Nine Inch Nails
At first glance, I thought the debate on best #9 would be a bit tougher with players like Feller, Keltner, Easter, Minoso, Carty and Matt Williams all wearing this jersey. But after looking at the data, one player does stand out in my eyes, Carlos (Bye Bye) Baerga.
Originally an amateur free agent from Puerto Rico, Carlos signed with the Padres in 1985. After two decent, but unspectacular seasons (705, 790 OPS) as a 2B/SS for the Rainbows in Charleston (A), he moved to the Wichita Pilots in the Texas League (AA), with another solid 752 OPS. In 1989, he moved to 3B at Las Vegas, where his numbers went down to a 713 OPS. However, this was enough to impress the Cleveland scouts where he was included in the haul for Joe Carter (along with Sandy Alomar and Chris James).
Baseball America thought enough of him to rate him #67 before the 1990 season. He opened the season with the Tribe, playing mostly SS and 3B until he was optioned down in late July where he spent a mere 12 games in Colorado Springs, returning on August 11. After mediocre freshman (260/300/394, 93 OPS+) and sophomore (288/346/398, 105) seasons, Baerga exploded during the 1992-1995 seasons. Hitting a robust 292/350/441, 119 OPS+ and averaging 90 RS, 19 HR, 97 RBI and 11 SB, he was an ideal 3-hole hitter in front of Belle.
He also appeared in three All-Star games, received two Silver Slugger awards and placed in the Top 10 of MVP voting twice. At the time, he was the first 2B since Rogers Hornsby to have back to back 200+ hit, 20+ HR, 100+ RBI and .300+ AVG seasons. He was also the first switch-hitter to hit a HR from each side of the plate in the same inning (since equaled by Mark Bellhorn).
Then in 1996, he suffered a severe downturn in production, slumping to a 267/302/396, 76 OPS+ line for the Tribe. John Hart decided to trade him to the Mets in late July with Alviro Espinosa for Jeff Kent and Jose Vizcaino. Carlos played two plus years in New York before getting reaching free agency. After a few minor league deals with the Cardinals and Reds in 1999, he signed with the Padres and got into 33 games before the Tribe decided to purchase him for the stretch run. A 228/274/281, 40 OPS+ line finished his career with the Indians.
Baerga is third in career SF with 48, ninth in career HBP with 45 and tied for tenth in career IBB with 32.
A (Not so) Brief History
The original #9, Glenn Myatt, was the backup to Luke Sewell. He however was a member of the Tribe for 13 seasons (1923-1935), but was essentially only a starter for 2 seasons. 1924 was his best season, 342/402/518, 134 OPS+, but he morphed into a career backup. With the longevity he showed, he actually is sixth in career games caught for the Tribe with 654, just behind Victor.
In 1936, Rapid Robert Feller made his debut with the Tribe wearing #9, in 14 games (8 starts) he amassed a very wild 155 ERA+: 7.5 H/9, 6.8 BB/9 and 11.0 SO/9 with 8 WP, 4 HBP, and 3 BK. He would move onto #14 for two seasons before assuming #19 in 1939.
From 1938-1941, Rollie Hemsley donned #9. He somehow achieved All-Star status in 1939 and 1940 and even finished 27th in MVP voting in 1940, all the while not even cracking a 75 OPS+. His finished his Tribe career with a not so pretty line of 264/311/358, 74 OPS+.
Ken Keltner makes his third appearance on these lists so far, this time wearing #9 in 1946, between his #8 and #6 seasons. Coming back from missing 1945, he put up a middle of the road performance, 241/294/387 95 OPS+, but still made the All-Star game.
Luke Easter joined the Tribe fairly late in his career. A former star with Homestead Grays in the Negro Leagues, Bill Veeck signed him prior to the 1949 season. A knee injury in spring training derailed his chances with opening with the team, but he had an 1181 OPS in 80 games for the San Diego Padres in the PCL that year, earning a September call-up. Playing through many knee and ankle injuries, he only achieved 130+ games once, in 1950. For his career with the Tribe, he totaled a 274/350/481, 124 OPS+ in only 491 games. His best season was in 1952 when he slugged 31 HR, had 97 RBI and 263/337/513 141 OPS+ line, finishing 13th in MVP voting. During his rookie season, he also hit the longest home run in the history of Cleveland's Municipal Stadium, a 477-foot blast over the auxiliary scoreboard in right.
After being reacquired for the 1958 season with Fred Hatfield for Early Wynn and Al Smith, Minnie Minoso wore #9 instead of his previous #6. In 1958, Minnie slugged 24 HR and hit 302/383/454 139 OPS+ finishing 18th in the MVP voting. He followed that campaign in 1959 by hitting 311/374/481 134 OPS+, inching up to 12th in MVP voting, being an All-Star and garnering a Gold Glove. After those two fine seasons in LF, he was shipped back to the White Sox in a 7 player deal for primarily Norm Cash. Absolutely brilliant I tell ya!
Duke Sims wore #9 during six years of his seven years with the Tribe. As a C/OF/1B, Sims produced a respectable 236/344/420 118 OPS+ line (for that time period it was decent).
In August 1974, the Tribe purchased Rico Carty from Cordoba of the Mexican League. Beeg Boy was a 34 year old veteran at that time, but produced a fantastic 363/396/451 145 OPS+ line in just 33 games that year. Basically becoming our first true DH only player, he had a 308/378/504 149 OPS+ in 1975 and a 310/379/442 143 OPS+ in 1976, finishing 24th in MVP voting. Rico was taken in the expansion draft that fall by the Toronto Blue Jays. Not wanting to lose their power bat, Cleveland gave the Blue Jays Rick Cerone and John Lowenstein to retain him. Returning in 1977, Rico regressed to 280/355/432 118 OPS+ before being traded back to the Blue Jays that offseason for Dennis DeBarr. To date, Carty has the 3rd most appearances as a DH in a Tribe uniform behind Hafner and Thornton.
After Carty left, Ron Hassey would assume #9 for seven consecutive seasons. Hassey was a solid backstop, hitting 271/345/370 97 OPS+ in 1929 PA while on the shores of Lake Erie. He was probably more famous though for being one of the trade pieces with Rick Sutcliffe and George Frazier, that netted us Joe Carter, Mel Hall, Don Schulze and Darryl Banks in June 1984.
With Hassey leaving mid-1984, the Tribe for some reason needed a third catcher in September. They purchased Jamie Quirk from the White Sox on September 24. He appeared in one game only, but ended up with the perfect hitting line in his single PA …. 1000/1000/4000 OPS+ of 1201 after hitting a solo home run off of Ron Davis of the Twins. He was released that offseason.
After losing to the Orioles in the 1996 LDS, Hart made a few more tweaks to the roster. He sent the aforementioned Jeff Kent (who would go onto a great career) to the Giants with Julian Tavarez and Jose Vizcaino for Matt Williams and a PTBNL (Trent Hubbard). Matt helped us back to the World Series in 1997, slugging 32 HR with 105 RBI, and 263/307/488 101 OPS+ line. He achieved the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove that season. However, he was far from home and missed his kids. His wife had divorced him and moved to the Phoenix area, so Hart traded him to the Diamondbacks for Travis Fryman and Tom Martin.
Since the Carson Crusher left, #9 has floated around a bit. Most notably the uniform has been worn by Lee Stevens after being acquired in the infamous Barolo Colon deal and Jody Gerut. Fan favorite Jack "Attack" Hannahan is the current holder of the Nine Inch Nail.
The One Year Wonders
Bob Feller, Billy Sullivan, Papa Williams, Ken Keltner, Herman Reich, Ralph Kiner, Larry Raines, Johnny Romano, George Banks, Buddy Bell, Jerry Kenney, Larry Johnson, Jamie Quirk, Butch Benton, Pete O’Brien, Damian Jackson, Matt Williams, Shawon Dunston, Torey Lovullo, Chris Turner, Brady Anderson, Chad Allen, Lee Stevens, Jason Dubois and Jack Hannahan all wore uniform #9 for only one season.
The All-Time List
Glenn Myatt C (1929-1935)
Bob Garbark C (1934-1935)
Bob Feller SP, RP (1936)
Billy Sullivan C (1937)
Rollie Hemsley C (1938-1941)
Otto Denning C, 1B (1942-1943)
Mickey Rocco 1B (1943-1944)
Papa Williams PH (1945)
Ken Keltner 3B (1946)
Herman Reich RF (1949)
Luke Easter 1B, RF (1949-1954)
Ralph Kiner LF, PH (1955)
Larry Raines 3B, SS, 2B, LF (1957)
Minnie Minoso LF (1958-1959)
Bob Hale PH, 1B (1959-1960)
Ty Cline CF (1960-1961)
Johnny Romano C (1963)
George Banks LF (1964)
Duke Sims C, 1B, LF (1965-1970)
Buddy Bell CF, RF (1972)
Jerry Kenney 2B (1973)
Larry Johnson PR (1974)
Rico Carty DH, 1B, LF (1974-1977)
Ron Hassey C (1978-1984)
Jamie Quirk C (1984)
Butch Benton C (1985)
Pete O’Brien 1B (1989)
Carlos Baerga 2B, 3B, SS (1990-1996, 1999)
Damian Jackson SS (1996)
Matt Williams 3B (1997)
Shawon Dunston 2B, SS, LF (1998)
Torey Lovullo 2B (1998)
Chris Turner C (1999)
Brady Anderson CF, LF (2002)
Chad Allen OF (2002)
Lee Stevens 1B, LF (2002)
Jody Gerut RF, LF, CF (2003-2005)
Jason Dubois DH, OF (2005)
Jack Hannahan 3B (2011)
Statistics and such
Other #9 fun facts, the uniform #9 has been worn 83 times by 40 different players covering 70 seasons of a possible 83 seasons since 1929. Uniform #9 was shared in a season twelve times, 1934, 1935, 1943, 1949, 1961, 1974, 1984, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2002 and 2005. It was shared by three players in 2002.
So, in your opinion, who deserves the nod for #9 (if not Baerga)?
Carlos Baerga (22 votes)
Luke Easter (4 votes)
Minnie Minoso (2 votes)
Rico Carty (2 votes)
Matt Williams (3 votes)
33 total votes