A Coaching Tree Grows in Cleveland

Any discussion about Cleveland coaching legacies has to begin with Browns legend Paul Brown.

Those Browns teams coached by Brown from 1946 to 1962 included many brilliant minds as assistants – like Weeb Ewbank, who went on to be the only man to win championships in the NFL, with the 1958 Baltimore Colts, and the AFL, with the 1969 New York Jets, who went on to win Super Bowl III. But Brown’s players went on to coaching success, like Otto Graham, Don Shula, Chuck Noll and Lou Saban.

Paul Brown doesn’t have a coaching tree. He has his own redwood forest.

The Indians? Well, that’s a little more complicated. The only two Indians teams to win World Series were led by player-managers, Tris Speaker in 1920 and Lou Boudreau in 1948, who remains the last player-manager to win a World Series. Al Lopez and Mike Hargrove, the only other two Indians managers to guide the team to the World Series, both spent time as players in Tribe uniforms.

But an Indians coaching tree? It’s kind of stunted. Billy Martin, who by his own admission was the proudest Yankee ever, spent time with the Indians – actually, in exile after his incident at the Copacabana (which DID NOT involve a showgirl named Lola). In fact, Martin, Dick Williams, Lou Piniella and current Tribe manager Terry Francona are the only former Indians players to manage World Series-winning teams in the past 40 years. (Al Dark, who never played for the Indians but managed them from 1968-1971, succeeded Williams as manager of the Oakland Athletics and won the 1974 World Series.)

However, of the 30 teams in the majors, one-sixth are managed by players or coaches on the 1988 Indians – including the Indians, managed by Francona, and their opponent for this three-game set, the Rangers.

The 1988 squad went 78-84, finishing sixth in the seven-team American League East, leading only the Orioles, by 24 games. That was the year the O’s started the season with a record 21-game losing streak.

Doc Edwards managed the Indians, and current Phillies skipper Charlie Manuel served as hitting coach. (Pitcher Rod Nichols serves as Manuel’s bullpen coach in the City of Brotherly Love.) Francona was signed as a free agent that winter and played for the Indians, as did Washington, who was 36 and holding on to his major-league career.

The starting rotation included John Farrell, who succeeded Francona as Red Sox manager, and Bud Black, who came over in June in a deal with the Royals. Black, who retired midway through the 1995 season with Cleveland, was named National League Manager of the Year in 2010 for his work with the Padres, whom he still manages.

And two other Tribe players, Jay Bell and Brook Jacoby, are in the majors as coaches, Bell for the Pirates and Jacoby for the Reds. Francona told CBS that he had no inkling how many people from that team would be able to stay in baseball as coaches and managers.

“If you’d have told me that a bunch of managers would have come from that team, all of us would have told you you’re crazy,” Francona said. “We were on a bad team, and we were all just trying to hang on.”

Photo: Getty Images

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