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MLB Mt. Rushmores
by Charlie Miller
The question posed recently whether Derek Jeter should be considered as part of the Yankees’ Mt. Rushmore piqued my interest. Not really the Jeter-Yankees part, but the idea that teams should have their own Mt. Rushmores. Who are the four individuals that have risen above all others for each organization? The question sounds simple. Even two guys sitting in a bar can figure that out, right? Not so fast. Let the arguments begin.
Cleveland Indians Mt. Rushmore
The Cleveland franchise — known as the Blues, Bronchos and Naps before settling on Indians in 1915 — has played 111 seasons. While they have finished with a winning record 60 times, the Indians have just 10 postseason appearances, and seven of those have come since 1995, in the wild card era. The team suffered through long dry spells in which it was a habitual cellar dweller in the American League. Perhaps the most notable disappointment came in 1987. After winning 84 games in 1986 and finishing above .500 for just the fourth time since 1969, the year the league expanded into divisions, Sports Illustrated touted the Indians as favorites to win the American League in 1987. The Indians lost a league-worst 101 games that season. There have been just four managers in team history to last as many as seven years at the helm. Two, Tris Speaker and Lou Boudreau, were Hall of Fame player-managers. The others were Mike Hargrove, who led the team to two World Series appearances in the 1990s, and Eric Wedge. Heroes in recent seasons haven’t stuck around long enough to post impressive career numbers with the team. There’s no need to look past Hall of Famers when selecting the names for the Indians Mt. Rushmore.
The fireballer who made his major league debut at age 17 is the closest player to Mr. Indian. Feller was a part of the 1948 team that won the World Series, and was 13-3 on the 1954 team that won 111 games. He missed three full seasons from age 23 to 25, and part of another season due to military service. He led the American League in wins six times, ERA once and strikeouts seven times. He won 266 games, all of them coming in a Cleveland uniform. He once had 10 consecutive seasons with more wins than home runs allowed.
Averill made his major league debut at age 27 after signing his first professional contract with San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League at age 24. The centerfielder ranks first on the Indians all-time list in runs, RBIs and total bases. He finished in the top four in MVP balloting on three occasions. He was a member of the first seven American League All-Star teams — the only outfielder named to the first six — and collected more than 1,900 hits for the Tribe and drove in more than 1,000 runs and scored more than 1,100. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975, and his number 3 has been retired by the team.
Lajoie joined Cleveland early in the 1902 campaign and batted .379 that season. During the 13 seasons the Hall of Fame second baseman spent in Cleveland, he collected 2,046 hits and drove in 919 runs despite hitting only 33 home runs during the Dead Ball era. With a .339 average in Cleveland, he won three batting titles and an RBI crown. Lajoie is the all-time leader in hits for Cleveland. He along with Tris Speaker and Cy Young were the three players in the second Hall of Fame class in 1937. He was a player/manager from 1905-09.
Although he spent much of Hall of Fame career elsewhere, Speaker ranks second on the Cleveland all-time lists in batting average, runs, hits and total bases. He played just 11 of his 22 major league seasons with the Indians, and seven of those seasons were spent as player-manager. In eight of his 11 seasons in Cleveland, he batted .344 or better, but won just one batting title. As player-manager, Speaker guided the team to its first World Series title in 1920. The Grey Eagle batted .320 in the World Series triumph over Brooklyn.
Considering his Hall of Fame career and tenure as manager, it’s difficult to leave Lou Boudreau off the mountain.
Bob Lemon spent his entire 13-year career with the Indians and won 20 games seven times, including both the 1948 and 1954 pennant-winning seasons.
Mel Harder is second in franchise history with 223 wins and won an ERA title in 1933.
Larry Doby was the first African-American to play in the American League, making his debut less than three months after Jackie Robinson.
Beloved Jim Thome spent too much of his career away from Cleveland to make the list, but he has more home runs than anyone in a Cleveland uniform.
Omar Vizquel was a catalyst on the the great Cleveland teams in the 1990s, perhaps the best defensive shortstop in history.
Follow Charlie Miller on Twitter @AthlonCharlie or email him Charlie.Miller@AthlonSports.com
Other teams' Mt. Rushmores: