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 Cory Snyder.
By Mike Brandyberry
The summer of 1986 was when I fell in love with baseball and the Cleveland Indians and found my only true favorite player ever, Cory Snyder. Originally, Snyder was the fourth overall pick in the 1984 MLB Draft after representing the USA in the inaugural baseball contest in the Olympic Games.
I was seven years old and started playing my first season of baseball. I loved it immediately, but wasn’t really good off the bat. I was normally stationed in right field, so it became natural that the first time I sat down to watch a Tribe game with my father, I wanted to know who was the right fielder.
Snyder had just been called up to the Cleveland Indians only weeks prior and quickly made a splash with the team. He debuted on June 13 and hit 24 home runs that season, playing both shortstop and right field. Snyder finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting. He was the new, young hope for Cleveland Indians fans and he was my favorite player from the onset of my baseball existence.
As my love for baseball swelled, my dad would take me to ball games down at Municipal Stadium and we would often stand on the rail before games to get autographs from the players. I remember so clearly the day that Cory Snyder, my favorite player, came over to sign. For the seven year old me, I had the chance to get the signature of my hero. I remember reaching so far over the rail that my dad was holding my ankles as I stretched out with my ball for Snyder to sign.
That day I got Snyder’s autograph and the next year my excitement for the Tribe only blossomed when he and Joe Carter were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s baseball preview edition. The Indians were picked by SI to win the American League. Unfortunately, they lost 100 games that season and finished dead last, but to me this was my team.
Snyder proceeded to hit 33 home runs in 1987 and 26 more in 1988, but his batting average began to slip and his strike outs rose. By 1989 his home runs had dropped to 18 and his batting average to .215. His swing was susceptible to the offspeed pitch and his play reflected it. After the 1990 season Snyder was traded to the Chicago White Sox for Shawn Hillegas and Eric King. Snyder would play a season in Chicago before making stops in Toronto, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He retired after the players strike ended the 1994 season.
The Indians have always been my favorite team, but I’ve never had a favorite player like I did after Snyder. Orel Hershiser may have been the only other player that I’ve ever regarded as a favorite, but he was no Cory Snyder in my eyes.
Three years ago, before I was married, my wife looked far and wide to find a Cory Snyder jersey for me and couldn’t. She and my friends scoured Ebay. Later she told me of their search and last season we saw a fan at Progressive Field wearing a mind 1980s Cleveland Indians jersey with #28 and, “Snyder,” printed on the back. The first time I saw him I was stunned and excited that a Cory Snyder jersey existed. The second time I saw him, I approached him and asked where he got his jersey. He told me that Snyder had given it to his father over 20 years ago.
I knew my answer before I asked, but I asked him if there was any chance he’d consider selling it and explained he was my favorite player as kid.
“No chance,” he said. “He was my favorite too. You couldn’t afford what it would take to get the jersey from me.”
I believe it. If I ever get a Cory Snyder jersey, I’ll never sell it and wear it with pride. He was the player who gave me baseball and the Cleveland Indians.
Photo: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images