The Top 100 series continues with a blast from the past, Cleveland native Joe Vosmik.
Left Fielder, 1930-1936
Height: 6'0" Weight: 185 lbs
Throws: Right Bats: Right
How Acquired: Amateur Free Agent, 1928
Left Via: Trade, January 17, 1937: Traded with Oral Hildebrand and Bill Knickerbocker to the St. Louis Browns for Ivy Andrews, Lyn Lary and Moose Solters
At #71, we come to Cleveland native, Joseph Franklin Vosmik. The eldest son, but the sixth of seven children to Josef and Anna, Joe showed a proclivity to baseball at a very young age. At three he tried to tug a neighbor's bat, but since it was too heavy, he screamed. In order to placate him, one of his sisters bought a bat at the corner drugstore. Joe was obsessed with baseball from that moment on, taking his father's developed love of the game to another level. As a fourth grader, he was often truant and snuck into Dunn Field (later League Park) to try his best at watching the Tribe. Every time he was tossed from the stadium made him more determined to become a pro ball player.
After enrolling at East Technical High School, he was heartbroken to find they didn't have a baseball team. This led to even more truancy as he ditched often to play sandlot ball and also to continue sneaking into League Park. His proficiency earned him a semipro gig on the Ruggles Jewelry club as a pitcher and first baseman. After graduation, he played for Rotbart Jewelers in the municipal league, but transitioned to the outfield. He continually applied for various jobs with the Tribe (usher, office boy, vendor) but was turned down every time. Luckily, in 1928, manager Roger Peckinpaugh spotted Joe in the city league. General Manager Billy Evans signed him shortly thereafter for a whopping $300.
At 19, Vosmik left the big city for the Class D Frederick (MD) Warriors in the Blue Ridge League. In only 408 at-bats, Joe hit .381 and slugged .661 with 39 doubles and 24 triples. Even though his speed was an asset, his fielding in the outfield was fairly abysmal. He worked with Tris Speaker a bit that offseason and was a spring training invite. Originally slated for Class A New Orleans, Joe instead spent the year with the Terre Haute Tots of the Triple-I League (Class B). This time he hit .397 with a .603 slugging percentage in 458 at-bats and 13 assists while playing all three outfield positions. He got his cup of coffee that September, debuting against the Philadelphia Athletics and amassing 28 plate appearances.
He would earn the left fielder spot in spring training of 1931 and would be an outfield fixture in Cleveland through 1936. As a 21 year old rookie, he slashed 320/363/464 in 640 plate appearances. But as this was a high offensive era, that was only good enough for a 112 OPS+. His 14 triples were fourth in the AL, and his 117 RBIs were eighth in the AL and at the time the third highest total ever for a rookie. That first year he claims he still ducked every time he saw the League Park guards/gatemen as they knew him by face to toss him out as a kid. Rookie of the Year voting did not start until 1947; otherwise it would have been intriguing to see if he or Lefty Gomez got the honor.
His sophomore year in 1932 was equally impressive, with a 312/376/462 slash in 690 plate appearances, good enough for a 109 OPS+. Joe had a rough 1933. He struggled early with a nasty bout of flu that affected his vision and he broke his hand on Labor Day, costing him the last portion of the season. He finished at 263/331/381 slash in only 485 plate appearances, a 85 OPS+. Although he again missed time in 1934, he rebounded to 341/393/477 slash in 449 plate appearances, garnering a 123 OPS+.
But in 1935, Vosmik had his shining moment as a 25 year old. He led the league with 216 hits, 47 doubles AND 20 triples, finishing at 348/408/537 in 690 plate appearances and a blazing 141 OPS+. He also drove in 100 runs, which helped earn him a third place finish in MVP voting. He also started the All-Star Game (albeit in right field) which was played at Cleveland Stadium that year. His dominant year led the Tribe to offer him a three year contract worth $37k. But Joe struggled in 1936, slumping down to a 287/383/413 94 OPS+ in 591 plate appearances.
The Tribe only finished in fifth in 1936 and decided to shake up the roster in the offseason. On January 17, 1937, Vosmik was traded with Oral Hildebrand and Bill Knickerbocker to the St. Louis Browns for Moose Solters, Ivy Andrews and Lyn Lary. Supposedly the Red Sox had offered five players for Joe, headlined by third baseman Mike Higgins, but the Indians liked the Browns offer better. Joe rebounded nicely for the Browns, hitting 325/377455 109 OPS+ in 591 plate appearances.
That December, the Red Sox finally got their guy, offering Bobo Newsom, Red Kress and Buster Mills to acquire the soon to be 28 year old. He led the league with 201 hits that year, and was pretty decent, 324/384/446 103 OPS+. Joe slumped badly in 1939, hitting 276/356/388 87 OPS+ and led the league by hitting into double plays with 27. His best asset of speed had failed him and by spring training 1940, he was placed on waivers. The Brooklyn Dodgers claimed him and he basically repeated 1939 with a 282/321/354 81 OPS+. In spring training 1941, Joe blinded himself for a few hours when a bottle of medicine he opened exploded and sprayed his face. He only had 61 plate appearances for the Dodgers before getting his release in early July. He finished 1941 with the Red Sox AA club, the Louisville Colonels.
He spent most of the next two plus years with the Minneapolis Millers (AA Independent-American Association), but also worked at the Thompson Aircraft Products factory in Cleveland supporting the war effort. He did get 38 plate appearances with the Washington Senators in 1944 in June/July but slashed only 194/237/250.
After retiring in February 1946, Vosmik continued to work at Thompson and also with a local brewery in Cleveland. In 1947, the Indians hired him as a manager for their Class C affiliate, the Tuscon Cowboys (Arizona-Texas League). He moved onto the Dayton Indians of the Central League (Class A) in 1948 and the Oklahoma City Indians of the Texas League (AA). However, his managerial career was derailed in mid-1950 by stomach ulcers which was later diagnosed as pneumonia. He filled in part time in 1951 for the Batavia (NY) Clippers of the Pony League (Class D) but was mainly a scout for the Tribe.
He was auto salesman and appliance salesman in Cleveland after being a Tribe scout, but was diagnosed with lung cancer. After a successful operation, he again contracted pneumonia and passed away on January 27, 1962. Joe married his wife Sally in November 1936 and they had three children. Joe Vosmik was also inducted into the Ohio Baseball Hall of Fame in 1993.
Indians Career Stats
|CLE (7 yrs)||824||3573||3207||480||1003||206||65||44||312||147||.313||.376||.459||.835||111|
AL All-Star: 1935
AL MVP: 1935-3rd
AL WAR: 10th, 1935-5.6
AL oWAR: 6th, 1935-5.1
AL dWAR: 10th, 1932-0.8
AL Average: 2nd, 1935-.348; 5th, 1934-.341
AL On Base Percentage: 8th, 1935-.408
AL Slugging: 4th, 1935-.537
AL OPS: 4th, 1935-.946
AL Hits: 1st, 1935-216; 6th, 1932-194; 8th, 1931-189
AL TB: 3rd, 1935-333; 8th, 1932-287
AL 2B: 1st, 1935-47; 9th, 1932-39
AL 3B: 1st, 1935-20; 4th, 1931-14; 8th, 1932-12
AL RBI: 6th, 1935-110; 8th, 1931-117
AL Singles: 5th, 1935-139; 6th, 1931-132; 7th, 1932-133
AL OPS+: 4th, 1935-141
AL RC: 4th, 1935-135; 9th, 1932-106
AL Assists: 5th, 1933-15
AL Range Factor/Game LF: 1st, 1932-2.90; 3rd, 1931-2.22; 3rd, 1933-2.27; 3rd, 1935-2.35; 4th, 1936-1.98
Cleveland Indians Career Leader
- 41st WAR Position Players (15.2)
- 48th oWAR (13.2)
- t-12th Average (.313)
- 24th On Base Percentage (.376)
- 28th Slugging (.459)
- 21st OPS (.835)
- 48th Games Played (824)
- 41st At Bats (3207)
- 42nd Plate Appeances (3573)
- 34th Runs Scored (480)
- 35th Hits (1003)
- 33rd Total Bases (1471)
- 21st Doubles (206)
- t-14th Triples (65)
- 20th Runs Batted In (556)
- 41st Bases On Balls (312)
- t-29th Singles (688)
- t-29th Runs Created (551)
- 27th Extra Base Hits (315)
Cleveland Indians Season Leader
- 33rd Average (.348, 1935)
- t-40th Average (.341, 1934)
- t-32nd At Bats (621, 1932)
- t-36th At Bats (620, 1935)
- t-45th Plate Appearances (690, 1932, 1935)
- t-47th Runs Scored (106, 1932)
- t-8th Hits (216, 1935)
- t-35th Hits (194, 1932)
- t-46th Hits (189, 1931)
- 18th Total Bases (333, 1935)
- t-18th Doubles (47, 1935)
- t-5th Triples (20, 1935)
- t-21st Triples (14, 1931)
- t-40th Triples (12, 1932)
- t-29th Runs Batted In (117, 1931)
- t-46th Runs Batted In (110, 1935)
- t-38th Singles (139, 1935)
- 24th Runs Created (135, 1935)
- t-15th Extra Base Hits (77, 1935)