Hail to the Chief
In Chinese culture, the number 32 is identified with change, correction and movement. A culture that preaches that the only sure constant in life is change, number 32 also stands for consistency. By following the meaning behind the number 32, a person is also believed to be open to constant renewal.
Jose Dennis Emilia “El Presidente” Martinez, the first Nicaraguan player in the Major Leagues and the best player to have worn #32 for the Cleveland Indians, was certainly a model of consistency and open to constant renewal.
A nineteen-year major league veteran, Martinez experienced both the thrill of the World Series (1979 with Baltimore) and the lows of being a perennial bridesmaid in Montréal before coming to Cleveland as a 39 year old starter.
El Presidente served a short three-year term in Cleveland, where he won 32 games and helped the Indians to the 1995 World Series. Even in the twilight of his stellar career that spanned 23 seasons, Martinez helped anchor a Cleveland rotation with Orel Hershiser and Charles Nagy, part of a trio that won 10 or more games and led the Tribe to 100 wins in a strike-shortened season. The 40 year-old led the team with 187 innings pitched, and went 12-5 in twenty-eight starts with a 3.08 ERA and a 152 ERA+.
After eleven seasons in Baltimore and eight more in Montréal, Martinez arrived in Cleveland in December 1993 as a free agent. Martinez was 11-6 in twenty-four starts before the 1994 strike wiped out a promising season for a team on the brink of their first playoff appearance in 40 years. He returned for two more successful seasons, before opting for free agency and signing with the Seattle Mariners in 1997.
Martinez’s 245 wins are the most victories by a pitcher to never win 20 games in a single season.
Thirty-two 2 soon.
Three Indians who wore #32 changed laundry (or teams) before reaching their peak in Tribe uniforms.
Al E. “Fuzzy” Smith
Not be confused with Presidential contender Alfred E. Smith, Alphonse Eugene Smith was he second best Indian to don #32. He also wasn't the only Al Smith to wear #32 for Cleveland. Alfred John Smith wore #32 for the 1940 and 1942-1944 seasons, Al J. was an All-Star starter who spent the last half of his 12-year career with the Indians, compiling 5.0 WAR in his six seasons there. "Fuzzy" Smith wore the number from his debut in 1953 through 1954. Smith played RF, LF and 3B for the dominant Tribe teams of the mid-fifties. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after Alphonse Eugene Smith switched to uniform #16, that he blossomed into a star. In 1955, Smith slammed 22 home runs, drove in 77 runs and batted .306/.407/.473. He led the league in games (154), runs (123), and at-bats (725).
Smith’s stellar 1955 season made him an All-Star and an MVP contender, finishing 3rd in the vote.
Smith would be dealt to the Chicago White Sox in 1957, and would appear in another World Series for the Pale Hose in 1959. Smith’s most famous moment came in the ’59 World Series, when chasing a Charlie Neal fly ball into deep left field, he would be accidentally doused with beer when an overzealous fan knocked over his cup in an attempt to catch the home run. Smith estimated he autographed at least 200,000 copies of the famed photo in his career.
Smith’s best season would come in 1961, when he batted .278/.348/.506 with 28 home runs and 93 RBI.
Smith would return to Cleveland in his penultimate season, appearing in 61 games before finishing his career in Boston.
Another young outfielder made his debut in #32 in the 1950s. Roger Eugene Maras hit the field in 1957, his lone season wearing the three and two. The 25-year old struggled but, but still managed to hit 14 home runs and drive in 51 runs in 424 plate appearances. A season later, after only 51 games, Maris would be shipped to Kansas City with Dick Tomanek for Woodie Held and Vic Power.
In December 1959, Maris was on the move again, this time to the Big Apple. Dealt for the fearsome foursome of Hank Bauer, Don Larsen, Norm Siebern, and Marvelous Marv Throneberry, Maris would explode in New York, leading the league in slugging and earning the first of back-to-back MVP awards. The following season, Maris would make modern history, besting fellow Yankee Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs by one.
Maris would finish his career a productive Yankee, but would never come close to his astronomical 1960 MVP season.
“Project Donkey” would arrive in Cleveland in 2002. Swapped by the Texas Rangers for catcher Einar Diaz and starter Ryan Drese, Travis “Pronk” Hafner would become one the most feared hitters in the mid aughts.
A 31st round pick in 1996, Hafner showed impressive power in the minor leagues, and would rapidly rise through the franchise’s system before being traded.
Hafner’s lone season as #32, he would showcase his potential with 36 extra base hits in 291 at bats for the 2003 Indians. The following spring, Hafner would switch to #48, and would average 32 home runs and 109 RBI a season over the next 4 years. Hafner’s 1.097 OPS and .659 slugging percentage would lead the league in 2006. Despite a few monster seasons, Hafner has never been an All-Star, and has never finished higher than 5th in MVP voting.
Sapped by injuries, Hafner has lost his hitting dominance, and has become a less potent threat. Still a productive hitter, #48 (along with David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox) is the last of the pure designated hitters to man the bench in the American League.
The One Year Wonders
George DeTore, Tommy Irwin, Jim Shilling, Milt Nielsen, Roger Maris, Morrie Martin, Chuck Churn, Jim Baxes, Carl Mathias, Barry Latman, Duke Sims, Ralph Terry, Eddie Fisher, Jack Hamilton, Dean Chance, Alan Foster, Milt Wilcox, Jerry Johnson, Bob Johnson, Bill Gogolewski, Larry Littleton, Ed Whitson, Otto Velez, John Butcher, Steve Carlton, Travis Hafner, Danny Graves, Alex White and Jared Head all wore uniform #32 for only one season.
The All-Time List
George DeTore 3B (1931) 268/359/755, 89 OPS+, 64 PA
Tommy Irwin SS (1938) 111/333/111, 17 OPS+, 12 PA; traded with Denny Galehouse to Red Sox for Ben Chapman
Jim Shilling RF, PH, LF (1939) 282/324/420, 94 OPS+, 141 PA; sent to Phillies in unknown transaction
Al J Smith SP (1940-1945) 66-67, 168 G, 147 GS, 3.47 ERA, 1081.2 IP, 103 ERA+; also #22 in 1941; All-Star in 1943; 15th in MVP voting in 1943
Hank Edwards RF, LF, PH (1946-1949) 279/341/458, 124 OPS+, 1125 PA; was #33 in 1943; lost on waivers to Cubs
Milt Nielsen PR, PH (1951) 000/143/000, -58 OPS+, 6 PA; was #17 in 1949
Barney McCosky PH, RF, LF (1951-1953) 210/285/302, 65 OPS+, 179 PA; claimed off waivers from Reds
Al E Smith RF, LF, 3B (1953-1955) 288/396/444, 126 OPS+, 1481 PA; switched to #16 in 1955; All-Star in 1955; 3rd in MVP voting in 1955
Stu Locklin PH, PR, CF, RF (1955-1956) 167/259/208, 25 OPS+, 27 PA; traded to Red Sox for Jack Spring
Roger Maris CF, LF (1957) 235/344/405, 105 OPS+, 424 PA; switched to #5 in 1958
Chuck Churn RP (1958) 0-0, 6 G, 0 GS, 6.23 ERA, 8.2 IP, 62 ERA+; claimed off waivers from Red Sox; sold to Redlegs
Morrie Martin RP (1958) 2-0, 14 G, 0 GS, 2.41 ERA, 18.2 IP, 157 ERA+; claimed off waivers from Cardinals; traded with Earl Averill to Cubs for Jim Bolger and John Briggs
John Briggs RP (1959-1960) 4-3, 25 G, 3 GS, 3.86 ERA, 49 IP, 99 ERA+ ; also #16 in 1960
Jim Baxes 2B, 3B, PH(1959) 239/299/466, 110 OPS+, 270 PA; traded by Dodgers for Fred Hatfield
Carl Mathias RP (1960) 0-1, 7 G, 0 GS, 3.52 ERA, 15.1 IP, 109 ERA+; also #30 in 1960; lost to Senators in expansion draft
Al Luplow LF, RF, PH (1961-1962) 265/348/452, 117 OPS+, 382 PA; switched to #22 in 1963
Barry Latman SP, RP (1963) 7-12, 38 G, 21 GS, 4.94 ERA, 149.1 IP, 74 ERA+; was #18 in 1962; traded with Joe Adcock (PTBNL) to Angels for Leon Wagner
Duke Sims PH, C (1964) 000/000/000, -100 OPS+, 6 PA; switched to #9 in 1965
John O’Donoghue RP, SP (1966-1967) 14-17, 65 G, 30 GS, 3.51 ERA, 238.2 IP, 96 ERA+; traded by Athletics for Ralph Terry; traded with Gordy Lund to Orioles for Eddie Fisher, Bob Scott and John Scruggs
Eddie Fisher RP (1968) 4-2, 54 G, 0 GS, 2.85 ERA, 94.2 IP, 105 ERA+; traded with Bob Scott and John Scruggs by Orioles for John O’Donoghue and Gordy Lund; traded to Angels for Jack Hamilton
Jack Hamilton RP (1969) 0-2, 20 G, 0 GS, 4.40 ERA, 30.2 IP, 86 ERA+; traded by Angels for Eddie Fisher; traded to White Sox for Sammy Ellis
Dean Chance RP, SP (1970) 9-8, 45 G, 19 GS, 4.24 ERA, 155 IP, 92 ERA+; was also #23 in 1959; traded with Graig Nettles, Ted Uhlaender and Bob Miller by Twins for Luis Tiant and Stan Williams; sold to Mets
Alan Foster SP, RP (1971) 8-12, 36 G, 26 GS, 4.16 ERA, 181.2 IP, 92 ERA+; traded with Ray Lamb by Dodgers for Duke Sims; traded with Vada Pinson and Frank Baker to Angels for Jerry Moses and Alex Johnson
Milt Wilcox SP (1972) 7-014, 32 G, 27 GS, 3.40 ERA, 156 IP, 96 ERA+; traded by Reds for Ted Uhlaender; switched to #43 in 1973
Bob Johnson SP (1974) 3-4, 14 G, 10 GS, 4.38 ERA, 72 IP, 83 ERA+; traded by Pirates for Burnel Flowers; lost on waivers to Rangers
Bill Gogolewski RP (1974) 0-0, 5 G, 0 GS, 4.61 ERA, 13.2 IP, 81 ERA+; traded as PTBNL by Rangers for Steve Hargan
Don Hood RP, SP (1975-1977) 11-16, 103 G, 30 GS, 4.05 ERA, 318 IP, 93 ERA+; traded with Boog Powell by Orioles for Dave Duncan and Al McGrew; switched to #44 in 1977
David Clyde SP (1978-1979) 11-15, 37 G, 33 GS, 4.66 ERA, 199 IP, 84 ERA+; traded with Willie Horton by Rangers for John Lowenstein and Tom Buskey; traded with Jim Norris to Rangers for Larry McCall, Gary Gray and Mike Bucci
Larry Littleton LF (1981) 000/111/000, -65 OPS+, 27 PA; traded with John Burden by Pirates for Larry Andersen; traded to Twins for Larry Milbourne
Ed Whitson RP, SP (1982) 4-2, 40 G, 9 GS, 3.26 ERA, 107.2 IP, 127 ERA+; traded by Giants for Duane Kuiper; traded to Padres for Juan Eichelberger and Broderick Perkins
Otto Velez DH (1983) 080/179/080, -27 OPS+, 28 PA
Rick Behenna SP (1983-1985) 0-7, 12 G, 11 GS, 7.16 ERA, 55.1 IP, 60 ERA+; traded as PTBNL by Braves for Len Barker
John Butcher SP, RP (1986) 1-5, 13 G, 8 GS, 6.93 ERA, 50.2 IP, 60 ERA+; also #38 and #44 in 1986; traded by Twins for Neal Heaton
Steve Carlton SP, RP (1987) 5-9, 23 G, 14 GS, 5.37 ERA, 109 IP, 84 ERA+; traded to Twins for Jeff Perry (PTBNL)
Rudy Seanez RP (1990-1991) 2-1, 29 G, 0 GS, 7.24 ERA, 32.1 IP, 56 ERA+; was #64 in 1989; traded to Dodgers for Dennis Cook and Mike Christopher
Mike Christopher RP (1992-1993) 0-0, 19 G, 0 GS, 3.34 ERA, 29.2 IP, 127 ERA+; also #35 in 1992; traded with Dennis Cook by Dodgers for Rudy Seanez
Dennis Martinez SP (1994-1996) 32-17, 72 G, 72 GS, 3.58 ERA, 475.2 IP, 132 ERA+; All-Star in 1995
Travis Hafner DH, 1B (2003) 254/327/485, 115 OPS+, 324 PA; traded with Aaron Myette by Rangers for Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese; switched to #48 in 2004
Kazuhito Tadano RP (2004-2005) 1-1, 15 G, 4 GS, 4.47 ERA, 54.1 IP, 98 ERA+; traded to Athletics for Ramon Alvarado
Danny Graves RP (2006) 2-1, 13 G, 0 GS, 5.79 ERA, 14 IP, 79 ERA+
Aaron Laffey SP, RP(2007-2010) 18-21, 79 G, 49 GS, 4.41 ERA, 320.1 IP, 97 ERA+; traded to Mariners for Matthew Lawson
Jerad Head LF (2011) 125/160/167, -8 OPS+, 25 PA
Statistics and such
Other fun facts, the uniform #32 has been worn 74 times by 45 different players covering 65 seasons of a possible 83 seasons since 1929. Uniform #32 was shared in a season nine times, 1951, 1953, 1955, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1974, 1983 and 2011.
Of the top challengers for the best to wear #32 for the Indians, who had the best nickname?
Dennis "El Presidente" Martinez (5 votes)
Alphonse "Fuzzy" Smith (0 votes)
Travis Hafner - "Pronk" (3 votes)
Roger "The Rajah" Maris (1 vote)
9 total votes