Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 67
Bob Toth | On 28, Jan 2016
As Did The Tribe Win Last Night helps fans count down the days until the Indians retake the field in an official Major League game, we look back at some of the players who wore the Cleveland jersey with pride.
Countdown to Opening Day – 67 days
His stay was short, both in Cleveland and in Major League Baseball, giving former pitcher Chris Nichting a claim to fame. He is the first and only wearer of the number 67 in franchise history.
His time in Cleveland was so short, finding a picture of him in an Indians uniform became a task so frustrating that it was ultimately given up on, so we must suffer through him in pinstripes instead.
When Nichting appeared for the Indians on the mound in 2000, he was the first to do so for the Indians in his number, but he was not the first with strong ties to Cleveland to wear it on the biggest stage. It had been worn a dozen times before the 2000 season began, including by former Indians two-time All-Star pitcher Jim Kern with the Chicago White Sox for parts of two seasons and by former New York Yankees pitcher Dale Mohorcic, a Cleveland native.
Nichting was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the third round of the 1987 draft out of Northwestern after growing up in Cincinnati. After many seasons on their farm, including two missed seasons in 1990 and 1991 due to injury, the right-handed starter became a free agent following the 1994 season and signed with the Texas Rangers and was used more as a reliever. He would make his MLB debut in May of 1995 and played in 13 games, posting a 7.03 ERA and 2.01 WHIP to go with no decisions.
He signed with Oakland after the 1996 season and moved along to the Indians in February of 1998, but after an 8-6, 4.39 ERA season in 43 games at Triple-A Buffalo, he joined the New York Yankees. He spent a year in their farm system, mainly as a starter, before returning to the Indians, where he made his return to the Majors in seven games for the club in 2000 with results similar to those in Texas – no decisions, 7.00 ERA, and a 2.00 WHIP. He was 2-3 with a 4.23 ERA in 47 games for the Bisons, working extensively as a closer. He established a record for the franchise by converting 26 of 27 save chances while at Buffalo.
When he was used by the Tribe in the 2000 season, he was the 31st different pitcher to be used during the season, which extended their then-Major League record. Indians manager Charlie Manuel, always known for his way with words, noted in an Associated Press story on September 3rd, 2000, “My bullpen needs to relax and have some fun. Some of them might be getting a little tight. I don’t think they’re tired.”
A free agent again after the season, he joined the Cincinnati Reds, where he had his most success and longest stay at the MLB level. He earned his first MLB save in 2001 while going 0-3 with a 4.46 ERA for the Reds while splitting time at Triple-A Louisville. He was let go towards the tail end of the 2001 season and signed with the Colorado Rockies, pitching in seven games in 2001 and another 29 in 2002 for the parent club while spending half of the latter season in the minors at Triple-A Colorado Springs. They were the last of his professional appearances.
In addition to his claim as the only 67 in Indians history, Nichting can also boast about his hardware from his time in Triple-A.
“I’ve got five Triple-A championship rings, but nobody dreams of being Crash Davis,” he was quoted in the book The Local Boys: Hometown Players for the Cincinnati Reds by Joe and Jack Heffron.
Photo: Getty Images