Top 100 Indians: #45 Andre Thornton

Thornton eyeing the competition on our list - www.cleveland.com

LGT's countdown of the greatest players in franchise history continues with Andre Thornton, the best run producer on a lot of terrible Indians squads.

Andre Thornton

Designated Hitter, First Baseman, 1977-1987

Height: 6'3" Weight: 200 lbs

Throws: Right Bats: Right

How Acquired: Trade, December 10, 1976: Traded by the Montreal Expos for Jackie Brown

Left Via: Release, November 30, 1987

Born in Tuskagee, Alabama in 1949, his family moved north to Phoenixville, PA in 1955. Thornton was the typical three sport star in high school, excelling in football, basketball and of course baseball. But the sport he was best at was not sanctioned by any school, pool. He typically played for pots of $100 or more in games of nine ball. In fact, when he signed as an amateur free agent in 1967 by the Phillies, the scout who signed him found him in a pool hall.

After signing that first contract as a 17 year old, Thornton played his first season of minor league ball as an outfielder and third baseman for the Huron Phillies, their A- affiliate in the Northern League. The move from just outside of Philadelphia to South Dakota was a bit of culture shock to Andre. He managed to hit only .182 and slug .327 in a mere 55 at bats. The only positive to come out of that season, was the friendship he struck with future Indian teammate, Toby Harrah.

That offseason, Thornton joined the National Guard, which would limit his playing time over the next few seasons. He repeated A- in 1968 with the Eugene (OR) Emeralds of the Northwest League, this time as a first baseman. He hit .249 and slugged .400 in 185 AB. He moved up to the Spartanburg (SC) Phillies (Western Carolinas-A) and showed his first flash of power, hitting 13 HR in 299 AB. After one more season in A ball (Peninsula (Hampton, VA) of the Carolina League), he would finally get a shot in AA for the Reading Phillies of the Eastern League. His 933 OPS was the best of his career to date and he slugged 26 HR in 454 PA.

Making a return engagement to the Eugene Emeralds, this time the AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League, Thornton would OPS 912 in only 158 PA before being included in a trade with Joe Hoerner to the Braves for Gary Neibauer and Jim Nash. This would entail a move cross country to the Richmond Braves of the International League. In May 1973, the Braves would send prospect Thornton to the Cubs in a deal for Joe Pepitone. He slugged .681 with 17 HR in 135 AB for the Wichita Aeros, earning a promotion to the show on July 28. He would only OPS 619 in 42 PA as a pinch hitter and spot starter at first base.

Thornton made the 25 man roster in 1974, as the backup to Billy Williams who was 36 that season. Thornton had a very good reputation defensively and would play sparingly over the first 2-3 months before solidifying himself as the starter. He finished his rookie season with a 261/368/439 123 OPS+ line in 357 PA. 1975 he would increase his numbers to 293/428/516 158 OPS+ in 473 PA and 18 HR. But in 1976, he had a terrible start to the season (95 OPS+) and when the Cubs became desperate for a starting pitcher he was traded to the Expos for Steve Renko and Larry Biittner. His numbers would not improve (92 OPS+) and in the offseason, the Expos dealt him to the Tribe for the immortal Jackie Brown. Phil Seghi made one of his best deals ever because Boog Powell had slumped badly in 1975 and would be released in spring training.

Over the next decade or so, Thornton would become the main power source on the mostly second division Tribe teams. In his first season (1977) with the Tribe, he smacked 28 HR in route to a 263/378/527 149 OPS+ line. But shortly after the season ended, heartbreak would devastate Thornton and his family. On a drive back to West Chester, PA a sudden snowstorm broke out on October 17. Thornton's wife Gertrude and his daughter Theresa lost their lives when the family van flipped into a ditch due to the icy road and heavy winds. His son Andre Jr. did survive the accident. Somehow, Andre came back in 1978 even more focused, 262/377/516 151 OPS+, 33 HR, 105 RBI and finishing 20th in MVP voting. That season even included him hitting for the cycle at Fenway Park, off 4 separate pitchers (April 22, 1978).

In 1979, Andre would slump down to a 233/347/449 113 OPS+, and in spring training of 1980 would injure his knee, eventually requiring two surgeries to correct the issue. During spring training of 1981, he would suffer another injury, this time a broken hand and as the Tribe had previously dealt for Mike Hargrove to become the 1B, when Andre was finally healthy enough, he returned as the DH and struggled through a 239/303/372 94 OPS+ campaign.

He would finally show he was healthy from 1982 to 1984 with a very good 275/378/470 131 OPS+ line, 82 HR and 292 RBI in 2003 PA. This would include two All-Star appearances (1982 and 1984), a couple more nods in MVP voting (1982 and 1984) and the Silver Slugger in 1984 as well. Father time caught up with Andre in 1985 and 1986, hitting 94 and 99 OPS+ respectively. Andre would make some token appearances in 1987 before retiring at the age of 37. He finished his Tribe career with a 254/355/453 121 OPS+ line in 5095 PA. This also included 214 HR, which was fourth in Cleveland history at the time.

Also won the Roberto Clemente Award in 1979 and the Hutch Award in 1982. He was elected to the Indians Hall of Fame in 2007.

*Note: Most of this was reprinted from Indians By The Number, #29.

Sources

Wikipedia, SABR Biography Project: Joseph Wancho

Indians Career Stats

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB GDP HBP SH SF IBB Pos Awards
1977 27 CLE 131 517 433 77 114 20 5 28 70 3 4 70 82 .263 .378 .527 .904 149 228 9 11 1 2 1 *3/D
1978 28 CLE 145 617 508 97 133 22 4 33 105 4 7 93 72 .262 .377 .516 .893 151 262 17 6 2 8 4 *3 MVP-20
1979 29 CLE 143 617 515 89 120 31 1 26 93 5 4 90 93 .233 .347 .449 .796 114 231 8 4 1 7 2 *3D
1981 31 CLE 69 256 226 22 54 12 0 6 30 3 1 23 37 .239 .303 .372 .675 95 84 15 0 2 5 1 D3
1982 32 CLE 161 708 589 90 161 26 1 32 116 6 7 109 81 .273 .386 .484 .870 138 285 21 2 3 5 18 *D/3 AS,MVP-23
1983 33 CLE 141 605 508 78 143 27 1 17 77 4 2 87 72 .281 .383 .439 .822 123 223 10 2 0 8 14 *D3
1984 34 CLE 155 690 587 91 159 26 0 33 99 6 5 91 79 .271 .366 .484 .850 132 284 9 2 0 9 11 *D3 AS,MVP-19,SS
1985 35 CLE 124 514 461 49 109 13 0 22 88 3 2 47 75 .236 .304 .408 .711 94 188 14 0 0 6 1 *D
1986 36 CLE 120 475 401 49 92 14 0 17 66 4 1 65 67 .229 .333 .392 .724 99 157 11 1 0 8 0 *D
1987 37 CLE 36 97 85 8 10 2 0 0 5 1 0 10 25 .118 .206 .141 .347 -5 12 1 0 0 2 0 D
CLE (10 yrs) 1225 5096 4313 650 1095 193 12 214 749 39 33 685 683 .254 .355 .453 .809 122 1954 115 28 9 60 52
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/28/2013.

Selected Awards/Leaders

  • AL All-Star: 1982, 1984
  • AL MVP: 19th, 1984; 20th, 1978; 23rd, 1982
  • AL Silver Slugger: 1984 (DH)
  • AL oWAR: 10th, 1978-5.0
  • AL On Base Percentage: 7th, 1982-.386; 8th, 1977-.378; 9th, 1978-.377; 10th, 1983-.383
  • AL Slugging: 5th, 1978-.516; 7th, 1977-.527
  • AL OPS: 4th, 1978-.893; 9th, 1977-.904
  • AL Runs Scored: 4th, 1978-97
  • AL Home Runs: 3rd, 1984-33; 4th, 1978-33; 5th, 1982-32; 10th, 1977-28
  • AL RBI: 3rd, 1982-116; 4th, 1978-105
  • AL Bases on Balls: 3rd, 1982-109; 4th, 1978-93; 4th, 1983-87; 4th, 1984-91; 5th, 1979-90
  • AL OPS+: 4th, 1978-151; 5th, 1977-149
  • AL RC: 10th, 1982-109
  • AL Extra Base Hits: 8th, 1978-59
  • AL Hit By Pitch: 3rd, 1977-11
  • AL Sacrifice Flies: 6th, 1984-9; 6th, 1986-8; 7th, 1983-8; 9th, 1978-8
  • AL Intentional Bases on Balls: 1st, 1982-18; 2nd, 1983-14; 5th, 1984-11
  • AL Double Plays Grounded Into: 6th, 1981-15; 6th, 1982-21; 10th, 1978-17
  • AL Win Probability Added: 9th, 1978-3.3
  • AL Assists as 1B: 4th, 1978-106
  • AL Range Factor/Game 1B: 5th, 1978-9.88

Cleveland Indians Career Leader

  • 35th WAR Position Players (18.9)
  • 33rd oWAR (19.2)
  • t-47th On Base Percentage (.355)
  • 33rd Slugging (.453)
  • 32nd OPS (.809)
  • 18th Games Played (1225)
  • 19th At Bats (4313)
  • 14th Plate Appearances (5096)
  • 18th Runs Scored (650)
  • 22nd Hits (1095)
  • 15th Total Bases (1954)
  • 26th Doubles (193)
  • 7th Home Runs (214)
  • 11th Runs Batted In (749)
  • 7th Bases On Balls (685)
  • 8th Strikeouts (683)
  • 33rd Singles (676)
  • t-27th OPS+ (122)
  • t-16th Runs Created (718)
  • 13th Extra Base Hits (419)
  • t-37th Hit By Pitch (28)
  • 2nd Sacrifice Flies (60)
  • 3rd Intentional Bases On Balls (52)
  • 6th Double Plays Grounded Into (115)
  • t-33rd Caught Stealing (33)
  • 14th Win Probability Added (9.9)

Cleveland Indians Season Leader

  • t-20th Plate Appearances (708, 1982)
  • t-45th Plate Appearances (690, 1984)
  • t-23rd Home Runs (33, 1978, 1984)
  • t-31st Home Runs (32, 1982)
  • t-31st Runs Batted In (116, 1982)
  • 8th Bases On Balls (109, 1982)
  • t-37th Bases On Balls (93, 1978)
  • t-42nd Bases On Balls (91, 1984)
  • t-46th Bases On Balls (90, 1979)
  • t-26th Hit By Pitch (11, 1977)
  • t-17th Sacrifice Flies (9, 1984)
  • t-32nd Sacrifice Flies (8, 1978, 1983, 1986)
  • t-1st Intentional Bases On Balls (18, 1982)
  • t-8th Intentional Bases On Balls (14, 1983)
  • t-17th Intentional Bases On Balls (11, 1984)
  • t-19th Double Plays Grounded Into (21, 1982)
  • t-48th Win Probability Added (3.3, 1978)
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