Hold On Loosely from Wild-Eyed Southern Boys (1981)
Eric Vaughn Plunk was born September 3, 1963 in Wilmington, California. The tall right hander was drafted in the 4th round of the 1981 draft by the New York Yankees. Known for his Jamie-Easterly sized glasses and nerdy appearance, Plunk spent four seasons in the Yankees farm system before being dealt to the Oakland Athletics with Tim Birstas, Stan Javier, Jose Rijo, and Jay Howell for Rickey Henderson and Bert Bradley. Plunk would debut in 1986 as a part-time starter, and struggle with his command. After spending over three seasons in the Bay Area (and migrating to the bullpen), Plunk would return to the Yankees, this time again as a part in a Rickey Henderson trade. In three full seasons in New York, Plunk would throw 260 innings in 117 appearances, mostly in relief.
Released by the Toronto Blue Jays at the end of spring training 1992 (and never throwing a major league pitch for them), Plunk signed as a free agent with the Indians on April 9, 1992. Over the next seven seasons, Plunk would be a bullpen mainstay for the Tribe, appearing in 373 games, pitching 462 innings, winning 36 games, losing 23, and accumulating a 140 ERA+. From 1993 through 1996, Plunk would go 20-11 with an ERA of 2.60. During that span, he would strike out 306 batters in 283 2/3 innings (a K/9 of 9.7).
Unfortunately, Plunk’s pitching success did not translate to the post season, where Plunk would go 1-3 with an ERA of 7.53 in 15 appearances, including World Series in 1995 and 1997.
Despite having the name Plunk, Eric would hit only 32 batters over his 14 year career.
As a premier set-up man, Plunk technically earned holds before the statistical category was defined in 1999. As of 2012, he is the best Indian to have worn uniform number 38.
If I’d Been the One from Special Forces (1982)
How do you trade a 25 year old fan favorite coming of successive 40+ home run, 110+ RBI seasons? Only Frank “Trader” Lane knows the answer to that question.
Colavtio donned #38 for his first three seasons in Cleveland, including 1956, when he finished second to Luis Aparicio for Rookie of the Year honors. The young outfielder would not hit his stride until after switching to #6 in 1958. During his time as #38, Colavito hit .264/.359/.497 in 933 PA, with an OPS+ of 128.
Perhaps the curse of Rocco Domenico Colavito continues to haunt Cleveland, who hasn’t won a World Series title since 1948.
Caught Up in You from Special Forces (1982)
If it weren’t for being “Death to Flying Things, “ it’s doubtful that Franklin Gutierrez would have ever been a productive major leaguer. Gutierrez came to Cleveland along with pitcher Andrew Brown in exchange for prepetually disgruntled outfielder Milton Bradley. As a 24 year old in his first full season in Cleveland, Gutierrez showed promise, hitting .266/.318/.472 in only 301 plate appearances.
Primed to become a fixture in the Cleveland outfield, Gutierrez floundered the following season, losing 99 points from his OPS. A low on-base percentage combined with a dip in slugging production led to Gutierrez being dealt in the following offseason to the Seattle Mariners in a three team, twelve player trade. Gootz rebounded offensively in 2009, hitting 18 home runs and scoring 85 runs in 153 games. An impeccable defensive fielder, Gutierrez has accumulated an impressive 8.4 dWAR** in nine seasons while struggling at the plate in Seattle.
** Defensive metric caveats apply.
Special Delivery (1978)
Joe Smith arrived in Cleveland in 2009 on the other end of the Franklin Gutierrez trade. One of the game’s few low arm angle pitchers, Smith has appeared in 185 games for the Indians, with an ERA+ of 135. Drafted out of Wright State University by the New York Mets, Smith changed his arm angle in college after surgery on his labrum derailed his sophomore season.
He is known for enjoying Ohio’s night life, and being one of the premier relief pitchers in the Lake Erie floodbasin.
His current Twitter handle is @thethree8.
Second Chance from Rock & Roll Strategy (1988)
Early Wynn’s second stint in Cleveland would be a brief one year affair. In his final season, Wynn appeared in 20 games, made 5 starts, hurled 55.1 innings, strike out 29, walk 15, and go 1-2 in three decisions. The Hall of Famer held his own at age 43, five seasons after his first legendary spell with the Indians.
Wild-Eyed Southern Boy(s) from Wild-Eyed Southern Boys (1981)
Thurman Tucker may have been wild-eyed (and bespectacled!) but he certainly was also non-slugging during his four seasons with the Indians. The Gordon, Texas native spent the last half of his career in Cleveland in a part-time patroller of center and left field and reluctant pinch-hitter, collecting only 608 plate appearances in 221 games. Tucker hit 2 home runs in 541 at-bats and slugged a paltry .301 in Cleveland
An All-Star in 1944 for the Chicago White Sox, Tucker’s fortunes faded quickly after a World War II military tour.
* - Although not a fan of the Southern Rock-infused band formed by Don Barnes and Donnie Van Zandt out of Jacksonville, Florida, their discography serves as a suitable template for this post.
The One Year Wonders
Chuck Workman, Bob Lemon, Tom Ferrick, Jack Salveson, Russ Lyon, Ray Mack, Paul Lehner, Pete Reiser, Jose Santiago, Billy Harrell, Early Wynn, Billy Rohr, Rob Gardner, Steve J Kline, Bill Laxton, Dave Freisleben, Luis Aponte, Dave Von Ohlen, John Butcher, Dave Hengel, Keith Atherton, Cecilio Guante, Shawn Hillegas, Eddie Perez and Aaron Myette all wore uniform #38 for only one season.
The All-Time List
Chuck Workman PH, PR (1941) 000/200/000, -42 OPS+, 5 PA; was #33 in 1938
Steve Gromek RP (1941-1942) 3-1, 23 G, 2 GS, 3.86 ERA, 67.2 IP, 95 ERA+; switched to #25 in 1943
Bob Lemon PH, 3B, PR (1941) 250/250/250, 35 OPS+, 4 PA; switched to #42 in 1942
Tom Ferrick RP (1942) 3-2, 31 G, 2 GS, 1.99 ERA, 81.1 IP, 174 ERA+; claimed off waivers from Athletics; switched to #26 in 1946
Jack Salveson RP, SP (1943) 5-3, 23 G, 11 GS, 3.68 ERA, 86 IP, 93 ERA+; Rule 5 draftee from Oakland Oaks (PCL-AA); switched to #35 in 1945
Russ Lyon PH, C (1944) 182/250/182, 26 OPS+, 12 PA
Ray Mack 2B (1944) 232/301/306, 77 OPS+, 319 PA; was #6 in 1943; switched to #2 in 1946
Thurman Tucker CF, PH, LF, PR (1948-1951) 238/320/301, 66 OPS+, 608 PA; traded by White Sox for Ralph Weigel
Paul Lehner PH (1951) 231/286/231, 44 OPS+, 14 PA; claimed off waivers from Browns; lost on waivers to Red Sox
Pete Reiser PH, PR, CF, LF (1952) 136/208/364, 61 OPS+, 48 PA; also #23 in 1952
Jose Santiago RP (1954) 0-0, 1 G, 0 GS, 0.00 ERA, 1.2 IP, no ERA+; switched to #34 and #51 in 1955
Rocky Colavito RF (1955-1957) 264/359/497, 128 OPS+, 933 PA; 2nd in Rookie of Year voting in 1956; switched to #6 in 1958
Billy Harrell 3B, SS, PH, PR, 2B (1958) 218/271/328, 65 OPS+, 248 PA; was #6 and #37 in 1957; lost on waivers to Cardinals
Don Dillard PH (1959-1960) 294/333/294, 76 OPS+, 18 PA; switched to #36 in 1961
Frank Funk RP (1960-1962) 17-14, 112 G, 0 GS, 3.08 ERA, 204.2 IP, 127 ERA+; traded with Don Dillard and Ty Cline (PTBNL) to Braves for Joe Adcock and Jack Curtis
Early Wynn RP (1963) 1-2, 20 G, 5 GS, 2.28 ERA, 55.1 IP, 161 ERA+
Billy Rohr RP (1968) 1-0, 17 G, 0 GS, 6.87 ERA, 18.1 IP, 45 ERA+; purchased from Red Sox; traded with Russ Nagelson to Tigers for Fred Lasher
Rob Gardner RP (1968) 0-0, 5 G, 0 GS, 6.75 ERA, 2.2 IP, 53 ERA+; traded by Cubs for Bobby Tiefenauer; traded to Yankees for John Orsino
Phil Hennigan RP (1969-1972) 17-10, 146 G, 2 GS, 3.91 ERA, 237.1 IP, 95 ERA+; traded to Mets for Bob Rauch and Brent Strom
Steve Jack Kline SP (1974) 3-8, 16 G, 11 GS, 5.07 ERA, 71 IP, 72 ERA+; traded with Fritz Peterson, Tom Buskey and Fred Beene by Yankees for Chris Chambliss, Cecil Upshaw and Dick Tidrow; sold to Braves
Bill Laxton RP (1977) 0-0, 2 G, 0 GS, 5.40 ERA, 1.2 IP, 90 ERA+; traded by Mariners for Ray Fosse; traded to Padres for Dave Freisleben
Dave Freisleben SP (1978) 1-4, 12 G, 10 GS, 7.11 ERA, 44.1 IP, 54 ERA+; also #14 in 1978; traded by Padres for Bill Laxton; traded to Blue Jays for Sheldon Mallory (PTBNL)
Lary Sorensen SP (1982-1983) 22-26, 68 G, 64 GS, 4.87 ERA, 412 IP, 87 ERA+; traded as part of 3 team deal, traded with Silvio Martinez from Cardinals and Scott Munninghoff (PTBNL from Phillies, Indians sent Bo Diaz to Phillies
Luis Aponte RP (1984) 1-0, 25 G, 0 GS, 4.11 ERA, 50.1 IP, 101 ERA+; traded by Red Sox for Paul Perry and Mike Poindexter
Dave Von Ohlen RP (1985) 3-2, 26 G, 0 GS, 2.91 ERA, 43.1 IP, 144 ERA+
John Butcher DH, 3B (1986) 1-5, 13 G, 8 GS, 6.93 ERA, 50.2 IP, 60 ERA+; also #32 and #44 in 1986; traded by Twins for Neal Heaton
Keith Atherton RP (1989) 0-3, 32 G, 0 GS, 4.15 ERA, 39 IP, 97 ERA+; also #22 in 1989; traded by Twins for Carmelo Castillo
Dave Hengel LF, DH, PH (1989) 120/185/160, -2 OPS+, 29 PA; traded by Mariners for Chick Baldwin
Cecilio Guante RP (1990) 2-3, 26 G, 1 GS, 5.01 ERA, 46.2 IP, 79 ERA+
Shawn Hillegas RP (1991) 3-4, 51 G, 3 GS, 4.34 ERA, 83 IP, 97 ERA+; traded with Eric King by White Sox for Cory Snyder and Lindsay Foster; claimed off waivers by Blue Jays
Eric Plunk RP (1992-1998) 36-23, 373 G, 0 GS, 3.25 ERA, 462 IP, 141 ERA+; traded to Brewers for Doug Jones
Eddie Perez C (2002) 214/252/291, 46 OPS+, 125 PA; traded by Braves for Jason Fitzgerald (PTBNL)
Franklin Gutierrez RF, PH, LF, CF, PR, DH (2005-2008) 258/308/409, 88 OPS+, 884 PA; traded with Andrew Brown (PTBNL) by Dodgers for Milton Bradley; traded as part of 3 team deal to Mariners, Mariners sent Luis Valbuena to Indians and Mets sent Joe Smith to Indians
Joe Smith RP (2009-2012) 5-5, 161 G, 0 GS, 2.87 ERA, 141 IP, 141 ERA+; traded as part of 3 team trade by Mets to Indians, Indians sent Franklin Gutierrez to Mariners, Mariners sent Luis Valbuena to Indians
Statistics and such
Other fun facts, the uniform #38 has been worn 63 times by 36 different players covering 53 seasons of a possible 84 seasons since 1929. Uniform #38 was shared in a season nine times, 1941, 1942, 1944, 1951, 1960, 1968, 1989, 2003 and 2005. It was shared by three players in 1941.