Top 100 Indians: #54 Woodie Held

Woodie Held - AP stock photo

While the Tribe has been blessed with some very notable shortstops throughout the years, good and bad, one that tends to get overlooked is Woodie Held.

Woodson George Held

Shortstop, Second Basemen, Outfielder, 1958-1964

Height: 5'10" Weight: 167 lbs

Throws: Right Bats: Right

How Acquired: Trade, June 15, 1957: Traded with Vic Power by the Kansas City Athletics for Roger Maris, Dick Tomanek and Preston Ward

Left Via: Trade, December 1, 1964: Traded with Bob Chance to the Washington Senators for Chuck Hinton

Woodie was born a Heldt in Sacramento, CA in 1932. However, many had a hard time pronouncing his name so he shortened it to Held. As a kid, Held was known to have been a batboy for the local Pacific Coast League, the Sacramento Solons. The Solons were the AA team for the Cardinals in those days and AA was the highest ranked minor league at the time.

At the age of 19, Held was noticed by a Yankees scout and signed a $6,000 bonus prior to the 1951 season. He began his journey with the Class C Twin Falls (ID) Cowboys of the Pioneer League. He played 128 games, mostly as a shortstop, hitting .257 and 14 homers. In 1952, that Yankee affiliate shifted to Boise and he played 90 games there, batting .276 and increasing his slugging to .467. This earned him a late season promotion to the Norfolk (VA) Tars of the Piedmont League. He hit farily poorly (BA of.216, SLG of.270) in 42 games.

In 1953, the Yankees shifted Held to their other Class B affiliate, the Quincy (IL) Gems of the III League (Illinois-Indiana-Iowa). Something must have clicked that offseason as his numbers jumped to a .316 average and a .518 slugging, including 19 home runs. He got into 12 games for the Binghamton (NY) Triplets of the Eastern League, the Yankees A league affiliate.

Held most likely got a spring training invite in 1954, because he jumped to the Yankees AAA affiliate, the Kansas City Blues of the American Association. He slashed a 262/33/416 line as a 22 year old and got his proverbial cup of coffee that September, 4 games, 5 plate appearance, no hits and 3 walks. But by 1955, the Yankees shortstop was position was in the midst of being transferred from Phil Rizzuto to Gil McDougald as Billy Martin was assuming second base. So Held couldn't crack the roster in 1955, so back to AAA it was. In 1955, the Yankees had switched their affiliate to the Denver Bears of the American Association. He slashed 261/337/454 in 1955 and an excellent 276/359/538 line with 35 homers in 1956 after shifting to third base.

In 1957, Held must have rode the Yankees bench quite a bit (or was hurt) as he only had 16 games in Denver and one measly pinch hitting appearance for the Yankees in May before being dealt on June 15 to the Kansas City Athletics with Billy Martin, Bob Martyn and Ralph Terry for Harry Simpson, Ryne Duren and Jim Pisoni. After arriving in Kansas City, Held became the starting center fielder and in just over half a season (92 games) he continued to show very good power, 20 homers and a 239/321/485 117 OPS+ line.

The 1958 season got off to a pretty horrific start for Held, a 214/276/321 63 OPS+ in 47 games. So exactly a year to the day of his previous deal, Woodie was on his way to Cleveland with Vic Power for Roger Maris, Dick Tomanek and Preston Ward. He didn't hit much, but was mostly a backup for the Tribe, 166 plate appearances in 66 games.

Three days before acquiring Held, the Tribe had also traded shortstops with the Athletics, Chico Carrasquel for Bill Hunter. Hunter struggled after arriving (48 OPS+) so Billy Moran also got lots of playing time and he was no better (50 OPS+). So in 1959, Held was given the shorting shortstop job and after returning to his original position, flourished. He had a 251/313/465 114 OPS+ hitting line and walloped 29 homers, the first Indian shortstop to ever break 20.

Woodie missed some time in 1960, but still hit 21 home runs, finishing with a 258/342/471 121 OPS+ line. And 1961 Held had another very productive run, 267/354/468 121 OPS+ and another 23 four-baggers, the only Tribe shortstop ever to have three straight seasons with 20 or more. In 1962, he slumped just a tad, but still parked 19 balls over the fence with a 249/362/406 110 OPS+ line.

The second baseman in 1962 was Jerry Kindall who netted only a 74 OPS+. So in 1963, Held was shifted to second as Larry Brown took over at short. Held had a bit of a rebirth that season, 248/352/435 121 OPS+ with another 17 home runs. And although Held was the starting second again that year, he also started 12 games in center, 9 in left, 7 in right, and appeared in games at short and third base as well. This was definitely a foreshadowing as in 1964 he started games at second, third, center and right, but not topping 50 at any of them. His 18 home runs as a multi-position starter has to be one of the highest in Tribe history.

That would be his last season in Cleveland though as he and Bob Chance were sent to the Senators for Chuck Hinton. Over the next five seasons, Held bounced from Washington, to the Orioles, to the Angels and finally the White Sox keeping up his super-utility status. After his release in 1969, Held owned the record of appearing in 100 or more games at six positions, shortstop, second base, third base, left field, center field and right field. He still has that record with only Tony Phillips coming close (missing in CF by 3 games). He was also used as a pinch hitter over 100 times as well.

In retirement, Held was a backhoe operator and was a Cleveland Indian fantasy camp participant many times. He was voted one of the Top 100 Indians in 2001 and passed away from brain cancer in June 2009 on his Wyoming ranch.

Sources

Wikipedia, Baseball Reference Bullpen

Indians Career Stats

Selected Awards/Leaders

  • AL WAR: 8th, 1960-3.7
  • AL dWAR: 7th, 1960-1.6
  • AL HR: 7th, 1959-29
  • AL Strikeouts: 2nd, 1959-118; 4th, 1961-111; 4th, 1962-107
  • AL Hit By Pitch: 3rd, 1962-11; 4th, 1963-8; 4th, 1964-7; 7th, 1958-6
  • AL Assists: 5th, 1959-365
  • AL Assists as SS: 4th, 1962-371; 5th, 1959-277; 5th, 1961-393
  • AL Double Plays Turned as SS: 3rd, 1960-87; 3rd, 1961-90; 4th, 1962-101
  • AL Double Plays Turned as RF: 4th, 1963-2
  • AL Range Factor/Game SS: 3rd, 1959-4.41; 3rd, 1960-5.07

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • 33rd WAR Position Players (17.8)
  • 35th oWAR (16.4)
  • 19th dWAR (5.0)
  • 45th Slugging (.438)
  • 44th Games Played (855)
  • 49th Plate Appearances (3227)
  • 46th Total Bases (1225)
  • 14th Home Runs (130)
  • t-40th Runs Batted In (401)
  • 35th Bases On Balls (351)
  • 14th Strikeouts (629)
  • t-44th OPS+ (113)
  • 50th Runs Created (422)
  • 45th Extra Base Hits (251)
  • t-15th Hit By Pitch (40)
  • t-37th Sacrifice Flies (19)
  • 7th Intentional Bases On Balls (40)
  • t-31st Double Plays Grounded Into (64)
  • 49th WPA (3.1)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • t-48th dWAR (1.6, 1960)
  • t-41st Strikeouts (118, 1959)
  • t-26th Hit By Pitch (11, 1962)
  • t-17th Intentional Bases On Balls (11, 1961)
  • t-27th Intentional Bases On Balls (10, 1963)
  • t-49th Intentional Bases On Balls (8, 1964)
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