As my career here as an Ohio University student comes to a close, I can’t help but get a bit nostalgic. Sure, I could ramble on about my time here along the Hocking but that is not the point of my blog. I have created serious Cleveland sports driven content that is unparalleled, so it’s time to take the nostalgia to the old ball field and talk Indians players of yore.
The debate about players of the past is always a tricky subject. There are a few ways to create such a list about a franchise’s all-time greats. One could generate the greatest lineup in franchise history, selecting a player from each position to fill out some sort of dream team. You could also create a simple list of old legendary players based on their achievements and stats during their career to decide which players seem to take a spot on a top-10 list.
However, that does not take into account the attributes that make a player a fan favorite, which can leave off some of the most beloved players in a franchise’s history. I will do my best to compile a list that both incorporates a player’s on the field achievements with off the field popularity to come up with my list of all-time Indians players.
- Bob Feller, RHP (1936-1941, 1945-1956)
- Tris Speaker, CF (1916-1926)
- Nap Lajoie, 2B (1902-1914)
- Lou Boudreau, SS (1938-1950)
- Larry Doby, CF (1947-1955, 1958)
Their list seems to derive entirely based upon statistics and prestige within the confines of the game. All of the players in their top 5 are first ballot hall of famers and some of the founding members of Major League Baseball. I have no arguments with their list if you are looking for an all business list of the greatest Indians of all-time. However, to me it seems a bit archaic and predictable. Any baseball fan knows that Bob Feller is one of the all-time greatest right-handed pitchers and should undoubtedly be the greatest Indian of all-time. They also know that the rest of their list is comprised of players who have made a tremendous impact on the game, but where’s the fun in that.
My somewhat serious list is as follows:
- Bob Feller, RHP (1936-1941, 1945-1956)
I did just criticize Tribe Nation’s choice of Feller taking their number one spot as being sterile and predictable, but I couldn’t think of a better face of the franchise. He has been an ambassador of the game of baseball to fans and players alike. His stats and World War II service speak for themselves; he was also a career Indian and lived out the remainder of his life in the greater Cleveland area.
- Jim Thome, 1B/ 3B/ DH (1991-2002, 2011)
Thome was the cornerstone of my generation of Indians. He was the face of the franchise during their magnificent stretch in the 90’s. Thome is the team leader in home runs and is a sure first ballot hall of famer down the line. He undoubtedly could hit, but he couldn’t field a groundball or a question from reporters. Some of his answers during press conferences go down in Cleveland sports lore.
- Omar Visquel, SS (1994-2004)
Omar might be the most popular Indians player of all-time. A native of Venezuela the guy was dynamic in the field. He was an unheard of eight-time Gold Glover and possibly the greatest defensive shortstop in history. He once played 95 consecutive games without an error and hit one of the 90’s Indian’s trademark walk off grand slams.
- Kenny Lofton, CF (1992-1996, 1998-2001, 2007)
Another one of the legends of the 90’s Indians, Lofton was also known for his defensive work and his speed. He led the American League five times in stolen bases and his stealing of home during the 1995 playoffs is one of the greatest moments in Tribe history.
- Albert Belle, LF/DH (1989-1996)
Maybe not the greatest or favorite Indian of all-time, Belle is certainly the craziest. Legend has it he once destroyed the clubhouse thermostat and chased down vandals in his truck. He also was the most feared bat in the lineup during the Indians’ famous 1995 season, hitting 50 homers and 50 doubles. That feat has never been done before or since.
So there you have it, my list of the greatest Indians of all-time. I will admit it certainly isn’t fully researched and undoubtedly bias, but I did not live to see much of Indians’ history. However, I did witness the only years that I can call truly memorable in Cleveland sports history, the grand splendor of the Indians in the ‘90’s. Most of their games were won in dramatic fashion outhitting their opponents in the last innings of high scoring games. Sure, these were probably the early days of the steroid era but they were fun. The league and fans didn’t see that hitting 600 feet home runs off the left field scoreboard wasn’t entirely natural, most likely because it was a whole lot of fun to watch.