Indians by the Numbers — #48



All of a Sudden.

A calm, tranquil wind up coupled with an explosive fastball gave Sam McDowell his "Sudden" nickname. A 6’ 5" frame gave McDowell tremendous leverage and power coming off the mound, and he used that power to become one of the most dominant starters of his generation. McDowell won on the field, but never won big as off-the-field issues drained him of his amazing potential.

Samuel Edward Thomas McDowell was born September 21, 1942 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. One of six children born to the McDowells, Sam became a four-sport star (baseball, basketball, football, and track) at Central Catholic High School. Located only two blocks from neighboring Forbes Field, McDowell saw many scouts come his way as he toed the rubber for the Vikings. McDowell would sometimes pitch batting practice to the hometown Pirates.

The Indians signed McDowell upon his high school graduation after a stellar senior season on the hill. McDowell was assigned to Class D Lakeland, far from the three rivers and steel furnaces. In Florida, McDowell displayed a youthful wildness that would even haunt him in his later years, walking 80 batters in just 105 innings pitched. McDowell finished his first professional season with a 5-6 record and a 3.34 ERA.

McDowell started 1961 at Spring Training in Tuscon. It was there he earned his well-deserved nickname in Cactus League action. He was promoted to Class A Salt Lake City Bees, where he led the league in both strikeouts (156) and walks (152) while going 13-10. A late-season call up saw McDowell make his major league debut a week prior to his 19th birthday.

Sam spent 1962 between Salt Lake and Cleveland, where he continued to struggle with his control, racking up 70 K’s and 70 walks in 87.2 innings. A hard-thrower, McDowell had difficulty finding the plate. McDowell would find his groove nearly 2 seasons later in Portland, where he would go 8-0 with a miniscule 1.18 ERA for the Beavers. McDowell mowed down PCL batters to the tune of 102 strikeouts in only 76 innnings. McDowell’s increased control led to only 24 walks during that same span. In Portland, McDowell pitched a no-hitter amidst a run of 3 straight shutouts.

Promoted to Cleveland in late May of 1964, McDowell never looked back. He struck out 14 in his first start and continued to pitch with dominace throughout the season, finishing with 11 wins, 173 strikeouts, 100 walks in 173 1/3 innings.

In 1965, McDowell put together a Cy-Young worthy effort, going 17-11 with an American League-leading 2.18 ERA and 14 complete games. In 273 innings of work, McDowell struck out a whopping 325 batters, becoming only the fifth pitcher since 1900 to strike out more than 300 batters in a season. A weak Tribe offense kept McDowell from winning more than 17 games.

McDowell met 1966 with ferocity, tossing back-to-back one hitters in April. Arm fatigue and a sore shoulder limited McDowell’s potential that season. He went 9-8 with a 2.87 ERA with 225 strikeouts (American League leader) and five shutouts. A downturn in 1967 (13-15, 3.85 ERA, 236 Ks, 123 BBs) preceeded a magnificent 1968 campaign, which coincided with Major League rule changes that raised the mound by five inches and expanded the strike zone. That season, McDowell was one of two Indians (and five pitchers overall) to finish with ERAs under 2.00. McDowell went 15-14 in 37 starts, with a 1.81 ERA and 283 punchouts in 269 innings. McDowell would experience Masterson-esque run support that year of only 2.84 runs per game.

McDowell would not win 20 games until 1970, going 20-12 with a 2.92 ERA. McDowell would break the 300 strikeout barrier, knocking down 304 in 305 innings. McDowell would be selected to his fifth all-star game and was named The Sporting News’s American League Pitcher of the Year.

A hold out, an illegal contract voided mid-season, another absence, and a resulting suspension in 1971 cost McDowell several games and a lot of peace of mind. McDowell would win only 13 of 30 decisions, and post his highest ERA in four years. After the tumultuous season, Sam grew tired of being in Cleveland, and demanded a trade. In one of the shrewder moves of the Gabe Paul era, McDowell was dealt to the San Francisco Giants for older spitballer Gaylord Perry and featherweight shortstop Frank Duffy.

McDowell's career fell apart as alcoholism took hold of his life. McDowell would go on to pitch for the Yankees and his hometown Pirates before retiring from the game in 1975

During his tenure as #48 in Cleveland, McDowell went 116-97, racked up 2,021 strikeouts, 953 walks, 94 complete games, 21 shutouts, six All Star appearances, 10 saves, and an ERA+ of 126. In eight seasons, he would average 5.0 WAR per season (41 total WAR in all).

The 48 Laws of Power.

The most home runs by anyone from North Dakota. Part project, part donkey, all Pronk. Travis Lee (could there be any other middle name?) Hafner was born in Jamestown, North Dakota in 1977. He was valedictorian of a class of 12 in tiny Sykeston, which did not have a baseball program. Hafner attended Cowley County Community College before being drafted in the 31st round of 1996 draft by the Texas Rangers.

Hafner hit his first career home run August 11, 2002 — against the Cleveland Indians. Hafner nearly hit for the cycle in the same game, but was thrown out at third on an attempted triple.

Hafner was dealt the following offseason to the Indians along with pitcher Aaron Myette in return for Einar Diaz and starter Ryan Drese. Hafner split 2003 between first base and DH and by 2004, was the primary designated hitter for the Tribe. In 2004, Hafner broke out — with 28 home runs and 109 RBI, along with a 162 OPS+ (.410 OBP/.583 SLG), and his first career grand slam in the club’s home opener.

Hafner exceeding his offensive output in 2005 with 33 more homers, 108 RBI, with 94 runs, .408 on base percentage, a .595 slugging percentage, 79 walks and 42 doubles. He was player of the month for June, when he went .345/.430/.73 with 18 extra base hits in 24 games. He would finish fifth in the American League MVP vote.

In 2006, Hafner put together his best professional season, despite spending the final month on the disabled list with a broken hand. In five months, Hafner led the league in slugging (.659) and walks (100) and was second in home runs (42), RBI (117), on-base percentage (.439), extra base hits (74), and total bases (299). Hafner would go on to finish 8th in MVP voting. That season also saw the opening of Pronkville in the right field section of Jacobs Field. It also marked a milestone as Hafner became the first major leaguer to club five grand slams before the All-Star break, and one of only two players to hit six slams in a season. He also became the second Indian besides Jim Thome to total 100 walks, 100 runs, and 100 RBI in the same season.

From 2007 to 2010, Hafner saw a decrease in his offensive production due to injuries and a marriage to power-eating harpy named Amy Beekman.* Over the next four seasons, Hafner would average only 14 home runs and 56 RBI in 105 games per year. Persistent shoulder problems and interleague play would cost the position-less diminished slugger at-bats. By 2011, Hafner would appear in 94 games while batting .280 with 13 home runs and 57 RBI. Hafner has made six disabled list trips in the past five seasons.

Hafner has had both a candy bar (Pronk Bar) and beef jerky named after him.

In 2012, Hafner hit his 200th career home run.

While wearing #48 for the Indians, Hafner’s career line is .281/.387/.512 (140 OPS+) with 22.4 WAR.

* - By all accounts, Amy Hafner is a wonderful and decent, loving human being.

The One Year Wonders

Dick Weik, Bill Abernathie, Hank Aguirre, Ross Grimsley, Vern Ruhle, Dickie Noles, Jeff Kaiser, Nigel Wilson, Jerry Spradlin, Shane Spencer and Jose all wore uniform #48 for only one season.

The All-Time List

Dick Weik RP (1950) 1-3, 11 G, 2 GS, 3.81 ERA, 26 IP, 115 ERA+; also #28 and #31 in 1950; traded by Senators for Mickey Vernon; traded with Ray Boone, Steve Gromek and Al Aber to Tigers for Art Houtteman, Owen Friend, Joe Ginsberg and Bill Wight

Bill Abernathie RP (1952) 0-0, 1 G, 0 GS, 13.50 ERA, 2 IP, 30 ERA+; traded to Dodgers for Rocky Nelson

Hank Aguirre RP (1955) 2-0, 4 G, 1 GS, 1.42 ERA, 12.2 IP, 290 ERA+; acquired from Duluth (MN) Dukes (Northern-C) in an unknown transaction; switched to #28 in 1956

Jerry Walker RP (1963-1964) 6-7, 45 G, 2 GS, 4.88 ERA, 97.2 IP, 75 ERA+; also #34 in 1964; traded by Athletics for Chuck Essegian

Sam McDowell SP (1964-1971) 116-97, 296 G, 269 GS, 2.81 ERA, 1950.2 IP, 126 ERA+; All-Star in 1965, 1966, 1968, 1969, 1970 and 1971; 3rd in Cy Young voting in 1970; 17th in 1965 and 16th in 1970 in MVP voting; was #34 in 1963; traded to Giants for Gaylord Perry and Frank Duffy 41 WAR

Mike Paxton SP (1978-1980) 20-19, 70 G, 51 GS, 4.97 ERA, 358.1 IP, 80 ERA+; traded with Rick Wise, Bo Diaz and Ted Cox by Red Sox for Dennis Eckersley and Fred Kendall

Ross Grimsley SP (1980) 4-5, 14 G, 11 GS, 6.75 ERA, 74.2 IP, 61 ERA+; traded by Expos for Dave Oliver

Ed Glynn RP (1982-1983) 5-4, 58 G, 0 GS, 4.50 ERA, 62 IP, 93 ERA+; was #44 in 1981; sold to Mets

Vern Ruhle RP, SP (1985) 2-10, 42 G, 16 GS, 4.32 ERA, 125 IP, 96 ERA+

Dickie Noles RP (1986) 3-2, 32 G, 0 GS, 5.10 ERA, 54.2 IP, 82 ERA+

Jeff Kaiser RP (1987) 0-0, 2 G, 0 GS, 16.20 ERA, 3.1 IP, 31 ERA+; traded by Athletics for Curt Wardle; switched to #47 in 1988

Mike Walker RP, SP (1990-1991) 2-7, 23 G, 11 GS, 4.73 ERA, 80 IP, 84 ERA+; was #75 in 1988

Ted Power RP (1992-1993) 3-5, 84 G, 0 GS, 3.32 ERA, 119.1 IP, 121 ERA+

Jason Grimsley SP, RP (1993-1995) 8-6, 39 G, 21 GS, 5.09 ERA, 159 IP, 90 ERA+; traded with Pep Harris to Angels for Brian Anderson

Nigel Wilson RP (1996) 250/308/750 157 OPS+, 13 PA; claimed off waivers from Reds

Jerry Spradlin RP (1999) 0-0, 4 G, 0 GS, 18.00 ERA, 3 IP, 30 ERA+; traded by Phillies for Chad Ogea; traded to Giants for Dan McKinley and Josh Santos (PTBNL)

Chris Haney RP (1999-2000) 0-2, 14 G, 4 GS, 4.79 ERA, 41.1 IP, 105 ERA+

Roy Smith RP (2001-2002) 0-0, 13 G, 1 GS, 5.24 ERA, 22.1 IP, 88 ERA+; sold to Athletics

Shane Spencer RF, LF, 1B, PH, DH (2003) 271/328/433 103 OPS+, 232 PA; traded with Ricardo Rodriguez to Rangers for Ryan Ludwick

Jose R Santiago RP (2003) 1-3, 25 G, 0 GS, 2.84 ERA, 31.2 IP, 156 ERA+

Travis Hafner DH, PH, 1B (2004-2012) 284/389/516 141 OPS+, 3826 PA; 24th in 2004, 5th in 2005, 8th in 2006 in MVP voting; was #32 in 2003 (2012 stats not included) 21.7 WAR

Statistics and such

Other fun facts, the uniform #48 has been worn 46 times by 21 different players covering 41 seasons of a possible 84 seasons since 1929. Uniform #48 was shared in a season five times, 1964, 1980, 1993, 1999 and 2003.

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