1 of his career 130 home runs as an Indian.

Tony Bernazard would be the only Indian of mention since Jim Hegan last wore #4 in 1957. Bernazard launched 17 homers and swiped 17 bases in 1986 for an Indians team on the uprising.*

Let’s Go Tribe punching bag and favorite 12th outfielder Trevor Crowe was the last Indian to wear #4. On the shelf with an broken heart, Crowe’s future chances at wearing #4 again and delighting his multitudes of fans may be fading away.

* - Sports Illustrated told me so! 

One x Four

Joe Sewell, Lew Fonseca, Jim Devlin, Norm Schlueter, Jeff Heath , Jack Conway,  Jay (J.W.) Porter, Tommie Agee, Leo Cardenas, Remy Hermoso, Bill Sudakis, Brian Dorsett, Domingo Ramos, Houston Jimenez, David Bell, Mark Carreon, Tony Graffanino, Niuman Romero and Trevor Crowe all wore uniform #4 for only one season.  

The All-Time List

Joe Sewell 3B (1929)

Lew Fonseca 1B (1930)

Johnny Hodapp 2B  (1931-1932)

Bill Cissell 2B (1932-1933)

Bill Knickerbocker SS (1934-1936)

Odell Hale 3B, 2B (1937-1940)

Gene Desautels C  (1941-1943)

Jim Devlin C (1944)

Norm Schlueter C (1944)

Jeff Heath LF (1945)

Jack Conway 2B (1946)

Joe Gordon 2B (1947-1950)

Jim Hegan C (1951-1957)

Jay (J.W.) Porter C (1958)

George Strickland 3B, SS (1959-1960)

Joe Morgan 3B, OF (1960-1961) {not that Joe Morgan!}

Bob Nieman LF, RF (1961-1962)

Tommie Agee OF (1962)

Leo Cardenas SS (1973)

Remy Hermoso 2B (1974)

Bill Sudakis 1B. C (1975)

Rick Cerone C (1975-1976)

Tony Bernazard 2B (1984-1987)

Brian Dorsett C (1987)

Domingo Ramos IF (1988)

Houston Jimenez 2B (1988)

Joel Skinner C (1990-1991)

David Bell 3B (1995)

Mark Carreon 1B (1996)

Tony Graffanino 2B, 3B (2009)

Niuman Romero SS (2009)

Trevor Crowe CF, LF (2010)

Odds'n'Ends

The uniform #4 has been worn 58 times by 32 different players covering 49 seasons of a possible 82 seasons since 1929. The #4 was shared in a season nine times: 1932. 1944, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1975, 1987, 1988, 2009.

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