Donald John McMahon was born January 4, 1930 in Brooklyn, New York, where he graduated from Erasmus Hall High School and played for the local baseball club, the Flatbush Robins.
Known for more than just his gaping maw, McMahon was a reliever who pitched for seven teams in 18 seasons, at a time when closers weren't the specialists they are today. His somewhat forgotten career is a testament to amazing durability. Only three other pitchers (Hoyt Wilhelm, Lindy McDaniel and Cy Young) would appear in more career games. McMahon also never spent a day on the disabled list.
The solid right-hander appeared in 874 games, and totalled 1,310 and 2/3 innings with 1,003 strikeouts. His career began when he was signed in 1950 by the Boston Braves. They converted the former third baseman into a pitcher and sent the New Yorker to Owensboro, Kentucky. There, he won 20 games in 33 starts, leading the league in wins, strikeouts and ERA. He was then on to a brief tour in Denver (4 games) before a two-year enlistment in the Army delayed his return to the mound.
McMahon continued his tour through the Braves system with stops in Evansville and Atlanta. In 1955, he would suffer a dismal season in Toledo (2-13, 5.01 ERA). A hard-thrower, McMahon was moved to the bullpen, where he flourished.
McMahon’s debut would come in 1957 at the tender age of 27. Against the Pittsburgh Pirates, McMahon pitched four innings out of the pen, striking out seven. The rookie’s now-Milwaukee Braves would go on to win the 1957 World Series. He would hurl five scoreless innings in 3 appearances in the series.
By 1959, McMahon was a solid part of the Braves pen, leading the National League with 15 saves.
The Cleveland Indians purchased McMahon after a season spent with the Houston Colt .45s. In his first season with the Tribe, McMahon established himself, breaking the club record for appearances with 70. He finished 6-4 with 16 saves, 151 ERA+ and 92 strikeouts in 101 innings. He was also named Man of the Year for the Indians.
The next season saw McMahon go 3-3 with 11 saves in 58 games. He closed out 31 games for the fifth-place 87-75 Indians, who finished 15 games behind the first-place Twins.
By early 1966. McMahon was used with less frequency. By May, he had tossed just 12.1 innings in 12 games. In early June, he was dealt to the Boston Red Sox for underperfoming fireman Dick Radatz.
McMahon would take to his new environment with a sterling 4-inning relief appearance against the Yankees, and just a month after the deal would be the first pitcher since 1916 to win both ends of a doubleheader.
McMahon would become the Red Sox closer with nine saves and a 2.65 ERA. Dick Radatz would struggle in Cleveland, contributing to the firing of manager Birdie Tebbetts. McMahon was voted by the Boston sports press as their most valuable pitcher of 1966.
McMahon would spend one more year in Boston before being sent to the Chicago White Sox. After two seasons in the Windy City, McMahon was again packing his bags — this time shipped to Detroit in exchange for Dennis Ribant. The Tigers would send McMahon to the San Francisco Giants in 1969 for a player to be named later. (Cesar Gutierrez.) McMahon would finish his protracted career after six seasons in San Francisco, where he would go 29-15 with 36 saves in 210 games.
McMahon would make one All Star appearance in 1958. In his two-plus seasons in Cleveland, McMahon would go 10-8 with a 2.81 ERA (127 ERA+), 140 games, 75 games finished, 28 saves in 198.1 innings.
Richmond Lockwood Sexson (1997-2000)
If not for being six-feet six inches tall, Richmond Lockwood Sexson probably would have been teased about his name. A 24th round draft pick by the Indians, "Richie" Sexson would make his Tribe debut as a late-season callup on September 14, 1997. Primarily a first baseman, Sexson would grab only 11 plate appearances before returning to the club in 1998 for a longer stay. In 49 games, Sexson would hit 11 dingers in 174 at-bats. Not a plate disciplinarian, Sexson would tally only 6 free passes compared to 42 strikeouts.
By 1999, Sexson would split 134 games between left field, first base, and designated hitter. On a club with Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez, Sexson’s 31 home runs were only third-best on the team. Despite his power acumen, Sexson’s overall line resulted in a mediocre 102 OPS+. In 2000, the twenty-five year old would club 16 homers in 91 games for the Indians before being traded with Kane Davis, Paul Rigdon and Marco Scutaro to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for a trio of pitchers — Jason Bere, Bob Wickman, and Steve Woodward.
Sexson would blossom into a full-force slugger with the Brewers and Mariners, mashing 238 HR over 8 seasons with the clubs. A one-year stop in Arizona was derailed by injury, with Sexson appearing in only 23 games. The two-time all star would retire after a similar 22 game stint with the New York Yankees.
Defensive liabilities limited Sexson’s value over his career. In an era of big offense, Sexson seemed like just another corner fielder with a big stick. Had he remained in Cleveland and put up the production found in Milwaukee and Seattle, Sexson would hands-down be the best to wear #44 for the Indians,
Clifford "Heathcliff" Johnson (1979-1980)
A locker room brawl with Goose Gossage brought Clifford "Heathcliff" Johnson to Cleveland from the New York Yankees. Johnson was exiled from the Bronx for starter Don "Microwave Range" Hood after the fight which sent the valuable Gossage to the disabled list for two months. From June 1979 to June 1980, over a span of 126 games, Johnson would put together a solid "season" for the Tribe — hitting 24 homers and driving in 89 runs in 477 plate appearances for an OPS+ of 114. Johnson was dealt to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for concessions sales wizard Karl Pagel.* Pagel’s unmatched Roasted Peanut slinging techniques were a welcome sight in then moribund Municpal Stadium, where he led the American League East in single-vendor peanut sales.
Johnson would spend 42 minutes in Chicago before being traded to the Oakland A’s. As a free agent, Johnson would sign with the Texas Rangers before finishing his career as a fan-favorite for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Over 15 seasons primarily as a designated hitter, Johnson hit 196 home runs. He hit over 20 home runs four times, and OPS-ed over 1.000 in two full seasons. Never an all-star, Johnson’s best seasons came at opposite ends of his career, As a 29 year old in Houston and New York with an OPS+ of 171, and later as a 36 year old Toronto Blue Jay with an OPS+ of 143. Johnson also won two World Series rings with the Yankees.
The One Year Wonders
Ben Chapman , Les Webber , Tommy Gramly , Jim Strickland , Ed Glynn, Rick Sutcliffe, John Butcher, Reggie Ritter, Ed Vande Berg, Jon Perlman, Mike Young, Ken Phelps, Tony Perezchica, Mike Huff, Russ Swan, Ken Hill, Kevin Mitchell, Rich Rodriguez, Todd Dunwoody, Brian Sikorski, Mike Koplove, Jorge Julio, Sal Fasano, Carl Pavano, Zach Putnam, and Dan Wheeler all wore uniform #44 for only one season.
The All-Time List
Ben Chapman CF (1940) 286/377/403, 104 OPS+, 631 PA; also #11 in 1940; was #2 and #11 in 1939; traded to Senators for Joe Krakauskas
Les Webber SP, RP (1946) 1-1, 4 G, 2 GS, 23.63 ERA, 5.1 IP, 15 ERA+; also #33 in 1946; claimed off waiver from Dodgers; switched to #28 in 1948
Don McMahon RP (1964-1966) 10-8, 140 G, 0 GS, 2.81 ERA, 198.1 IP, 127 ERA+; purchased from Colt .45s; traded with Lee Stange to Red Sox for Dick Radatz
Tommy Gramly RP (1968) 0-1, 3 G, 0 GS, 2.70 ERA, 3.1 IP, 127 ERA+
Vince Colbert RP, SP (1970-1972) 9-14, 95 G, 21 GS, 4.57 ERA, 248.1 IP, 80 ERA+; traded to Rangers for Tom Ragland; traded with Rich Hinton by Rangers for Alex Johnson
Jim Strickland RP (1975) 0-0, 4 G, 0 GS, 1.93 ERA, 4.2 IP, 212 ERA+; traded with Mike Brooks by Twins for Bill Butler and Dick Colpaert
Don Hood RP, SP (1977-1979) 8-7, 90 G, 24 GS, 3.87 ERA, 281.2 IP, 105 ERA+; also #32 in 1977; was #32 in 1975-6; traded to Yankees for Cliff Johnson
Cliff Johnson DH, PH (1979-1980) 254/333/464, 114 OPS+, 477 PA; traded by Yankees for Don Hood; traded to Cubs for Karl Pagel (PTBNL)
Ed Glynn RP (1981) 0-0, 4 G, 0 GS, 1.17 ERA, 7.2 IP, 329 ERA+; traded by Mets for Dominick Bullinger; switched to #48 in 1982
Rick Sutcliffe SP (1982) 14-8, 34 G, 27 GS, 2.96 ERA, 216 IP, 140 ERA+; 5th in Cy Young voting in 1982; 32nd in MVP voting in 1982; also #43 in 1982; traded with Jack Perconte by Dodgers for Jorge Orta, Jack Fimple and Larry White; switched to #43 in 1983
Neal Heaton SP, RP (1982-1986) 35-47, 133 G, 99 GS, 4.77 ERA, 661 IP, 88 ERA+; traded to Twins for John Butcher
John Butcher SP, RP (1986) 1-5, 13 G, 8 GS, 6.93 ERA, 50.2 IP, 60 ERA+; also #32 and #38 in 1986; traded by Twins for Neal Heaton
Frank Wills RP (1986-1987) 4-5, 32 G, 0 GS, 4.93 ERA, 45.2 IP, 86 ERA+; also #45 in 1986 and #22 in 1987
Ed Vande Berg RP (1987) 1-0, 55 G, 0 GS, 5.10 ERA, 72.1 IP, 89 ERA+; also #36 in 1987
Reggie Ritter RP (1987) 1-1, 14 G, 0 GS, 6.08 ERA, 26.2 IP, 75 ERA+; also #53 in 1987; was #53 in 1986
Jon Perlman RP (1988) 0-2, 10 G, 0 GS, 5.49 ERA, 19.2 IP, 76 ERA+
Mike Young PH, DH (1989) 186/273/237, 45 OPS+, 66 PA; sold to Toyo Carp (Japan Central)
Jeff Manto 1B, 3B, PH (1990, 1997) 235/367/443, 120 OPS+, 128 PA; also #45 in 1990 and #12 in 1997; traded with Colin Charland by Angels for Scott Bailes; switched to #45 in 1991; traded by Blue Jays for Ryan Thompson; lost on waivers to Tigers; switched to #12 in 1998 and then to #26 in 1998 after returning on waivers
Ken Phelps 1B, DH, PH (1990) 115/239/115, 3 OPS+, 71 PA; purchased from Athletics
Mike Huff CF, PH, LF, RF (1991) 240/364/336, 95 OPS+, 179 PA; rule 5 draftee from Dodgers; lost on waivers to White Sox
Tony Perezchica SS, PH, PR, 3B, 2B (1991) 364/440/455, 148 OPS+, 25 PA; claimed on waivers from Giants; switched to #20 in 1992
Reggie Jefferson DH, 1B, PH (1992-1993) 266/318/393, 93 OPS+, 494 PA; was #24 in 1991; traded with Felix Fermin for Omar Vizquel
Russ Swan RP (1994) 0-1, 12 G, 0 GS, 11.25 ERA, 8 IP, 43 ERA+
Kevin Mitchell DH, PH (1997) 153/275/373, 66 OPS+, 69 PA
Rich Rodriguez RP (2001) 2-2, 53 G, 0 GS, 4.15 ERA, 39 IP, 109 ERA+
Todd Dunwoody LF, RF (2002) 000/000/000, -100 OPS+, 7 PA; acquired as part of conditional deal with Cubs
Josh Bard C (2002-2005) 238/289/370, 76 OPS+, 543 PA; traded with Jody Gerut by Rockies for Jacob Cruz; traded with Coco Crisp and David Riske to Red Sox for Andy Marte, Kelly Shoppach, Guillermo Mota and Randy Newsom (PTBNL)
Mike Koplove RP (2007) 0-0, 5 G, 0 GS, 6.00 ERA, 6 IP, 80 ERA+
Jorge Julio RP (2008) 0-0, 15 G, 0 GS, 5.60 ERA, 17.2 IP, 77 ERA+
Sal Fasano C (2008) 261/340/348, 85 OPS+, 54 PA; acquired as part of conditional deal with Braves
Carl Pavano SP (2009) 9-8, 21 G, 21 GS, 2.87 ERA, 125.2 IP, 79 ERA+; traded to Twins for Yohan Pino (PTBNL)
Zach Putnam RP (2010) 1-1, 8 G, 0 GS, 6.14 ERA, 7.1 IP, 67 ERA+; traded to Rockies for Kevin Slowey
Dan Wheeler RP (2012) 0-0, 12 G, 0 GS, 8.76 ERA, 12.1 IP, 45 ERA+
Statistics and such
Other fun facts, the uniform #44 has been worn 56 times by 36 different players covering 44 seasons of a possible 84 seasons since 1929. Uniform #44 was shared in a season nine times, 1979, 1982, 1986, 1987, 1990, 1991, 1997, 2002 and 2008, 1942, 1944, 1951, 1960, 1968, 1989, 2003 and 2005. It was shared by three players in 1986, 1987 and 1997.
10 votes total