By Ronnie Tellalian
While Bob Feller is the most beloved of the Indians, Rocky Colavito is no less famous in Northeast Ohio. He captured the hearts of Indians fans in the 1950’s with powerful home run blasts the like of which Clevelanders wouldn’t see again until Jim Thome. Outrage erupted upon his trade in 1957 and his legacy would be forever linked to that fateful move. The right fielders that fans had taken to calling “The Rock” now left the famous curse. Known as “The curse of The Rock” or “The curse of Colavito” he became the subject of many books by many authors, most notably Plain Dealer writer Terry Pluto. Despite his link to malediction, he was an incredible hitter with fantastic skills. He is the first Indians player to hit 40+ home runs in back-to-back seasons, and if it were not for Luis Aparicio, Colavito would have been the Indians second straight Rookie of the Year winner.
Utility Outfielder: Rocky Colavito
Colavito made his rookie debut with the Indians in 1956. In 101 games he hit 21 home runs, drove in 65, and posted a slash line of .276/.372/.531. Slash line is simply batting average, on-base average, and slugging average separated by a slash so it reads as AVG/OBP/SLG. These stats were enough for Colavito to earn a second place finish in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Throughout the 1990s, the Indians seemed to enjoy acquiring players that tormented them come October. In 1997, they acquired David Justice and Marquis Grissom from Atlanta. Before the 1999 season, they signed Roberto Alomar. However, once the next decade started, that art slowly began to diminish as the Indians entered a rebuilding process. They did sign one final October foe, and that man is this week’s Flash in a Pan.
Anderson, notorious for the ludicrous numbers he put up in 1996, signed with the Indians after Baltimore released him following the 2001 season. Anderson’s tenure in Cleveland was short and uneventful. He only played in 34 games in which he hit just .163 with a home run and five RBI.
By Craig Gifford
Jeromy Burnitz did not start his career with the Cleveland Indians. However, the power-hitting outfielder did have an early-career cup of coffee with the Tribe before hitting it big in Milwaukee.
Much like players like Sean Casey and Brian Giles, who been featured in this spot in recent weeks, Burnitz was a casualty of the strong Indians teams of the 1990s. There were too many established outfielders for Burnitz to ever make a name for himself in Cleveland, when he was with the club in 1995 and 1996.
The most fascinating stat about this week’s Flash in a Pan is that over the course of his 11-year career, he only played about two and a half seasons worth of games. (Not to mention he had some of the greatest facial hair in recent history.)
This week’s flash is none other than handlebar-mustachioed Sal Fasano.
Fasano’s career with the Indians was brief. He was only with the team in 2008, and he only played sporadically after being acquired from Atlanta. However, his 15 games with Cleveland may have been his most successful stint of any throughout his career. He hit .261 with six RBI. He only walked three times and was a regular victim of the K, striking out 17 times. His final career MLB appearance would be in an Indians uniform on Sep. 14, 2008.
Sal Fasano’s career began in the 1993 amateur draft when the Kansas City Royals selected him in the 37th round. After three seasons in the minors, Fasano made Kansas City’s opening day roster despite not even playing a single game in Triple-A. However, Fasano struggled mightily his rookie year and it led to the Royals demoting him before the end of July. That rookie campaign saw Fasano hit a mere .203 with six home runs and 19 RBI in 51 games.
By Christian Petrila
This week’s flash in a pan entry was a reliever who never could quite get above the line of mediocrity; but for one season with the Indians, he had one of his best years and it helped the Tribe make it all the way to the American League Championship Series.
This week’s forgotten Indian is lefty reliever Aaron Fultz.
Ironically, Fultz’s lone season in Clevelandwould be his last season in the Majors. With the Indians in 2007, Fultz put together a 4-3 record with a 2.92 ERA (the second lowest of his career) in 37 innings. He allowed 31 hits while striking out 28 and walking 18. He would also make the playoff roster and make one appearance in each of Cleveland’s two playoff series. In Game 3 of the ALDS against the Yankees, Fultz pitched an inning and allowed two runs (none earned) on two hits and one walk in an inning. AgainstBostonin the ALCS, Fultz entered in the sixth inning of Game 1. He didn’t even record an out as he walked two batters before being replaced by Tom Mastny.
By Craig Gifford
In the late 1980s, the Cleveland Indians found what they had hoped to be their shortstop of the future in Jay Bell. Instead, Bell never fulfilled his promise on the shores of Lake Erie. Instead, he became an all-star with the Pittsburgh Pirates and an important part of their success in the early 1990s.
Bell was drafted out of high school by the Minnesota Twins with the eighty overall pick of the 1984 amateur draft. Perhaps due to the youth when selected, Bell never had much of chance with the Twins, being dealt to the Tribe a year later in a trade-deadline acquisition. A contender in 1985, the Twins needed pitching and got it in the form of all-star hurler Bert Blyleven. The Indians received Bell and several other minor players for their ace pitcher. The move did not propel the Twins to the postseason that year. However, Blyleven was a key component to the 1987 World Series championship squad. A good deal for the Twins.
Meanwhile, Cleveland had hoped Bell could be to the infield what Joe Carter and Cory Snyder were to the outfielder – an all-star quality hitter. The hope was Bell, now 20, would come into his own within a couple years and help spark Cleveland to a better age of baseball. As we all know now, a trade for a shotstop would eventually do that, though his name was Omar Vizquel and that was about a decade later.
By Craig Gifford
These days, Ryan Ludwick is a power hitter in the middle of the batting order for a Cincinnati Reds team that has World Series aspirations. Things were not always a bowl of cherries for the 34-year-old outfielder. To get to a world of big league success, Ludwick first had to bounce around the minor leagues and several organizations.
Among Ludwick’s early stops was the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe was actually Ludwick’s third club, however, the first to give him any prolonged shot at the majors.
By Christian Petrila
You would expect a guy who hit .284 in 226 games with the Indians to have more than 39 RBI, right?
Alex Cole was an exception to the rule.
Cole was drafted in the second round of the 1985 amateur draft by the St. Louis Cardinals. He played in the minors for St. Louis, but never got the opportunity to play there due in part to the firm hold Willie McGee had on centerfield. Finally, in 1990, the Cardinals decided to do Cole a favor and send him and Steve Peters to San Diego in exchange for Omar Olivares. Cole spent the first few months in the minors, but in July, he was shipped to Cleveland for Tom Lampkin.
By Craig Gifford
When Roger Maris hit his then-record 61 home runs in 1961, it came out of nowhere. Few people saw the kind of power Maris displayed that season coming. That especially includes the Cleveland Indians who had him on their team just three years earlier.
Maris, who is best known for breaking Babe Ruth‘s record 60 homers in a season, got his start with the Tribe. On April 16, 1957, the 22-year-old right fielder received his first taste of the major leagues. After four seasons in the Indians’ minor league system, Maris was finally ready for the big show. He showed a little pop in his bat as a first-year player, but nowhere near the show he would put on four seasons later.
This week’s Flash in a Pan completed the cycle. No, I don’t mean he hit a single, double, triple and home run in one game. This athlete started his career in Cleveland and played nine seasons elsewhere before finishing his career back in an Indians jersey. He may also be more well-known for being involved in a trade that brought Cleveland one of its most beloved players.
This week, the player is Ed Taubensee.
Taubensee was originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the sixth round of the 1986 draft. However, Taubensee’s career in the Reds system never really took off, as he hit below .200 in two of his five seasons there. The Oakland A’s chose him in the Rule 5 draft after the 1990 season, but he was placed on waivers before the 1991 season started. That’s where the Indians came in.
By Craig Gifford
When the Indians of the 1990s were known to have an all-star at nearly every position on the big league roster, there was many a deserving minor leaguer who could not find his way out of the bush leagues. Among the most notable was a first baseman named Sean Casey.
Drafted in the second round of the 1995 amateur draft, Casey surpassed his expectations as a high draft choice. By late 1997, he was playing at Triple-A Buffalo. At every stop along the minor league circuit, Casey was raking the ball. He batted well above .300 at all three levels of the minors. He was a high-average hitter, who could also hit the long bomb 20-30 times.
Signed by the Houston Astros as an amateur free agent in 1978, Espinoza didn’t become an Indian until 1993 when he signed as a free agent. He would play in 344 games over four seasons for the Indians. He hit .252 with 11 home runs and 74 RBI in those four seasons. However, he may best be known for his antics and one memorable slide.
Espinoza was a clubhouse clown for the Indians. He was the loose, a down-to-Earth guy in the dugout. One of his favorite things to do was to blow a bubble and then stick it to the top of a teammate’s hat. While Espinoza and others would be cracking up, the victim would have absolutely no idea. The reactions when the player finally found out what was on his hat ranged from rage to joining his teammates in laughter.