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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | February 23, 2018

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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 51

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 51

| On 06, Feb 2018

While the offseason has been historically slow and the winter has crawled along at an even slower pace, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night look ahead to the warmer days of the 2018 season by remembering Tribe players past and present.

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 51

The number 51 has rarely been a sign of longevity for careers in a Cleveland Indians uniform. Just seven times since the number hit the field in 1929 has it been worn by the same player across multiple seasons on the shores of Lake Erie.

Right-hander Shawn Armstrong was the most recent to do so, but his stay in the number and in the Cleveland bullpen lasted parts of just three years. He was dealt by the Tribe this offseason to Seattle, with the team looking to create spots on the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft.

Barnes – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Armstrong had put up respectable numbers in his first two seasons, but he was limited to just 18 total appearances in that span. He took the mound 21 times in 2017 for Cleveland, but his results were not as good as he struggled with both command and the long ball.

Even with the eventual losses of Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith looking highly likely at the time, the Indians still dealt away the 27-year-old right-hander, preferring to open up a spot for international bonus pool money while potentially giving the bullpen a little more flexibility in 2018, as Armstrong was out of options and would have needed to make the club out of spring training or risk being lost via waivers or traded in March anyways. The trade also happened just over a month after Armstrong was reportedly arrested in Raleigh, North Carolina, on charges of being intoxicated and disruptive.

Armstrong, for those who do not remember, was nearly traded a year and a half earlier to the Milwaukee Brewers as part of the discussed deal for All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy.

Before Armstrong’s time in the number 51, the list of players with more than one year in the number was limited to pitchers Scott Barnes, Mitch Talbot, Jerrod Riggan, Alvin Morman, and Bud Anderson.

Jacob Cruz is the only position player in franchise history to wear the number for more than two years, doing so for parts of four seasons from 1998 to 2001.

The first player to wear 51 in franchise history was Bibb Falk in 1929, the season when the Indians broke in numbers on the backs of their jerseys. It was his first season in Cleveland after being acquired from the Chicago White Sox for Chick Autry. In his tenth season in the Majors, the corner outfielder Falk appeared in 125 games and hit .312 with a career-high 13 home runs and 93 RBI. He wore new numbers over his final two big league seasons, both for Cleveland, playing 82 games in 1930 while hitting .325 and appearing in 79 games in 1931 with a .304 average.

Ed Morgan took it up in 1930 in his third season with the Indians, appearing in a career-high 150 games while batting .349. Not to be outdone, he hit .351 the following season, doing so in 131 games, but he did that work in the number 33. He would play in town through the 1933 season before he joined the Boston Red Sox for the final season of his big league career in 1934.

Pitchers Dave Hoskins and Jose Santiago brought the number back in the 1950s, more than 20 years after Morgan wore it, and each had it for just one season. It would be another 16 years before Bob Kaiser wore it in all five of his MLB games in 1971, and Dennis Kinney, a Toledo native, did so in all 18 games of his Indians career in 1978.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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