David Gus Bell (Buddy)
Third Baseman, Outfielder, 1972-1978
Height: 6'1" Weight: 180 lbs
Throws: Right Bats: Right
How Acquired: Draft, 1969 - 16th round
Left Via: Trade, December 8, 1978: Traded to the Texas Rangers for Toby Harrah
Buddy Bell was born to be a ballplayer. The son of a major leaguer who had a fifteen year career, Buddy was born in Pittsburgh while his father Gus was playing a doubleheader in Brooklyn as a member of the Pirates. But Buddy grew up in Cincinnati as his father was making four All-Star teams times in nine seasons from 1953 to 1961. Sometimes after school, Buddy was allowed to visit dad at Crosley Field in the clubhouse or even on the field.
Even after Gus moved on from the Reds, Buddy and his six siblings would grow up in Cincinnati. He attended Moeller High, becoming the first major leaguer from that school. But he would not be the last as now 11 different players hail from that high school, including Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr. Buddy played some basketball which is where he met his wife, Gloria, the sister of a teammate. Gloria's brother actually married Buddy's sister Debbie as well. But he obviously was a baseball star for Moeller High. The Indians used their 16th round pick in the 1969 amateur draft on him.
As a scrawny 17 year old, he reported to their rookie squad in the Gulf Coast League. He struggled a bit, with a 229/296/341 line in 190 plate appearances while manning second base. Those numbers did not scare off Alvin Dark and Hank Peters at all. He moved up to the Sumter (SC) Indians in the Western Carolinas League (A) and improved to a 265/331/403 line and 75 RBI in 491 plate appearances while spending two thirds of his time at the hot corner.
While his numbers were decent, his pedigree was definitely the prime reason he jumped two levels in 1971, landing with the Wichita Aeros, the Indians AAA affiliate in the American Association as a 19 year old. Buddy proved the front office prescient by hitting 289/344/413 while developing his glove at third base. The 1971 Tribe had a couple of decent hitters, including Graig Nettles, who was blocking Bell at third.
Following 1971, Paul dealt center fielder Vada Pinson to the Angels and right fielder Roy Foster to the Rangers. So when Bell shined in 1972 spring training, they moved him off third and he started 55 games in right and 60 in center, hitting 255/310/363 97 OPS+ as a 20 year old rookie. Paul figured that Bell's bat was decent enough to make Nettles expendable that offseason, sending him off to the Yankees, before joining Steinbrenner there a few months later.
Bell excelled in his return to third, leading the league in putouts and double plays, and finishing second in assists and range factor, ahead of Gold Glover Brooks Robinson in all those categories. He also made the All-Star team that year and hit 268/325/393 100 OPS+ as a 21 year old. Not bad at all.
Bell may not have been a spectacular hitter for the Tribe, but was extremely consistent, hitting 100, 95, 101, 106, 115 and 103 OPS+ from 1973-1978. But his glove was his calling card all those years. With the exception of 1977 when he only played 129 games, he finished very high in putouts, assists, double plays, zone runs and range factor, usually in the Top 3 but never outside the top five.
Bell should have won a few Gold Gloves or made a few more All-Star games while with Cleveland, but Robinson's last year being a regular was in 1975 at 38, and as we all know, once a Gold Glover, always a Gold Glover. Bell had better fielding stats than Aurelio Rodriguez of the Tigers, who won in 1976, but was a bit behind Nettles in 1977 and 1978. Between George Brett and Nettles, Bell had little shot of making the All-Star roster, especially since both outhit him by a bit. Not to mention, those Tribe teams were very mediocre, year in and year out, winning between 69 and 81 games each season.
Those 1978 Indians, were the ones who dipped to that 69 win total, only finishing ahead of the second year Blue Jays. A midseason trade occurred in 1978 between the Rangers and the Tribe where Johnny Grubb was sent for two PTBNL. This must have started a lot of discussion between Phil Seghi and Dan O'Brien. Because during that offseason, Jim Kern and Larvell Blanks headed to Texas for Len Barker and Bobby Bonds and two months later, they swapped third basemen, Buddy for Toby Harrah.
It didn't turn out to be a terrible deal, as Harrah was productive in his five years here, but Bell blossomed into a pretty good hitter in the Texas heat. This also could have been because he was 27 in his first year there. But he would post seasons of 110, 143, 134, 127, 107 and 129 OPS+ from 1979 to 1984. The move to Texas and out of the Cleveland media black hole, also allowed him to net a Gold Glove for each of those six seasons, four All-Star appearances, consistent MVP votes and a Silver Slugger in 1984.
Midway in 1985, he was traded to his hometown Cincinnati Reds where they contended but never quite made the postseason. In mid-1988, the Reds sent him to the Astros where he played decent (101 OPS+), but he was released after the season. He had one last go round with the Rangers in 1989, but was pretty much done. He ended up playing 18 years in the majors before hanging them up at 37 never getting a taste of the postseason.
As noted in the stats below, Buddy played long enough here to land on some career stat lists, but I think the most impressive one is the 9.1 dWAR number, finishing 8th in only 4089 plate appearances. His 15.5 oWAR also nets him 39th on the list.
After his playing career ended, Bell started off as an infield coach for the Reds and then with the Tribe in 1994-1995, finally experiencing some post season ball. He was named Sparky Anderson's successor, as Tiger manager from 1996 through mid-1998 when he resigned as his team was a dreadful 52-85. He resurfaced as the Rockies manager in 2000, being fired 22 games into the 2002 season. He returned to the Tribe as a coach, until 2005, when the Royals named him manager mid-season after LGFT Tony Pena resigned.
After dealing with a lump on his tonsils in the 2007 season, he resigned after the season. His wife had battled tonsil cancer previously. So he decided to take some time off to spend with his family. His retirement didn't last too long as in 2008, he joined the White Sox front office as director of minor league instruction and then director of player development from 2099-2011. He was promoted to vice president, player development and special assignments in January 2012. Two of his sons, David (who played with the Tribe in 1995 and 1998) and Mike make the Bell family a three generation MLB family.
Wikipedia, Dick Kaegel (8/16/05 MLB.com story)
Indians Career Stats
|CLE (7 yrs)||987||4089||3712||462||1016||155||27||64||386||24||48||297||332||.274||.328||.382||.710||103||1417||93||16||41||23||26|
AL All-Star: 1973
AL dWAR: 6th, 1974-1.9; 6th, 1978-1.8
AL Hits: 8th, 1973-169
AL 3B: 6th, 1973-7
AL Singles: 8th, 1976-135
AL Double Plays Grounded Into: 2nd, 1978-24
AL Caught Stealing: 4th, 1973-15
AL AB per K: 1st, 1972-16.1; 3rd, 1973-13.4; 8th, 1976-12.3
AL Putouts as 3B: 1st, 1973-144; 1st, 1975-146; 2nd, 1978-125; 5th, 1976-105
AL Assists as 3B: 1st, 1978-355; 2nd, 1973-363; 3rd, 1976-330; 5th, 1975-330
AL Double Plays Turned as 3B: 1st, 1973-44; 1st, 1978-30; 3rd, 1976-23; 4th, 1974-31
AL Double Plays Turned as OF: 3rd, 1972-4
AL Range Factor/Game 3B: 1st, 1978-3.45; 2nd, 1973-3.29; 3rd, 1974-3.36; 3rd, 1977-3.08; 5th, 1975-3.11
Cleveland Indians Career Leader
- 24th WAR Position Players (22.4)
- 39th oWAR (15.5)
- 8th dWAR (9.1)
- 29th Games Played (987)
- 28th At Bats (3712)
- 29th Plate Appeances (4089)
- 38th Runs Scored (462)
- 33rd Hits (1016)
- 38th Total Bases (1417)
- 47th Doubles (155)
- t-50th Triples (27)
- 49th Home Runs (64)
- t-43rd Runs Batted In (386)
- 44th Bases On Balls (297)
- 24th Singles (770)
- 45th Runs Created (447)
- 47th Extra Base Hits (246)
- t-26th Sacrifice Flies (23)
- t-20th Intentional Bases On Balls (26)
- 16th Double Plays Grounded Into (93)
- 17th Caught Stealing (48)
Cleveland Indians Season Leader
- 31st dWAR (1.9, 1974)
- t-34th dWAR (1.8, 1973, 1978)
- t-49th Intentional Bases On Balls (8, 1972)
- t-8th Double Plays Grounded Into (24, 1978)
- t-23rd Caught Stealing (15, 1973)