It's Always Sonny in
Wilfred Charles Siebert was born in St. Mary, Missouri on January 14, 1937. He was a two-sport standout at Bayless High School in St. Louis, starring in both baseball and basketball. An athletic scholarship would send him to the University of Missouri, where he was a three-year letter winner for the Tigers.
Sonny’s father, Wilfred, was an excellent pitcher who earned a tryout with the St. Louis Cardinals and Rogers Hornsby. The elder Wilfred threw his arm before he could report. Thus, he warned his son about the dangers of pitching. Sonny added baseball to his collegiate athletic repertoire his junior year. An outfielder, he led the team in home runs.
After only one year of college ball, Siebert signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1958. He split his time between Batavia and Burlington, but played sparingly. A broken ankle limited him to just 61 games in 1959. Resigned to pitching batting practice the following spring in the Florida Instructional League, Sonny caught the attention of Spud Chandler, who urged him to focus on pitching.
Siebert tried out for the NBA’s St. Louis Hawks, but returned to the Cleveland farm system again, this time on the mound. Siebert would make it to the majors in 1962, starting in the bullpen before joining the rotation. Over the next five seasons, Sonny would be a fixture in the Tribe rotation, winning 61 games, anchored by back-to-back 16 win seasons in 1965 and 1966. In 991 innings, Siebert struck out 768 batters. His WHIP was a paltry 1.09.
In 1966, Sonny was named to the American League All Star team. He also finished 28th in MVP voting. He would also no-hit the Washington Senators on June 10,1966 — the 11th no hitter in Cleveland Indians pitching history.
During his tenure with Cleveland, Sonny had an ERA+ of 122, pitched 33 complete games and eight shutouts.
After two starts in 1969, Sonny was traded to the Boston Red Sox along with Joe Azcue and Vincente Romo for Dick Ellsworth, LGT-favorite Ken Harrelson, and Juan "El Conquistador" Pizarro.
There's only one 42.
There will never be a better player than Sonny Siebert to wear #42 for the Indians. It’s not Siebert’s excellence that makes this true, but the excellence of another player — Jack Roosevelt Robinson. As the first black man to play in the major leagues since the 1880s, he was instrumental in bringing an end to racial segregation in professional baseball. In 1997, Robinson’s #42 was officially retired throughout Major League Baseball.
Bottom of the Barrel*
Ron Nischwitz, RP, 1963.
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Nischwitz attended Fairview High School before moving to Columbus to play for the Ohio State University Buckeyes. He signed with the Detroit Tigers as an amateur free agent in 1958 and made his major league debut in September of 1961 against the Baltimore Orioles. The following season, Nischwitz racked up 48 appearances out the pen for the Motor City Kitties. One keen on relying on his teammates for support, Nischwitz recorded only 28 strikeouts in 64 and 2/3 innings — most of them of the dubious “looking” variety. Beloved by Detroiters everywhere, Nischwitz was unceremoniously dealt with Gordon Seyfried to the Indians for the better-named Bubba Phillips.
Nischwitz did so well in 1963 (0-2, 6.48 ERA, 1.25 K/BB ratio, 57 ERA+) that he took 1964 off. In 1965, He would return to the city that spurned him so harshly and reward them with a solid performance in limited work. (20 games, 7 games finished, 1-0, 2.78 ERA, 2.00 K/BB ratio, 128 ERA+)
Nischwitz would later coach the Wright State Baseball team from 1975 to 2004.
* - Barrels traditionally hold 42 gallons of crude oil.
The One Year Wonders
Bob Lemon, Pete Center, Ralph Weigel, Ron Nischwitz, Jim Rittwage, Johnny Jeter, Sandy Wihtol, Bob Owchinko, John Denny and Al Nipper all wore uniform #42 for only one season.
The All-Time List
Bob Lemon PH, 3B, PR (1942) 000/000/000, -100 OPS+, 5 PA; was #38 in 1941; switched to #6 in 1946
Pete Center RP, SP (1945) 6-3, 31 G, 8 GS, 3.99 ERA, 85.2 IP, 81 ERA+; also #49 in 1945; was #7 in 1943; switched to #29 in 1946
Ralph Weigel C (1946) 167/167/167, -4 OPS+, 12 PA; also #33 in 1946; traded to White Sox for Thurman Tucker
Ron Nischwitz RP (1963) 0-2, 14 G, 0 GS, 6.48 ERA, 16.2 IP, 57 ERA+; traded by Tigers for Bubba Phillips; sold to Tigers
Sonny Siebert SP, RP (1964-1969) 61-48, 181 G, 131 GS, 2.76 ERA, 991 IP, 122 ERA+; All-Star in 1966; 28th in MVP voting in 1966; traded with Joe Azcue and Vicente Romo to Red Sox for Ken Harrelson, Dick Ellsworth and Juan Pizarro
Dick Ellsworth RP, SP (1969-1970) 9-12, 63 G, 23 GS, 4.23 ERA, 178.2 IP, 90 ERA+; also #50 in 1969; traded with Ken Harrelson and Juan Pizarro by Red Sox for Sonny Siebert, Joe Azcue and Vicente Romo; sold to Brewers
Jim Rittwage RP, SP (1970) 1-1, 8 G, 3 GS, 4.15 ERA, 26 IP, 95 ERA+; traded with Jim Landis by Athletics for Joe Rudi and Phil Roof; traded to Cardinals for Denny O’Toole
Mike Kilkenny RP, SP (1972-1973) 4-1, 27 G, 7 GS, 4.05 ERA, 60 IP, 81 ERA+; traded by Padres for Fred Stanley
Johnny Jeter LF (1974) 353/389/412, 132 OPS+, 18 PA; traded by White Sox for Steve Blateric
Larry Andersen RP (1975, 1977, 1979) 0-1, 22 G, 0 GS, 5.40 ERA, 36.2 IP, 78 ERA+; traded to Pirates for Larry Littleton and John Burden
Sandy Wihtol RP (1979) 0-0, 5 G, 0 GS, 3.38 ERA, 10.2 IP, 131 ERA+; also #56 in 1979; switched to #56 in 1980
Bob Owchinko RP, SP (1980) 2-9, 29 G, 14 GS, 5.27 ERA, 114.1 IP, 78 ERA+; also #27 in 1980; traded with Jim Wilhelm by Padres for Jerry Mumphrey; traded with Victor Cruz, Gary Alexander and Rafael Vazquez to Pirates for Bert Blyleven and Manny Sanguillen
John Denny SP (1982) 6-11, 21 G, 21 GS, 5.01 ERA, 138.1 IP, 83 ERA+; also #40 in 1982; traded to Phillies for Roy Smith, Wil Culmer and Jerry Reed
Rich Yett RP, SP (1986-1989) 22-24, 131 G, 48 GS, 4.97 ERA, 409.2 IP, 84 ERA+; traded as PTBNL with Jay Bell, Curt Wardle and Jim Weaver for Bert Blyleven
Al Nipper SP, RP (1990) 2-3, 9 G, 5 GS, 6.75 ERA, 24 IP, 59 ERA+
Carlos Martinez 3B, 1B, DH, PH (1992-1993) 253/290/357, 77 OPS+, 526 PA; was #22 in 1991
Mike Jackson RP (1997-1999) 6-10, 212 G, 0 GS, 2.99 ERA, 207.2 IP, 161 ERA+; 21st in MVP voting in 1998
Statistics and such
Other fun facts, the uniform #42 has been worn 32 times by 17 different players covering 29 seasons of a possible 84 seasons since 1929. Uniform #42 was shared in a season three times, 1969, 1970 and 1979.