Heritage Park at Progressive Field - Ryan Richards
We're a quarter of the way through our countdown, so let's step back to review the first 25 players profiled.
Although this projects has its goal stated in its name - that is, to name the Top 100 Indians in franchise history - it also (I would hope) bring to life the players profiled on the list. There's players on this list that no one alive has seen, never mind captured on film, but thanks to the information revolution that we're living through, not only can we compare a player from the dawn of the American League to today's players, but we can also cull anecdotes and accounts from the papers of the day, a process that even ten years ago would have meant laborious research at a brick-and-mortar library. Without the story of the man, you just have a collection of statistics and perhaps some transactions that you could cobble a profile out of.
So now you know about the eccentricities of Earl Moore, that Leon Wagner had his own song and clothing store, and that Oral Hildebrand took up baseball as a way to escape farm life, in addition to the fact that they were among the best players in Cleveland history. Some players you already knew about, such as Sandy Alomar, Casey Blake, and Jhonny Peralta, and one player (Asdrubal Cabrera) is still with the club. But hopefully you learned something new about these familiar players, as we did while researching them.
The first 25 players on this list had either very brief but excellent stints or lengthy but mediocre tenures with the Indians. We consciously tried to include several relievers in this list, and most of them showed in this quarter of the list (though there are a couple yet to come). There wasn't much separation between #76 and #100 on our list, but that will start to change shortly as we plow into the second quarter of the countdown.
For those who missed the beginning of the series, you can click the red "Top 100 Indians" box at the top of this article to see all the profiles, or click on the Top 100 Indians hub on the front page of the site. Or you can click on the links below:
100. RHP Ray Narleski (1954-1958) - relief ace for the mid-50s Indians, decades before relievers were recognized as key pieces to the baseball club.
99. C Sandy Alomar (1990-2000) - His magical 1997 season helped the Indians get to the brink of a championship, but injuries derailed much of the rest of his career.
98. RHP Earl Moore (1901-1907) - Eccentric but extremely talented pitcher who was one of the franchise's first stars.
97. LF Leon Wagner (1964-1968) - One of the best interviews of his era, Wagner would have been a perfect DH had he played a decade later.
96. 3B Max Alvis (1962-1969) - Meningitis sapped his power, but Alvis still put up solid seasons for the Indians in mid-60s.
95. RHP Orel Hershiser (1995-1997) - In the autumn of his career, he reinvented himself to help the Indians to break a 41-year-old playoff drought.
94. CF Harry Bay (1902-1908) - During his brief peak, Bay was one of the most dynamic players in the American League.
93. RHP Dennis Martinez (1994-1996) - One of the Indians' final building blocks in their 40-year-long rebuild.
92. CF/LF George Hendrick (1973-1976) - He had his best seasons later in his career, but his four seasons with the Indians still made him worthy of this list.
91. 1B George Burns (1920-1921, 1924-1928) - After bouncing around the AL, including a stint with the Indians, Burns broke out, and when he was reacquired, gave Cleveland several fine seasons.
90. LHP Rick Waits (1975-1983) - One good season and a long stint with the Indians got the "Yankee Killer" onto this list.
89. RHP Paul Shuey (1994-2002) - The second player selected in the 1992 Draft, Shuey never quite reached his potential due to injuries, but he played a key role on several playoff teams.
88. RHP Eric Plunk (1992-1998) - A very important cog in the Indians' mid-90s juggernauts (and the Athletics' great teams to boot), Plunk never got the headlines but was baseball's best relievers for many seasons from the late 80s through the 90s.
87. RHP Jake Westbrook (2001-2008, 2010) - After being traded three times soon after being drafted, Westbrook finally made a home in Cleveland and became a groundball machine.
86. RHP Oral Hildebrand (1931-1936) - A pitcher hurt by his home park, Hildebrand nevertheless gave the Indians several very good seasons in the mid-30s.
84. SS/2B Asdrubal Cabrera (2007- ) - The first current Indian to make the list, Cabrera was acquired via one of the best trades in franchise history.
83. LF Jack Graney (1908, 1910-1922) - After a long career with Cleveland as a player, Graney became the first former player to broadcast in the new medium of radio.
82. 2B/3B Odell Hale (1931, 1933-1940) - He was a key part of an offensive core that never quite put everything together in the 1930s.
81. LHP Jake Miller (1924-1931) - Several outstanding seasons were sprinkled through several injury-plagued years in the era between the Speaker and Averill.
80. CF/LF/1B Joe Carter (1984-1989) - Important more from Cleveland's perspective for the trade that sent him away, Carter nevertheless was a steady player for some awful Cleveland teams.
79. RHP Steve Gromek (1941-1953) - A swingman for most of his career, Gromek had his brief time in the sun late in 1948.
78. RHP Jose Mesa (1992-1998) - An outstanding career both with the Indians and others was unfortunately marred by one blown save.
77. SS/3B Jhonny Peralta (2003-2010) - He replaced a Cleveland legend, and although he had one of the greatest offensive seasons as a shortstop in franchise history, never came close to repeating it.
76. RHP Dennis Eckersley (1975-1977) - An extremely talented starting pitcher that was traded due to a off-field controversy and would eventually have a Hall of Fame career as a reliever.