Fifteen Seconds of Fame
Another number, and another 90s icon takes his place as best player to have worn the uniform. Introducing Santos Velazquez Alomar. A Salinas, Puerto Rico native, Sandy was a highly regarded amateur free agent signing of the San Diego Padres in 1983 (This was before Puerto Rico was included in the June amateur drafts) because of his lineage, Santos Conde Alomar, the Iron Pony.
As the son of a former major leaguer, the scrutiny was fairly high, and he did struggle in his first year as a 18 year old in A- ball with Spokane Indians (foretelling perhaps?) of the Northwest League. That 497 OPS in 239 PAs did not deter the Padres moving him up to the Charleston Rainbows in the Sally League (A) for his age 19 season. He improved, but only slightly, finishing with a 529 OPS.
Again, the Padres must have felt they could live without a good bat, as he skipped A+ ball, and landed in Beaumont, TX and improved a bit more, 240/271/324. He repeated AA the following year in Wichita, KS (the Padres affiliate had moved) and had a decent breakthrough, 307/346/427 in 411 PAs. In AAA in Las Vegas (woohoo) at 22, he hit 297/354/496 and earned a cup of coffee (1PA) in late 1988. He would repeat AAA in 1989, again receiving a cup of coffee (22 PA).
The Padres had a glaring hole in the outfield, and decided to trade for Joe Carter from the Indians before the 1990 season. The trade made sense because Alomar was blocked by Benito Santiago, so they traded Sandy with Carlos Baerga (and Chris James too). Alomar would be the first of the 90s stars to appear (beating Baerga by two games), opening the season as the starting C in 1990. He would produce a very nice 290/326/418 108 OPS+ in his rookie season, earning him an All-Star spot, Rookie of the Year, and a Gold Glove as well.
But that would be his only full season until 1996. He struggled mightily with injuries, appearing in 51, 89, 64, 80, and 66 games from 91-95. He would notch an All Star spot in 91 and 92 though. In 1996, he would play a full season, but still was recovering from his multitude of injuries, sporting a 263/299/397 75 OPS+ in 444 PAs. 1997 would become his best year as a professional: 324/354/545 128 OPS+ in 480 PAs, including 21 HRs and 83 RBIs. He would finish 14th in MVP voting that season. He hit a home run off Shawn Estes in the All-Star game in Jacobs Field and was awarded the MVP of that game. He was also superb in the 97 playoffs with a 1000 OPS against the Yankees and 1006 OPS against the Marlins
He would struggle in 1998 (albeit in a full season, 117 games), but the injury bug got him again in 1999 and 2000 (134 games total). He left as a free agent that year and signed with the White Sox. In his 11 seasons with the Tribe, he would only play 985 games, finishing with a 277/315/419 92 OPS+ in 3667 PAs. His career is more of a "what could have been" feeling, but more than enough to be the top #15 in Tribe history.
Last quirky note, Sandy played with Jaret Wright for a few seasons for four seasons. That almost matched the five seasons Sandy Sr. played with Clyde Wright, Jaret’s father. I wonder how often they played together in the Angels clubhouse.
A Brief History
Usually we will delve into the other players who were significant behind the top guys that wore this uniform, but sheesh, have there been some terrible players who wore this uniform.
First we shall note the players who did decent:
Willis Hudlin: 17-15, 280.1 IP, 133 ERA+ in 1929
Johnny Allen: 128 ERA+ in 989.2 IP; 67-34, 121 GS, 9 SHO, 6 SV from 1936-1940. His best year was 1937, 15-1, 2.55 ERA (176 ERA+) in 20 starts, finishing 13th in MVP voting. In 1938 he would be an All Star and finish 28th in MVP voting.
Fred Whitfield: 112 OPS+ in 2008 PA from 1963-1967; 93 HR with a 257/298/456 line. In 1965 he hit 293/316/513; 131 OPS+ 26 HR, 90 RBI, earning him 21st in MVP voting.
That’s it. Out of 42 players, four have played well in that uniform. So let us delve into the notoriously bad players to don #15:
Jake Miller wore #15 in 1930 and 1931. In 129.2 IP, mostly as a reliever, he had an ERA of 6.25 (I’d guess around a 75 ERA+). He allowed 192 hits, issued 57 BB and 48 K.
In June 1935, the Tribe purchased Eddie Phillips from the Senators. He would start 63 games the rest of the way, with a 273/319/368 76 OPS+ in 235 PA.
In 1944 and 1945, Hal Kleine pitched 47.2 IP with a 5.48 ERA (61 ERA+) allowing 46 H, 43 BB and 18 K.
After 1945, the Indians traded Jeff Heath to the Senators for George Case. He was a former All Star and had finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in 1945. He blew chunks in his one season in Cleveland. His line of 225/280/295 66 OPS+ in 528 PA was well below his career line on 282/341/358. The Tribe would deal him back to the Senators after the season for Roger Wolff.
Frank Duffy was the starting SS for the Tribe from 1972 to 1977. In those six seasons, he accumulated 2746 PA., starting 740 games. His final line with the Tribe …. 233/280/313 for a robust 70 OPS+. Yes, he was that bad offensively and was allowed to be the starter for six seasons. What allowed him to stay on the field that long must have been his glove. He never won a Gold Glove, but he did lead the league in fielding twice. BRef has him as a 4.3 dWAR and a 3.7 oWAR for those six seasons. The only plus I can see is that he arrived with Gaylord Perry in the Sam McDowell deal.
Duffy’s replacement, Tom Veryzer was no better. He did not put on #15 until 1979, but was the starting SS from 1978 to 1981. In his four seasons, he put up a nice robust 251/290/197 63 OPS+ in 1581 PA. You would think, that wouls be all forgiven by a good glove as well, but that would be false. BRef has him as -2.0 dWAR in his 4 seasons with the Tribe.
After arriving in C-town with Juan Eichelberger in the Ed Whitson trade, Broderick Perkins would establish a252/293/296 61 OPS+ in 273 PA in 1983 and 1984.
In 2003-2004, Tim Laker would wear #15. He would pitch one scoreless inning in 04, but his 2 year line of 221/273/341 and about a 64 OPS+ in 304 PA as the backup catcher to Josh Bard and Victor Martinez was pretty bad.
Ramon Vazquez only had 103 PA in two seasons (2005/06), but his line of 220/277/308 was an awful 54 OPS+.
Domino extraordinaire, Andy Marte, would wear #15 in 2006, 2008 and a few games in 2009 (he wore #30 in 2007 and #25 also in 2009 and 2010). In 06/08, Marte would hit 223/276/358 in 435 PA.
That is a whole lot of bad to choose from. See the poll below.
The One Year Wonders
Willis Hudlin, Eddie Phillips, Denny Galehouse, Ted Sepkowski, George Case, Les Willis, Ray Murray, Fred Marsh, Dick Aylward, Mickey Grasso, Earl D Averill, Marty Keough, Valmy Thomas, Hal Jones, Billy Harris, Bill Nahorodny, Dan Rohn, Dave Gallagher, Casey Parsons, Ron Washington, Neil Allen, Denny Gonzalez, Mike Rouse and Wyatt Toregas all wore uniform #15 for only one season.
The All-Time List
Willis Hudlin SP (1929)
Jake Miller RP, SP (1930-1931)
Sarge Connally RP (1932-1934)
Denny Galehouse RP (1935)
Eddie Phillips C (1935)
Johnny Allen SP (1936-1940)
Joe Krakauskas RP (1941-1942)
Ted Sepkowski 2B (1942)
Hal Kleine RP, SP (1944-1945)
George Case LF (1946)
Heinz Becker 1B (1946-1947)
Les Willis RP (1947)
Ray Murray PH (1948)
Fred Marsh PR (1949)
Birdie Tebbetts C (1951-1952)
Dick Aylward C (1953)
Joe Ginsberg C (1953-1954)
Mickey Grasso C (1954)
Hank Foiles C, PH (1955-1956)
Earl D Averill C (1956)
Russ Nixon C (1957-1960)
Marty Keough CF, RF (1960)
Valmy Thomas C (1961)
Hal Jones 1B (1962)
Fred Whitfield 1B, PH (1963-1967)
Billy Harris 2B, 3B (1968)
Frank Duffy SS (1972-1977)
Tom Veryzer SS (1979-1981)
Bill Nahorodny C (1982)
Broderick Perkins PH, DH, 1B, RF (1983-1984)
Dan Rohn 2B, 3B, SS (1986)
Dave Gallagher CF (1987)
Casey Parsons PH, DH (1987)
Ron Washington SS, 3B, 2B (1988)
Neil Allen RP (1989)
Denny Gonzalez DH, PH (1989)
Sandy Alomar C (1990-2000)
Tim Laker C (2003-2004)
Ramon Vazquez 2B, 3B, SS (2005-2006)
Andy Marte 3B, 1B (2006, 2008-2009)
Mike Rouse 2B, 3B, SS (2007)
Wyatt Toregas C (2009)
Statistics and such
Other fun facts, the uniform #15 has been worn 84 times by 42 different players covering 72 seasons of a possible 83 seasons since 1929. Uniform #15 was shared in a season twelve times, 1935, 1942, 1946, 1947, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1960, 1987, 1989, 2006 and 2009.