Step on up and place another Dime in the Jukebox to hear the plaudits of Paul Andre Assenmacher, the best #45 in Tribe history. Originally a Motown boy born in Detroit, Paul attended Aquinas High School in Southgate, Michigan. After failing to make the Hot 100 (draft), he went on to pitch at another Aquinas, this time the college in Grand Rapids. Again, he failed to crack the Hot 100 (draft), but signed as an indie deal (amateur free agent) with the Braves July 10, 1983. He reported to the GCL Braves (Gulf Coast- Rookie) and shined with a 2.21 ERA in 36.2 IP and 1.064 WHIP and sparkling 10.8 K/9 and 11.00 K/BB ratio, finally cracking the Top 100.
In 1984, he cracked the Top 90 by moving onto the famed Durham (NC) Bulls (Carolina-A) and struggled somewhat with a 4.28 ERA in 147.1 IP, 24 starts, a 1.391 WHIP, but maintained a strong K/9 of 9.0. In 1985, he moved to the bullpen full time and dropped his ERA to 3.29 in 38.1 IP with a 8.5 K/9 for Durham before cracking the Top 80 by moving up to the Greenville (SC) Braves (Southern-AA) and finishing 1985 with a 2.56 ERA in 52.2 IP, a 1.101 WHIP and 10.1 K/9. This would earn him a rising star with a bullet.
He made the Braves opening day roster in 1986, cracking the Top 25, skipping AAA altogether and put up superb numbers as a 25 year old rookie, 7-3, 2.50 ERA (159 ERA+) in 61 games, 68.1 IP, 1.273 WHIP and a 7.4 K/9. He struggled a bit in 1987, 5.10 ERA, resulting in a 4 game tour with Richmond –AAA (his only AAA games ever), before returning. He was fine in 1988 (3.06 ERA, 120 ERA+) and ok in 1989 (3.59 ERA, 101 ERA+) before getting dealt to the Cubs in late August for two PTBNL (Kelly Mann, Pat Gomez). He was very effective for the Cubs (114 ERA+ in 331.1 IP) until mid-1993 when the Cubs sent him to the Yankees, the Yankees sent John Habyan to the Royals and the Cubs received Tuffy Rhodes from the Royals. He was dealt to the White Sox for Brian Boehringer in 1994 before reaching free agency.
John Hart was looking for bullpen arms and signed the 34 year old to a three album deal. He would go onto record four hit albums as the LOOGY of those 90s Indians, compiling a 3.03 ERA (157 ERA+) in 254 games, 181 IP, 1.298 WHIP, 9.0 K/9 and 3.0 K/BB ratio from 1995 to 1998. Unfortunately, his last album failed to chart in 1999, 8.18 ERA (61 ERA+) in 33 IP that tanked his career ERA+ to 126.
For a non-drafted amateur signing, Assenmacher pitched in 884 games in his 15 year MLB career with a 3.53 ERA (118 ERA+) and 8.5 K/9 ratio. He was most definitely not a one hit wonder. He was last seen as a pitching coach for the St. Pius X Catholic High School in Atlanta, GA in 2010.
A Brief History
The player who is second in plate appearances for #45 is Brad Komminsk (227). He was a minor league free agent signing in November 1988 and had a solid 1.3 WAR while hitting 237/319/419 106 OPS+ as the backup center fielder in 1989. He was lost on waivers in April 1990 to the Giants and spent six years managing in the Indians farm system with Columbus (GA), Kinston and Akron. He currently is the hitting coach for the Aberdeen Ironbirds (NY-Penn-Baltimore).
The player who edged out Komminsk in plate appearances for #45 is Jeff Manto (245), although it took two seasons to do it, 1990-1991 (My assumption is that his lone June 1990 appearance was in #44 while the rest of the season he wore #45). Acquired from the Angels with Colin Charland for Scott Bailes, Manto split time at first, third and behind the dish those two seasons. His 216/340/343 91 OPS+ was not spectacular and he was released in November 1991. Manto would return to the Tribe a number of times: from Blue Jays via trade in 1997 (#44, #12); lost on waivers to Detroit April 1998; after released by Tigers, resigned June 1998 (#12); released October 1998, signed January 1999 (#26); lost on waivers to Yankees July 1999; released and resigned with Indians August 1999 (#16); released October 1999; released by Rockies and resigned by Indians April 2000. He currently is the hitting coach for the White Sox.
The only player to obtain postseason recognition in #45 was Jerry Dipoto, by finishing 8th in Rookie of the Year voting in 1993. He was 4-4 in 46 games, had 11 saves and a 2.40 ERA (182 ERA+) but a poor 1.544 WHIP. He did not make the opening day roster in 1994 however, and had a poor 8.04 ERA in 15.2 IP before being included with Paul Byrd, Dave Mlicki and Jesus Azuaje (PTBNL) to Mets for Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Roa. Dipoto is the current general manager of the Angels.
The career leader in innings pitched for #45 is Jeremy Sowers. In 2006, Sowers had a great midseason debut, going 7-4 in 14 starts with 2 shutouts and 3.57 ERA (126 ERA+) in 88.1 IP. While his WHIP was good at 1.189, his K/9 was poor at 3.6. He would not recapture his initial glory, having ERA+ of 71, 76 and 81 in subsequent seasons. He was granted free agency in November 2011.
The One Hit Wonders
Red Howell, Vern Freiburger, Ray Flanigan, Joe Altobelli, Gordy Coleman, Jim Bolger, Frank Wills, Brad Komminsk, Tim Laker, Josh Phelps, Raul Gonzalez, Josh Judy and Luke Carlin all wore uniform #45 for only one season.
The All-Time List
Vern Freiburger 1B (1941) 125/125/125 -32 OPS+, 8 PA
Ray Flanigan RP, SP (1946) 0-1, 3 G, 1 GS, 11.00 ERA, 9 IP, 31 ERA+
Joe Altobelli 1B (1955) 200/259/320 53 OPS+, 84 PA; switched to #5 in 1957
Jim Bolger PH (1959) 000/125/000 -62 OPS+, 8 PA; traded with John Briggs by Cubs for Earl D Averill and Morrie Martin; traded to Phillies for Willie Jones
Gordy Coleman 1B, PH (1959) 533/563/667 241 OPS+, 16 PA; traded with Billy Martin and Cal McLish to Redlegs for Johnny Temple
Tom Kelley RP (1964-1967) 6-9, 42 G, 11 GS, 3.97 ERA, 136 IP, 88 ERA+
Tom Brennan RP, SP (1981-1983) 8-6, 48 G, 15 GS, 3.89 ERA, 180.2 IP, 104 ERA+; also #41 in 1982; traded to White Sox for Craig Smajstrla (PTBNL)
Frank Wills RP (1986) 4-4, 26 G, 0 GS, 4.91 ERA, 40.1 IP, 85 ERA+; also #44 in 1986; switched to #44 and #22 in 1987
Brad Komminsk CF, PR, PH (1989) 237/319/419 106 OPS+, 227 PA; claimed on waivers by Giants
Jeff Manto 1B, 3B, C (1990-1991) 216/340/343 91 OPS+, 245 PA; also #44 in 1990; traded with Colin Charland by Angels for Scott Bailes
Jerry Dipoto RP (1993-1994) 4-4, 53 G, 0 GS, 3.63 ERA, 72 IP, 123 ERA+; 8th in Rookie of the Year voting in 1993; traded with Paul Byrd, Dave Mlicki and Jesus Azuaje (PTBNL) to Mets for Jeromy Burnitz and Joe Roa
Paul Assenmacher RP (1995-1999) 19-10, 309 G, 0 GS, 3.83 ERA, 214 IP, 126 ERA+
Justin Speier RP (2000-2001) 7-2, 59 G, 0 GS, 4.15 ERA, 89 IP, 117 ERA+; claimed off waivers from Braves; traded to Mets for Brian Jenkins (PTBNL)
Tim Laker C (2001) 128/308/273 56 OPS+, 40 PA; switched to #15 in 2003
Terry Mulholland RP (2002-2003) 6-6, 61 G, 6 GS, 4.81 ERA, 146 IP, 92 ERA+
Raul Gonzalez PH, RF (2004) 091/091/091 -51 OPS+, 11 PA
Jeremy Sowers SP (2006-2009) 18-30, 72 G, 71 GS, 5.18 ERA, 400 IP, 84 ERA+; also #47 in 2008
Luke Carlin C (2012) 214/214/286 40 OPS+, 14 PA; was #26 in 2010
Statistics and such
Other fun facts, the uniform #45 has been worn 39 times by 22 different players covering 35 seasons of a possible 84 seasons since 1929. Uniform #45 was shared in a season four times, 1941, 1959, 2001 and 2004.