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Roy Maxwell Alvis
Third Baseman, 1962-1969
Height: 5'11" Weight: 185 lbs.
Acquired: Amateur Free Agent, Before 1958 Season
Left Via: Trade, 4-4-1970 (Milwaukee Brewers):
Traded by the Cleveland Indians to the Milwaukee Brewers for 2B Frank Coggins, OF Roy Foster, and cash.
By the end of the 1962 season, the Indians had a trio of prospects in AAA that were ready to make the jump to the majors in 1963: center fielder Vic Davalillo, shortstop Tony Martinez, and third baseman Max Alvis.
"Naturally," says [GM] Gabe Paul, "you can’t figure on having three rookies make it at once. That would be hitting the jackpot. But from our reports, this could happen."
Sporting News, 9-15-1962
It turned out that two of the three would have long major-league careers. Martinez washed out quickly, but both Davalillo and Alvis would be mainstays of the Tribe lineup through most of the 1960s. But although both turned into major-league players, both Davalillo and Alvis would have their potential limited thanks to traumatic events. In Davallilo’s case, his arm was broken by a pitch just months into his major-league career, and although he was healthy by the end of the season, he now bailed out if a pitch came inside on him. As for Alvis…
The Indians signed Max Alvis in 1958; the University of Texas product spent four seasons in the minors, two of which were in Salt Lake City, one of Cleveland’s two AAA affiliates. In 1962, he hit .319/.379/.542 with 25 homers, and got a brief callup at the end of the season because of it.
That winter, the Indians dealt Bubba Phillips, the incumbent third baseman, to the Tigers, so Alvis came to spring training with a leg up on the everyday job, but there was still some obstacles to overcome. Woodie Held, who had been the Tribe shortstop in 1962, was going to be starting somewhere, whether it be shortstop, third, or even the outfield. So essentially Alvis and fellow rookie Tony Martinez were in competition for a spot on the Opening Day roster. After the smoke had cleared, Alvis won the third base job, and he’d hold it for the next seven seasons.
What type of player was Alvis? Defensively, he was below-average to average, improving as his career progressed. In his first full season, he committed 28 errors, but improved his fielding percentage as the years went by. He was never in contention for a Gold Glove, but never would have had a shot even if has a better defender because Brooks Robinson played in the same league; Robinson won the Gold Glove every season Alvis was active as a major-leaguer. The Indians never tried to move him to another defensive position; he played one inning at shortstop late in a game (5-11-1969), but other than that, he was always at the hot corner. At the plate, he always had decent power, but usually a low on-base percentage. He usually hit in the the middle third of the order. He had little success in base stealing. But he was a durable player, appearing in over 150 games five of his first six full seasons.
The one season he missed time (1964) was because of the traumatic event hinted at above. Alvis had hit .274/.324/.460 (118 OPS+) in his rookie season, and half-way through his sophomore campaign was hitting a comparable .251/.315/.445, which was quite good for that era. He went 3-for-4 with a home run on June 25th, a game in Minnesota, and while on the plane to their next stop (Boston), he got an intense headache. That night he was rushed to the hospital and was diagnosed with spinal meningitis. He would be back in the same lineup in six weeks, but he felt he was never the same again:
"I thought I was done and over with it. But in retrospect, I soon realized I didn't have the same strength, the same stamina and endurance I'd had before I got sick. I remember that I was constantly changing bats, thinking maybe I should go to one that was lighter, but it didn't help."
-Max Alvis, "Whatever Happened to Super Joe?"
After his return, Alvis had remarkably similar offensive numbers compared to before his illness, hitting .254/.311/.448. But 1964 would be one of his last good offensive seasons. He would drop to league average in 1965 and 1966, though that was OBP-related, not power-related. From afar, it looks like his power remained consistent throughout through the 1967 season, but perhaps his weakness caused him to cheat more on pitches to get around on them.
After 1967, in which he hit 21 home runs, Alvis' power went away, and when that went, he wasn't a viable major-league option. He was still the everyday player in 1968, though he sat more often, and missed almost 60 days due to injury in 1969. The Indians acquired Graig Nettles that offseason, and after Nettles beat him out for the starting job, Alvis was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers, where he hit .183/.217/.278 in his final major-league season.
After retiring from baseball, Alvis went back to his hometown of Jasper, Texas, and became president of the First National Bank of Jasper. His son David, a left-handed first baseman, played in the Indians organization for three seasons in the mid-80s.
Indians Career Stats
|CLE (8 yrs)||951||3864||3514||405||874||140||22||108||361||42||44||257||642||.249||.305||.393||.698||99||1382|
AL All-Star: 1965, 1967
AL MVP: 17th, 1963
AL Hits: 8th, 1963; 6th, 1967
AL Total Bases: 6th, 1963; 8th, 1967
AL Doubles: 3rd, 1963
AL Singles: 6th, 1967
AL Putouts as 3B: 1st, 1963; 1st, 1965; 1st, 1966; 1st, 1967
AL Fielding Percentage as 3B: 5th, 1966; 5th, 1967; 5th, 1968
The Sporting News, 1962-1965
Russell Schneider, Whatever Happened to Super Joe?
YoDaddyWags and mauichuck, for providing scouting reports and information on Alvis' defensive ability.