The Trying Dutchman
Rik Aalbert Blijleven was born on April 6, 1951 in Zeist, Netherlands.
As the first Major League Hall of Famer born in the Netherlands, Blyleven was known for his devastating curveball, his sometimes contentious demeanor, and his hot-foot prowess as a top-notch dugout prankster.
Blyleven was drafted out of high school by the Minnesota Twins in 1968. A short 21 minor league starts later, Bert was in the big leagues at the tender age of 19. His sweet command of Uncle Charlie led him to 10 wins his rookie season, and honors as the American League Rookie Pitcher of the Year.
By 1973, Blyleven was a fixture in the Twins rotation, hurling a season-high nine shutouts, with 20 wins and 258 punchouts. Blyleven spent six and half seasons with the Twins before moving to American League West rivals the Texas Rangers.
An openly vocal player, Blyleven often complained about his situation. He forced trades to other teams at least 4 times in his career.
Following a dust-up with the Rangers in which Blyleven flew the bird to the camera in a nationally-televised game, he was sent to the National League.
Blyleven went to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1978 as a part of the first four-team trade in Major League history. Blyleven excelled with the Pirates, leading the team that season in ERA, strikeouts, and complete games. He helped the Pirates to a World Champioship in 1979.
Blyleven came to the Tribe in 1981 with catcher Manny Sanguillen in exchange for Gary Alexander, Victor Cruz, Mad Bob Owchinko and the irreplacable Rafael Vasquez.
In strike-shortened 1981, he would make 20 starts for Cleveland, going 11-7 with a 2.88 ERA. Blyleven would make only 28 starts over the next two seasons combined after struggling with an elbow injury.
In his Cleveland career, Blyleven went 48-37 with an ERA of 3.23 and an ERA+ of 126. He won 19 games in 1984, with a sub-3.00 ERA and a WHIP of 1.13. He would finish 3rd in the Cy Young vote that season.
In 1985, Blyleven hurled an impressive 293 2/3 innings with 24 complete games for the Indians and Twins. He also led the league in strikeouts with 206. During that season, Blyleven grew discontented with the Indians’ uncompetitive ways and forced a trade back to his team of origin, the Twins.
Blyleven would pitch six more seasons in the American League with the Twins and California Angels. In 1987, he helped the Twins secure a World Series title with 15 wins in 267 innings of work. The following season, he would lead the league with 17 losses, only to bounce back in 1989 with the Angels — going 17-5 with a 2.73 ERA.
His 2.74 ERA for the Texas Rangers remains the team’s lowest career ERA on record.
Blyleven was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in his 14th year, finally garnering over 75% of the vote.
By any measure, Bert Blyleven was the best player in Indians history to wear #28.
One Year Stunner
1948 – Gene Bearden
Bearden learned baseball on the Tennessee sandlots. The Arkansas-born knuckleballer donned #28 in his remarkable rookie season with the Tribe in 1948. Pitching in the same rotation as future Hall of Famers Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, and Satchel Paige, Bearden went 20-7 in 37 starts with a league-leading 2.43 ERA, 15 complete games and six shutouts. Unfortunately for Bearden, there was only one Major League Rookie of the Year award in 1948, and that went to Alvin Dark of the Boston Braves. Bearden would never duplicate his rookie success, and would be out of baseball by 1953.
The One Year Wonders
Thornton Lee, Bryan Stephens, Les Webber, Ernest Groth, Ray Boone, Gene Bearden, Marino Pieretti, Dick Weik, Jerry Fahr, Ted Wilks, Hal Woodeshick, Bob Smith, Bobby Tiefenauer, Pedro Ramos, Willie Tasby, Al E Smith, Tommie Agee, Adolfo Phillips, Jackie Brown, Joey Cora, Russell Branyan, Todd Hollandsworth, David Huff and Travis Buck all wore uniform #28 for only one season.
The All-Time List
Charlie Jamieson PH, LF (1931-1932) 237/328/322, 67 OPS+, 67 PA
Thornton Lee SP, RP (1935) 7-10, 32 G, 20 GS, 4.04 ERA, 180.2 IP, 113 ERA+; was # 22 in 1934 and again in 1936
George Susce C (1941-1944) 238/273/254, 54 OPS+, 71 PA
Bryan Stephens RP (1947) 5-10, 31 G, 5 GS, 4.01 ERA, 92 IP, 87 ERA+; also #29 in 1947’ traded with Joe Frazier, Dick Kokos to Browns for Wally Judnich and Bob Muncrief
Les Webber RP (1948) 0-0, 1 G, 0 GS, 40.50 ERA, 0.2 IP, 16 ERA+; was #44 in 1946; traded with George Metkovich to Oakland Oaks (PCL) for Will Hafey
Gene Bearden SP (1948) 20-7, 37 G, 29 GS, 2.43 ERA, 229.2 IP, 168 ERA+; 2nd in Rookie of the Year in 1948; 8th in MVP in 1948; was also #30 in 1948
Ray Boone SS (1948) 400/400/600, 167 OPS+, 5 PA; switched to #8 in 1949
Ernest Groth RP (1948) 0-0, 1 G, 0 GS, 9.00 ERA, 1 IP, 62 ERA+; was #29 in 1947; Bref states he was also #26 in 1948, tough to do with only one game; traded with Bub Kuzava to White Sox for Frank Papish
Marino Pieretti RP (1950) 0-1, 29 G, 1 GS, 4.18 ERA, 47.1 IP, 104 ERA+; claimed off waivers from White Sox; also #18 and #47 in 1950
Dick Weik RP (1950) 1-3, 11 G, 2 GS, 3.81 ERA, 26 IP, 115 ERA+; traded by Senators for Mickey Vernon; also #10 in 1939;also #31 and #48 in 1950; traded with Steve Gromek, Al Aber and Ray Boone to Tigers for Art Houtteman, Bill Wight, Joe Ginsberg and Owen Friend
Jerry Fahr RP (1951) 0-0, 5 G, 0 GS, 4.76 ERA, 5.2 IP, 85 ERA+; rule 5 draftee from Shreveport Sports (Texas League)
Ted Wilks RP (1953) 0-0, 4 G, 0 GS, 7.36 ERA, 3.2 IP, 57 ERA+; was #29 and #36 in 1952
Dick Tomanek SP, RP (1953-1954) 1-0, 2 G, 1 GS, 2.53 ERA, 10.2 IP, 159 ERA+; switched to #29 in 1957
Bud Daley RP (1955-1956) 1-1, 16 G, 1 GS, 6.26 ERA, 27.1 IP, 68 ERA+; switched to #10 in 1957
Hank Aguirre RP, SP (1956-1957) 4-6, 26 G, 10 GS, 4.20 ERA, 85.2 IP, 98 ERA+; was #48 in 1955; traded with Jim Hegan to Tigers for Jay Porter and Hal Woodeshick
Hal Woodeshick SP (1958) 6-6, 14 G, 9 GS, 3.64 ERA, 71.2 IP, 102 ERA+; traded with Jay Porter by Tigers for Jim Hegan and Hank Aguirre; traded with Hal Naragon to Senators for Ed Fitz Gerald
Bob Smith RP (1959) 0-1, 12 G, 3 GS, 5.22 ERA, 29.1 IP, 72 ERA+; traded by Cubs for Randy Jackson
Bobby Tiefenauer RP (1960) 0-1, 6 G, 0 GS, 2.00 ERA, 9 IP, 196 ERA+; traded by Toronto Maple Leafs (International-AAA) for Dave Pope and Larry Raines; sold to Cardinals
Pedro Ramos SP, RP (1962) 10-12, 37 G, 27 GS, 3.71 ERA, 201.1 IP, 104 ERA+; also #40 in 1962; traded by Twins for Vic Power and Dick Stigman; switched to #35 in 1963
Willie Tasby LF, PH, RF (1963) 224/318/371, 93 OPS+, 134 PA; switched from #6 in 1962
Al E Smith RF, PH (1964) 162/214/272, 35 OPS+, 147 PA; traded by Orioles for Willie Kirkland
Tommie Agee RF, PR (1964) 167/167/167, -6 OPS+, 12 PA; was #23 in 1963; traded with Tommy John and John Romano to White Sox, Whites Sox sent Cam Carreon to Indians and Mike Hershberger, Jim Landis and Fred Talbot (PTBNL) to Athletics, Athletics sent Rocky Colavito to Indians.
Richie Scheinblum PH, RF, LF (1967-1969) 219/280/291, 63 OPS+, 359 PA; was #24 in 1965; sold to Senators
Vada Pinson RF, CF. LF (1970-1971) 275/307/429, 102 OPS+, 1210 PA; traded by Cardinals for Jose Cardenal; traded with Alan Foster and Frank Baker to Angels for Alex Johnson and Jerry Moses
Adolfo Phillips LF, PH, RF (1972) 000/222/000, -31 OPS+, 9 PA; purchased from Expos
Rusty Torres RF, CF, LF. PH (1973-1974) 199/296/290, 66 OPS+, 545 PA; traded with Charlie Spikes, Jerry Kinney and John Ellis from Yankees for Graig Nettles and Jerry Moses; traded with Ken Suarez to Angels for Frank Robinson
Rick Manning CF (1975-1981) 261/322/339, 87 OPS+, 3631 PA; Gold Glove in 1976; switched to #20 in 1981 after Blyleven arrived
Jackie Brown RP (1975) 1-2, 25 G, 3 GS, 4.28 ERA, 69.1 IP, 88 ERA+; also #36 and #31 in 1975; traded with Jim Bibby and Rick waits by Rangers for Gaylord Perry; switched to #31 for 1976 [I doubt validity of #28 as Manning only wore #28 in 1975]
Bert Blyleven SP (1981-1985) 48-37, 104 G, 103 GS, 3.23 ERA, 760.2 IP, 126 ERA+; also #22 in 1981; traded with Manny Sanguillen by Pirates for Gary Alexander, Victor Cruz, Bob Owchinko and Rafael Vasquez; traded to Twins for Jay Bell, Curt Wardle, Jim Weaver and Rich Yett (PTBNL)
Cory Snyder RF, SS (1986-1990) 245/283/441, 104 OPS+, 2592 PA; 4th in Rookie of the Year voting in 1986; traded with Lindsay Foster to White Sox for Shawn Hillegas and Eric King
Derek Lilliquist RP (1992-1994) 10-10, 163 G, 2 GS, 2.55 ERA, 155 IP, 168 ERA+; claimed on waivers from Padres; lost on waivers to Braves
Ben Broussard 1B, LF (2002-2003) 247/308/430, 96 OPS+, 549 PA; traded by Reds for Russell Branyan; switched to #23 in 2004
Todd Hollandsworth LF, PH, RF (2006) 237/253/442, 102 OPS+, 162 PA; sold to Reds
David Huff SP (2010) 2-11, 15 G, 15 GS, 6.21 ERA, 79.2 IP, 64 ERA+; was #58 in 2009; switched to #31 in 2011
Travis Buck LF, RF (2011) 228/275342, 72 OPS+, 160 PA
Statistics and such
Other fun facts, the uniform #28 has been worn 65 times by 37 different players covering 55 seasons of a possible 83 seasons since 1929. Uniform #28 was shared in a season eight times, 1948, 1950, 1953, 1956, 1964, 1975, 1981 and 2002. It was shared by four players in 1948.