Indians by the Numbers — #23



Birthday Paradox*

After a dearth of good candidates for #22, there are several decent choices to select from, but no overwhelming choice like the uniforms with retired numbers. But after reviewing the players and the numbers, my choice for best #23 is David Christopher Justice.

The Ohio native was born in Cincinnati and graduated from Covington Latin School at the age of 16 because he skipped the seventh and eighth grades. After attending Thomas More College in Crestview Kentucky for three years, he was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 4th round of the 1985 draft.

He would finish the 1985 season as a Pulaski Brave in the Rookie League with a 793 OPS in 249 PA. Justice was promoted to the Sumter Braves (South Atlantic – A) and put up a 934 OPS in 284 PA. This earned another swift promotion to the Durham Bulls (Carolina – A+) with some more excellent numbers, 898 in 284 PA as a 20 year old. Continuing his progression, he would struggle in his first season in AA, 663 OPS in 405 PA for Greenville Braves in the Southern League. But he got back on track in 1988, 882 OPS in 237 PA, arriving in Richmond (AAA) midseason, finishing with a 668 OPS in 275 PA. He would earn his first cup of coffee after posting a 789 OPS in 457 PA as a 23 year old in AAA in 1989.

He would only spend 12 games in Richmond in 1990 (1087 OPS) before landing permanently in Atlanta. He would have a fantastic rookie debut, becoming Rookie of the Year and 24th in MVP voting with a 28 HR, 78 RBI and 282/373/535 143 OPS+ line. Justice would be a mainstay of that perpetual playoff Brave lineup through 1996, including the heartbreaking solo home run to win Game 6 of the 1995 World Series against our beloved Tribe.

After the 1996 season, Kenny Lofton would not sign an extension with the Indians, so Hart made the best deal he could make, trading Lofton and Alan Embree to the Braves for Justice and Marquis Grissom. The Braves were able to deal Justice because they had Jermaine Dye (who would be dealt for Michael Tucker two days later) at the ready.

Justice would help the Tribe return to the World Series in 1997, hitting 33 HR, driving in 101, 329/418/596 and a whopping 158 OPS+ in 582 PA. He made the All Star game, earned a Silver Slugger and finished 5th in MVP voting. In 1998, he would regress down to a 280/363/476 114 OPS+ and in 1999 would bring a 287/413/476 123 OPS+ season. By mid-2000, Justice had kicked it up to a 265/361/582 145 OPS+ line including 21 HR and 58 RBI in 249 PA. By the end of June, the Tribe was 8.5 games back of the White Sox. So Hart dealt him to the Yankees for Jake Westbrook, Zach Day and Ricky Ledee. He only spent 3.5 seasons with the Tribe, but they were very productive, finishing with a 294/392/526 132 OPS+ 96 HR 335 RBI in 2025 PA.

* There is a 50% probability that within a group of 23 people that 2 of them have the same birthday.

A Brief History

The starting right fielder from 1937-1939, Bruce Campbell put up a solid 1911/378/460 113 OPS+ and a 6.0 WAR. Originally acquired from the St. Louis Browns for Johnny Burnett and Bob Weiland in November 1934, Campbell would only start 116 games in 1935 and 1936, wearing #35. His 149 OPS+ in 1936 would earn him the starting job for 1937. After 1939, he would be traded to the Tigers for Beau Bell.

Originally a Tiger first baseman, Les Fleming was blocked by Rudy York in 1940/1941. So the Tigers dealt him to the Nashville Volunteers (Southern Association – A1). He put up a fantastic 414 BA and a 781 SLG with 29 HR in 374 AB for them. Cleveland acquired him at some point that year and he got into 2 games late in September. But 1942 was his best as professional. He had a 292/412/432 144 OPS+, 4.1 WAR and started all 156 games at 1B. He would however join the service in 1943 and 1944.

Early in the 1954 season, the Tribe was sitting in first place, but needed another potential bat. Former All-Star Vic Wertz was struggling with the Orioles, so reliever Bob Chakales was traded for him. Wertz would solidify the bench, playing first base and the outfield. He would put up a solid 275/344/478 122 OPS+ line and hit the famous drive caught by Willie Mays in the World Series. He would also finish 9th in MVP voting in 1956 (264/364/509 126 OPS+ 32 HR and 106 RBI) and 6th in 1957 (282/371/485 133 OPS+ 28 HR 105 RBI) and make the All Star game as well. After an injury plagued 1958, he was traded with Gary Geiger to the Red Sox for Jim Piersall. His final Tribe numbers: 270/358/490 126 OPS+.

Prior to the 1965 season, the Indians traded Bob Chance and Woodie Held to the Senators for their All Star outfielder, Chuck Hinton. Hinton hit ok in 1965 (120 OPS+), but slowly slid back the next two season (108 and 93 OPS+). So off he went to the Angels for Jose Cardenal in 1968. He really struggles in California that year (83 OPS+), so naturally the Indians traded Lou Johnson to re-obtain him. His best season would turn out to be 1970, 318/392/477 135 OPS+ in 224 PA. His final line in a Tribe uniform was 257/327/405 107 OPS+ in 1957 PA.

Throughout the 1970s, Phil Seghi made quite a few poor trades. However, one of the best he did make was to deal Del Unser and Terry Wedgewood to the Phillies for Roger Freed and Oscar Gamble. The Big Fro arrived in Cleveland as 23 year old who could hit, but was not necessarily a good fielder. He mainly DHed in 1973 and 1974, hitting 291/363/469 140 OPS+ in 1974. With the hiring of Frank Robinson in 1975, Gamble would return to the outfield and hit 261/361/454 131 OPS+. Unfortunately, Seghi went back to his old ways and dealt Gamble, only 26, ot the Yankees for Pat Dobson. Gamble finished with a 274/352/463 130 OPS+ during his 3 years.

The only pitcher to make this portion of the discussion, Stan Thomas, arrived in 1976 with Ron Pruitt from the Rangers for John Ellis. In his only season, Thomas would pitch 105.2 innings, appearing in 34 games and have a lowly 2.30 ERA (151 ERA+). But Thomas would only stick around that season as he was claimed in the 1977 expansion draft by the Mariners.

The longest tenured #23 was Chris Bando, a 2nd round draft pick from Arizona State in 1978. In his eight seasons, Bando was the backup to Ron Hassey (82-83), Jerry Willard (84-85) and Andy Allanson (86-88). Only once would he be considered the starter, which was in 1987 because Andy Allanson was injured most of the year. He did not achieve much that year, 218/260/332 56 OPS+ in 229 PA. His best season was in 1984, 291/377/505 140 OPS+ in 260 PA. He finished his eight years with a paltry 227/300/329 72 OPS+ in 1465 PA.

Arriving for his first tour with the Indians in the 1991 Tom Candiotti departure, Mark Whiten would complete his rookie campaign 256/310/422 100 OPS+, finishing 6th in Rookie of the Year voting. 1992 would be more of the same, 254/347/360 100 OPS+. But with the emergence of Albert Belle in 1992, Whiten was dealt to the Cardinals for Mark Clark and Juan Andujar.

After having a very successful 306/387/435 season with the 1995 Chiba Lotte Marines in the Pacific League (Japan), Julio Franco would begin his second tour with the Tribe as a free agent. Primarily relegated to DH and 1B as a 37 year old, Franco’s 1996 season was superb, 322/407/470 123 OPS+. He would make his first postseason appearance that year as well. 1997 was not as kind to Franco, slipping to 184/367/367 91 OPS+. The Tribe would release him on August 13, denying him of his best shot at a World Series appearance.

One of the bigger name free agent signings was Ellis Burks for the 2001 season. He would not disappoint during his three stay, hitting 280/369/542 137 OPS+ in 2001, 301/362/541 139 OPS+ in 2002 and 263/360/419 109 OPS+ in 2003. His three year total of 287/364/520 133 OPS+ in 1313 PA is pretty impressive.

After Burks left, Ben Broussard (formerly #28) assumed the #23 jersey. Never too glamorous, Broussard put up a solid 278/312/485 118 OPS+ over 1278 PA as the 1B during that timeframe. However, Broussard’s biggest contribution was being dealt to the Mariners for Shin-Soo Choo.

The One Year Wonders

Milt Shoffner, Roy Weatherly, Cal Dorsett, Jesse Flores, Hal Naragon, Pete Reiser, Bob Chakales, Bobby Locke, Bud Podbielan, Jake Striker, Johnny Antonelli, Joe Schaffernoth, Floyd Weaver, Dick Donovan, Gene Green, Tommie Agee, Lou Pinella, Ron Lolich, Stan Thomas, Wayne Garland, Bruce Bochte, Willie Horton, Dan Briggs, Luis Aguayo, Denis Boucher, Luis Medina, Dave Mlicki, Jeromy Burnitz, Ricky Ledee and David Segui all wore uniform #23 for only one season.

The All-Time List

Milt Shoffner RP (1929) 2-3, 11 G, 3 GS, 5.04 ERA, 44.2 IP, 89 ERA+

Pete Appleton RP (1930-1931) 12-11, 68 G, 11 GS, 4.27 ERA, 198.1 IP 111 ERA+; traded by Red Sox for Jack Russell

Ralph Winegarner RP (1934-1936) 7-6, 56 G, 10 GS, 5.56 ERA, 160.1 IP, 83 ERA+; after leaving the Tribe in 1936 at 26 years old, he would make not make another MLB appearance until 1949 with the St Louis Browns.

Roy Weatherly RF (1936) 335/364/519, 113 OPS+, 366 PA; switched to #2 next season

Bruce Campbell RF (1937-1939) 292/378/460, 113 OPS+, 1621 PA; traded to Tigers for Beau Bell

Beau Bell RF. PH, 1B (1940-1941) 263/320/350, 76 OPS+, 600 PA; traded from Tigers for Bruce Campbell

Cal Dorsett RP, SP (1941) 0-1, 5 G, 2 GS, 10.32 ERA, 11.1 IP, 39 ERA+; also #33 in 1941

Les Fleming 1B (1941-1942) 291/410/432, 143 OPS+, 670 PA; 25th in MVP voting in 1942

Pat Seerey LF, RF, CF, PH (1943-1946) 231/318/421, 115 OPS+, 1402 PA

Don Black SP (1947-1948) 12-14, 48 G, 38 GS, 4.23 ERA, 242.2 IP, 86 ERA+

Jesse Flores RP (1950) 3-3, 28 G, 2 GS, 3.74 ERA, 53 IP, 116 ERA+; obtained from San Diego (PCL) as part of minor working agreement

Hal Naragon C (1951) 250/400/250, 82 OPS+, 10 PA

Pete Reiser PH, PR, CF (1952) 136/208/364, 61 OPS+, 48 PA; also #38 in 1952

Bob Chakales RP (1954) 2-0, 3 G, 0 GS, 0.87 ERA, 10.1 IP, 436 ERA+; traded to Orioles for Vic Wertz

Vic Wertz 1B, PH (1954-1958) 270/358/490, 126 OPS+, 1852 PA; All Star in 1957, 9th in 1956 and 6th in 1957 in MVP voting; traded from Orioles for Bob Chakales; traded with Gary Geiger to Red Sox for Jim Piersall

Bud Podbielan RP (1959) 0-1, 6 G, 0 GS, 5.84 ERA, 12.1 IP, 66 ERA+; purchased from Reds (Redlegs)

Bobby Locke RP, SP(1959) 3-2, 24 G, 7 GS, 3.13 ERA, 77.2 IP, 119 ERA+; also #29 in 1959

Jack Harshman SP, RP (1959-1960) 7-5, 28 G, 14 GS, 3.22 ERA, 120.1 IP, 117 ERA+; claimed off waivers from Red Sox

Jake Striker SP (1959) 1-0, 1 G, 1 GS, 2.70 ERA, 6.2 IP, 146 ERA+; only appearance with Tribe; traded with Minnie Minoso, Dick Brown and Don Ferrarese to White Sox for Norm Cash, Bubba Phillips and John Romano

Johnny Antonelli SP (1961) 0-4, 11 G, 7 GS, 6.56 ERA, 48 IP, 61 ERA+; traded with Willie Kirkland from Giants for Harvey Kuenn; sold to Milwaukee Braves

Joe Schaffernoth RP (1961) 0-1, 15 G, 0 GS, 4.76 ERA, 17 IP, 85 ERA+; purchased from Cubs; sold to Senators

Dick Donovan SP (1962) 20-10, 34 G, 34 GS, 3.59 ERA, 250.2 IP, 107 ERA+; also #20 in 1962; All Star, 5th in MVP voting; traded with Gene Green and Jim Mahoney from Senators for Jim Piersall

Floyd Weaver SP (1962) 1-0, 1 G, 1 GS, 1.80 ERA, 5 IP, 231 ERA+

Gene Green RF (1963) 205/259/321, 62 OPS+, 85 PA; traded to Reds for Sammy Taylor

Tommie Agee RF, CF. LF (1963) 148/207/296, 39 OPS+, 29 PA

Chuck Hinton PH, LF, CF, RF, 1B (1965-1967, 1969-1971) 257/327/405, 107 OPS+, 1957 PA; traded by Senators for Bob Chance and Woodie Held; traded to Angels for Jose Cardenal; traded by Angels for Lou Johnson

Lou Pinella PH, LF, PR (1968) 000/000/000, -100 OPS+, 6 PA; originally signed as an amateur free agent by the Indians in 1962, Senators drafted him in 1962 first-year draft, traded by Senators to Orioles; traded by Orioles back to Tribe for Cam Carreon; lost to Seattle Pilots in expansion draft

Ron Lolich RF, LF (1972) 188/224/275, 46 OPS+, 85 PA; purchased from White Sox

Oscar Gamble DH, LF, PH, RF (1973-1975) 274/352/463, 130 OPS+, 1346 PA; traded with Roger Freed by Phillies for Del Unser and Terry Wedgewood; traded to Yankees for Pat Dobson

Stan Thomas RP (1976) 4-4, 37 G, 7 GS, 2.30 ERA, 105.2 IP, 151 ERA+; traded with Ron Pruitt from Rangers for John Ellis; lost to Mariners in expansion draft

Wayne Garland SP (1977) 1-5, 6 G, 6 GS, 7.24 ERA, 32.1 IP; switched to #17 when Bochte arrived/Laroche left

Bruce Bochte SS (1977) 304/364/395, 111 OPS+, 444 PA; traded with Sid Monge by Angels for Dave LaRoche and Dave Schuler

Willie Horton DH (1978) 249/314/379, 95 OPS+, 186 PA; traded with David Clyde by Rangers for Tom Buskey and John Lowenstein

Dan Briggs RF (1978) 163/226/265, 39 OPS+, 53 PA; traded to Padres for Mike Champion (PTBNL)

Victor Cruz RP (1979-1980) 9-16, 116 G, 0 GS, 3.83 ERA, 164.2 IP, 110 ERA+; also #47 in 1979; traded by Blue Jays for Alfredo Griffin and Phil Lansford; traded with Gary Alexander, Bob Owchinko and Rafael Vasquez to Pirates for Bert Blyleven and Manny Sanguillen

Chris Bando C, PH (1981-1988) 227/300/329, 72 OPS+, 1465 PA

Luis Aguayo 3B, SS. 2B (1989) 175/239/268, 42 OPS+, 112 PA

Mitch Webster CF, LF, PH (1990-1991) 243/279/388, 85 OPS+, 513 PA; traded by Cubs for Dave Clark; traded to Pirates for Mike York 4/8-5/13

Luis Medina DH (1991) 063/118/063, -49 OPS+, 18 PA

Denis Boucher SP (1991) 1-4, 5 G, 5 GS, 8.34 ERA, 22.2 IP, 51 ERA+; also #49 (I doubt validity of Boucher wearing #23 as Whiten was active entire time Boucher was on roster in 1991); traded with Mark Whiten and Glenallen Hill from Blue Jays for Tom Candiotti and Turner Ward

Mark Whiten RF (1991-1992) 255/335/381, 100 OPS+, 869 PA; 6th in Rookie of the Year in 1991; traded with Denis Boucher and Glenallen Hill from Blue Jays for Tom Candiotti and Turner Ward; traded to Cardinals for Mark Clark and Juan Andujar

Dave Mlicki SP (1993) 0-0, 3 G, 3 GS, 3.38 ERA, 13.1 IP, 133 ERA+; traded with Paul Byrd, Jerry Dipoto and Jesus Azuaje (PTBNL) to Mets for Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Roa

Jeromy Burnitz LF, PR (1995) 571/571/714, 232 OPS+, 7 PA; traded with Joe Roa from Mets for Dave Mlicki, Paul Byrd, Jerry Dipoto and Jesus Azuaje (PTBNL); traded to Brewers for Kevin Seitzer

Julio Franco 1B, DH, 2B (1996-1997) 307/391/429, 110 OPS+, 827 PA

Dave Justice DH, LF, RF (1997-2000) 294/392/526, 132 OPS+, 2025 PA; 21st in MVP in 81; wore #33 until Franco left in 1997; All Star in 1997, Silver Slugger in 1997, 5th in MVP voting in 1997 and 13th in 2000; traded with Marquis Grissom by Braves for Kenny Lofton and Alan Embree; traded to Yankees for Jake Westbrook, Ricky Ledee and Zach Day

Ricky Ledee LF, RF (2000) 222/310/381, 74 OPS+, 71 PA; traded by Yankees with Jake Westbrook and Zach Day for David Justice; traded to rangers for David Segui

David Segui 1B, DH, RF (2000) 332/384/498, 111 OPS+, 245 PA; traded by Rangers for Ricky Ledee

Ellis Burks DH, LF (2001-2003) 287/364/520, 133 OPS+, 1313 PA

Ben Broussard 1B, PH (2004-2006) 278/312/485, 118 OPS+, 1278 PA; traded to Mariners for Shin-Soo Choo and Shawn Nottingham (PTBNL)

Michael Brantley CF, LF (2008-2011) 265/316/359, 88 OPS+, 942 PA; also #61 in 2009; traded by Brewers as PTBNL with Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, and Rob Bryson for CC Sabathia

Statistics and such

Other fun facts, the uniform #23 has been worn 94 times by 51 different players covering 76 seasons of a possible 83 seasons since 1929. Uniform #23 was shared in a season twelve times, 1936, 1941, 1954, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1977, 1978, 1991, 1997 and 2000. It was shared by three players in 1941 and 2000, and shared by four players in 1959 and 1991.

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