Eight Sans Debate
Sometimes, you have to let the numbers do all of the talking:
50 Home Runs.
Five-time All Star.
Five silver slugger awards
Three-time top 5 MVP finishes.
One deteriorating hip.
When it comes to uniform number eight, no Indian comes close to Albert "Don’t Call Me Joey" Belle.
An awesome force, Belle led the American League in RBI three times, and led the majors in home runs and extra base hits in his signature 1995 season. That season, Belle became the first and only player in Major League History to hit 50 doubles and 50 home runs in the same season.
Belle’s .580 slugging percentage is second in team history. Only contemporary Manny Ramirez’s percentage was higher. His career OPS is fifth-best in team history. He’s also second in team home runs with 242 and sixth all-time with an OPS+ of 150.
Not a darling of the media, Belle’s remarkable surliness and tempestuous nature cost him an MVP award in 1995, as the clearly better and more dominant Belle finished second in the voting to Mo Vaughn.
Backstops donned #8 more often than any other position player for the Indians over the years. From initial Ocho Luke Sewell in 1929 to Chris Gimenez in 2010, a dirty dozen of Tribe catchers have worn #8 on their backs. If I had more grant money and less children, I would compile the complete aggregated statistics of all Indians catchers whom have worn the sacred #8. Maybe someone will do that in the comments.
No Indian to wear #8 was crazier that Albert Jojuan Belle. But, several other memorable players wore #8.
Luke Sewell — Alabama-born Sewell split time with backstop Glenn Myatt until he took over full catching duties for the Tribe in 1926. Sewell was known more as a defensive whiz than a batting champ, but he hit .294 in his breakout year with 27 doubles and 52 runs. Sewell once asked that Babe Ruth’s bat be checked after Ruth uncorked two home runs off pitcher Garland Buckeye.
Ken Keltner — Wisconsinite Keltner started his career as a minor leaguer with his hometown team, the Milwaukee Brewers. A quick ascent to the majors, Keltner made the big-league club in 1938. Keltner was a perennial all-star and had a career year in 1948 with 31 home runs and a .522 slugging percentage. Keltner’s defensive wizardry helped stop Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak in 1941. In 1938, the rookie Keltner helped make history in a different way as he dropped two baseballs from Cleveland’s 708-foot tall Terminal Tower. Catchers Frankie Pytlak and Hank Helf caught the baseballs as part of a publicity stunt that broke a 30 year old record.
Ray Boone — The patriarch of the baseball Boone family, Raymond Otis was born in San Diego in 1923. Boone made his Indians debut on September 3, 1948 and spent six seasons with the Tribe. His baseball DNA yielded more than 151 career home runs — it also brought us Major League son Bob Boone and grandsons Bret and Aaron Boone.
Ray Fosse — The first-ever draft pick by the Cleveland Indians, Fosse was selected in the 1965 amateur draft. The talented but oft-injured backstop played eight! seasons in Cleveland. Fosse is most remembered as being bowled over by Pete Rose in the 1970 All-Star Game. Rose scored the winning run, but separated Fosse’s right shoulder. The injury is mistakenly noted as the source of the once-promising Fosse’s downfall. However, Fosse concluded 1970 with success and a Gold Glove Award.
Alfredo Griffin — Griffin’s time with the Indians was all too brief. Dealt on December 5, 1978 to the Toronto Blue Jays, Griffin was named American League Rookie of the Year in 1979. In 1984, Alfredo Griffin became an American League All-Star in a pecuilar fashion — teammate Damaso Garcia brought him to the game instead of the usual wife or girlfriend. Starter Alan Trammell hurt his arm prior to the game, so AL manager Joe Altobelli placed Griffin on the team "mostly because he was here."
Eight, to A Lesser Extent
Chris Gimenez was the last player to wear #8 for the Indians in 2010. In two sparse seasons with the big club, Gimenez put together an utterly empty .267 batting average. Despite Gimenez’s astounding versatility (he once played all 14 positions on the field in a backyard wiffle ball game) which included appearances behind the plate, at first base, in left and right field, and at designated hitter, Gimenez was released. He was signed by Cleveland West on December 14, 2010 — an early Christmas present for new Mariners manager Eric Wedge.
One (Eight) is Enough.
Joe Becker, Howie Moss, Owen Friend, Mickey Vernon, Ed Fitz Gerald, John Powers, Bob Hale, Hank Foiles, Rocky Bridges, Buddy Booker, Jack Brohamer, Manny Trillo, Mark Salas, and Jeff Liefer, all wore uniform #8 for only one season (or less).
The All-Time List
Luke Sewell C (1929-1932)
Roy Spencer C (1933-1934)
Bill Brenzel C (1934-1935)
Joe Becker C (1936)
Frankie Pytlak C (1937-1940)
Ken Keltner 3B (1941-1944)
Howie Moss OF, 3B (1946)
Les Fleming 1B, RF (1945, 1946-1947)
Ray Boone 3B, SS, 1B (1949-1953)
Owen Friend, IF (1953)
Rudy Regalado 3B (1954-1955)
Kenny Kuhn SS (1955-1957)
Mickey Vernon 1B (1958)
Ed Fitz Gerald C (1959)
John Powers OF (1960)
Bob Hale 1B (1960)
Hank Foiles C (1960)
Rocky Bridges IF (1960)
Willie Kirkland RF (1961-1962)
Buddy Booker C (1966)
Ray Fosse C (1967-1972)
Allan Ashby C (1973-1976)
Alfredo Griffin SS (1977-1978)
Jack Brohamer 2B, 3B (1980)
Von Hayes OF (1981-1982)
Manny Trillo 2B (1982)
Carmelo Castillo RF (1983-1988)
Mark Salas C (1989)
Albert Belle LF (1990-1996)
John McDonald SS, 2B, 3B (1999-2004)
Jeff Liefer LF, 1B (2005)
Jason Michaels LF – if you can call it that (2006-2008)
Chris Gimenez All Positions (2009-2010)
Statistics and such.
The the uniform #8 has been worn 84 times by 34 different players covering 76 seasons of a possible 83 seasons since 1929. The #8 was shared in a season six times, 1934, 1946, 1953, 1955, 1960, and 1983, with four different players wearing #8 in 1960.