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Countdown To Pitchers And Catchers: #1 Bobby Avila

| On 19, Feb 2012

Today continues our countdown to the start of Indians pitchers and catchers reporting to Goodyear, Arizona on February 20. We’ll count down the days, profiling a former Indian who wore the corresponding number. Some players will be memorable, others just our favorites and some, the only one we could find who wore that number. Today, we chronicle the career of Bobby Avila.

By Mike Brandyberry

The Tribe’s second baseman during the 1950s helped the Indians compete with the Yankees each season, but his contribution to baseball may have been even greater.

Bobby Avila was born in Veracruz, Mexico and signed with the Indians as a free agent. He debuted with the Tribe in 1949 and played a reserve role in 1950. However, in 1951 Avila became the starting second baseman and hit .304, with 10 home runs and 58 runs batted in. He was a catalyst to the Indians’ lineup.

His best season came in one of the franchise’s best, 1954. Avila hit .341 and won the American League batting crown, narrowly edging Ted Williams and Minnie Minoso. He finished third in the MVP voting that season and was an all star in 1952, 1954 and 1955. He helped lead the Indians to a record 111-win season. The Tribe matched up with the New York Giants in the World Series and their own batting crown winner, Willie Mays. The matchup of batting crown winners was only the third of its kind.

Despite Avila’s batting title in 1954, he would never hit over .300 again. The following season he hit .272, before a rapid decline. After the 1958 season Avila was traded to the Baltimore Orioles. He would struggle the next season, playing with Baltimore, the Boston Red Sox and the Milwaukee Braves.

In Avila’s 11-year career, he hit .281, with 80 home runs and 467 runs batted in 1300 games. While his batting title will remain in Indians lore, his greatest contribution to baseball may be his help in developing the Mexican Baseball League after his career ended. He served as president of the league and has been widely regarded as the player who most stimulated its development.

Photo: Cleveland Press Archive

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