Al Rosen Mans the Hot Corner on the Indians All-Time Team
By Ronnie Tellalian
Al Rosen is one of the great Indians of All-Time. He is one of only seven players to spend his entire career in an Indians uniform with at least 500 games played. He played in only 10 seasons, but hit his way to the top and stayed there throughout his career. He hit 192 home runs in his brief career and drove in 717 batters. For all he accomplished, he will always be remembered for one magical season in 1953.
Third Baseman: Al Rosen
Rosen was held back in the minor leagues by Indians All-Star third baseman Ken Keltner. In 1946, Rosen led the Canadian-American League in home runs and RBI while batting .323. In 1947 he moved up to the Texas League and had one of the best seasons in TL history. He led the league in batting average, hits, double, extra-base hits, RBI, total bases, slugging percentage, and on-base percentage. He earned Texas League MVP honors. At Triple-A in next season, Rosen batted .319 with 14 home runs in 83 games earning American Association Rookie-of-the-Year honors.
He got his big break in 1949. Keltner was injured and Rosen played 23 games at third base as his replacement. The Indians released Keltner at the end of the season, and at age 26, Rosen was finally stepping into a big league role.
In 1950 Rosen had his first full season in the major leagues and he didn’t disappoint in his freshman campaign. He scored 100 runs, drove in 116, and led the league with 37 home runs. In addition, he batted .287/.405/543 and finished with the highest WAR of any third baseman in all of baseball.
He experienced a bit of a sophomore slump in 1951. He batted .265/.362/.447 with 24 home runs and 102 RBI. He would bounce back in 1952, leading the league with 105 RBI while scoring 101 runs and hitting 28 home runs. In addition, he batted .302/.387/.524 and was voted to his first career All-Star game.
In 1953, Rosen had a season for the ages. He led the American League with a 9.4 WAR, led the league in runs scored, home runs, RBI, slugging%, total bases, and OPS+, and started for the AL All-Star team. He won the AL MVP award unanimously, the first to do so since fellow Jewish player Hank Greenburg in 1935. He finished second in batting average to Mickey Vernon of the Washington Senators, just missing out on the triple crown.
Rosen hit steadily throughout the 1953 campaign. He was 1-for-3 on Opening Day, and his batting average never dipped below .300 for the entire season. He held a .361 average at the end of April, and he reached as high as .380 in the beginning of May, but fell a bit to .338 by the end of the month. On May 10 he had his first multi-home run game when he smashed two against the St Louis Browns in a 12-2 Indians victory. His average was down to .317 by the end of June and reached a season low of .309 on July 26. From then on, Rosen hit consistently well and raised his average steadily.
He hit two home runs again against the Browns in August, lifting his average to .325. Heading into the final three game series of the season, Rosen’s average stood at .329 while Vernon led with .336.
In game one, Rosen clubbed two home runs and went 4-6 while Vernon was hitless on the day. Rosen trailed .332 to Vernon’s .333. The next day Rosen lifted his average one more point with a 2-for-4 performance and Vernon went 3-for-4 to take a commanding lead .333-.336. The next game, Vernon went 2-for-4 to finish with a .33717 average. Rosen went into this final at bat having gone 3-for-4 thus far on the day, one more hit and he would finish the season at .33722 and edge out Vernon for the batting title and the Triple Crown.
On his last plate appearance, Rosen scorched a grounder down the third base line. Detroit third baseman Ray Boone made a diving play and fired to first. Rosen apparently had beaten out the throw that would have given him the Triple Crown. Umpire Hank Soar felt otherwise and called Rosen out. After the game, Soar was questioned about the call. “He missed the bag,” Soar said. Rosen agreed he would have been safe had he not missed the bag.
Rosen played well again in 1954, hitting 24 home runs, driving in 102 and batting .300/.404/.506. He missed a portion of the season with injury, and back problems would plague him through the remainder of his career. He played in 139 games in 1955, hitting 21 home runs and making his fourth consecutive All-Star game. He would retire following the 1956 season at the age of 32.
Rosen played only 10 seasons, and just seven of those were as a starter, but in that short amount of time, he took the American League by storm. He led in runs scored once, reaching 100+ three times. He led in home runs twice, hitting 20+ six times. He led in RBI twice, driving in 100+ five times. In one magical season, he won the MVP award and just missed the Triple Crown by a step. Rosen was truly and All-Time Indians great.