First with a curse.
Rocco Domenico Colavito.
The name sends shivers down the spine of any reasonable Indians fan.
From his rookie season in 1955 through 1957, Colavito wore #38 for Cleveland. A switch to six the following year coincided with Colavito’s emergence as an bonafide MVP candidate and premier slugger.
That season, Colavito blasted American League pitching to a tune of .303/.405/.620 in 1958 and followed up with a league leading 42-homer season in 1959.
As history would constantly remind us, Colavito would be dealt that offseason to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn, and Cleveland baseball would never be the same.
The highly competitive Tribe would descend into a three decade morass of sub-.500 baseball, highlighted only by Len Barker’s perfect game, the sight of Boog Powell in an all-red uniform, and Ten Cent Beer Night.
Colavito returned to the Indians in 1965 from the Kansas City A’s. However, the Indians traded pitcher Tommy John, who would win another 286 games mostly for the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, and play on four World Series teams — and Tommie Agee, 1966 American League Rookie of the Year. Agee would later play on the World Champion 1969 New York Mets.
Since the trade, the Indians have met misfortune time and time again, both on and off the field and in the postseason.
A Brief History.
Native-born son Joseph Franklin Vosmik held down #6 for six seasons. Vosmik led the league in hits in 1935 with 216, and triples with 20. Vosmik finished 3rd in MVP voting, drawing 59 walks to only 30 strikeouts in 620 at-bats.
Moose Solters became the first Indian wearing #6 to hit 20 home runs in a single season (1937). He is also the last Indian named Moose to hit 20 home runs in any season.
Immortal Minnie Minoso (Saturnino to you hardcore biographers) donned #6 for a single season in his remarkable 11 decade career. The 25-year old’s 6 for 14 performance (and subsequent 1.101 OPS) disappointed Indians brass, so he was shipped to the Chicago White Sox as part of a three team deal.
Indian legends Bob Lemon and Larry Doby both donned #6, although not at the same time — even thought they might have made the best siamese-twin-Thing-With-Two-Heads baseball player in Major League history. Doby wore six in 1953, and responded with a solid 136 OPS+ season. Doby, the first American Leaguer to cross the color line, spent a decade with the Tribe, and earned seven consecutive All Star appearances. His #14 is one of seven retired Cleveland Indians numbers. Lemon wore six out of the bullpen in his first real season with the Tribe, and went 4-5 with a 2.49 ERA, masked by a remarkable 14 unearned runs allowed (40/26) in 94 innings of work. Lemon would go on to win 203 more games in Cleveland, and his #21 has been officially retired as well.
The Magical Escobar Brothers* would both don #6 for the Indians more than a decade apart. Thirty year-old Jose would grab a shot of espresso (smaller than a cup of coffee) with the amazing 1991 Indians. Highly-touted prospect Alex brought his minor league pedigree and his penchance for broken legs to Cleveland in 2003, and racked up a .235/.320/.363 line in 99 plate appearances.
* — May or may not be actual brothers.
Six of one, 21 of another.
Lew Fonseca, Johnny Hodapp, Bob Lemon, Minnie Minoso, Dave Pope, Larry Doby, Eddie Robinson, Billy Harrell, Johnny Gray , Harvey Kuenn, Chuck Tanner, Jack Kubiszyn, Willie Tasby, Doc Edwards, Mark McLemore, Jose Escobar, Ever Magallanes, Jim Thome, Bip Roberts, David Bell and Lou Marson all wore uniform #6 for only one season.
The All-Time List
Lew Fonseca 1B (1929)
Johnny Hodapp 2B (1930)
Joe Vosmik LF (1931-1936)
Moose Solters LF (1937-1939)
Ray Mack 2B (1939-1943)
Paul O’Dea LF, RF (1944-1945)
Bob Lemon RP, CF (1946)
Ken Keltner 3B (1947-1949)
Minnie Minoso 1B (1951)
Dave Pope RF (1952)
Bill Glynn 1B (1952-1954)
Larry Doby CF (1953)
Billy Harrell SS, 3B (1957)
Eddie Robinson 1B (1957)
Johnny Gray RP, SP (1957)
Rocky Colavito RF (1958-1959)
Harvey Kuenn RF (1960)
Chuck Tanner LF (1960)
Jack Kubiszyn IF (1961)
Willie Tasby CF (1962)
Doc Edwards C (1963)
Joe Azcue C (1963-1966, 1968-1969)
Jorge Orta RF (1980-1981)
Andy Allanson C (1986-1989)
Mark McLemore 3B, 2B (1990)
Jose Escobar SS, 2B (1991)
Ever Magallanes SS (1991)
Jim Thome 3B (1991)
Bip Roberts LF (1997)
David Bell 2B (1998)
Jolbert Cabrera IF, OF (1998-2001)
Alex Escobar RF, CF (2003-2004)
Lou Marson C (2011)
Statistics and such.
The the uniform #6 has been worn 63 times by 33 different players covering 53 seasons of a possible 83 seasons since 1929. The #6 was shared in a season eight times, 1939. 1952, 1953, 1957, 1960, 1963, 1991, 1998, with three different players wearing #6 in 1957 and 1991.