It has been a good start to the year for former Cleveland Indians players being inducted into various Halls of Fame, even though none was selected for baseball’s top honor in Cooperstown as part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2016
Dennis Martinez became the latest former Tribesman to earn an induction when it was announced on Tuesday that he was part of a six-member class heading into the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame in June.
Martinez, a longtime member of the Montreal Expos, is joined by former Toronto pitcher Pat Hentgen, Canadian scout Wayne Norton, Toronto executive Howard Starkman, former Blue Jays analyst Tony Kubek, and the late William Shuttleworth, who is considered the “Father of Canadian Baseball”.
Martinez became the first player born in Nicaragua to play Major League Baseball when he took the mound for the Baltimore Orioles at the age of 22 on September 14th, 1976 in a 9-7 win over the Detroit Tigers. He pitched with Baltimore through 1986 and made a league-high 39 starts with 18 complete games while leading the American League champion Orioles into the World Series in 1979.
In 1986, he was dealt to Montreal. He spent eight seasons with the Expos, making three straight All-Star teams from 1990 to 1992 and led the league in ERA, complete games, and shutouts in 1991. He also tossed the 13th perfect game in Major League history that season, retiring all 27 Los Angeles Dodgers hitters in order.
He signed with the Indians following the 1993 season at the age of 39 to provide the young ball club with a veteran pitcher in the rotation and in the clubhouse. He was the first to take the mound at Jacobs Field and went 11-6 in 24 starts that season before the strike. He was just as effective the next season, making his final All-Star appearance while finishing the year with a 12-5 record and a 3.08 ERA. He started Game 1 of the American League Division Series against Boston, the first playoff game in the city since 1954. He threw in Game 1 and Game 6 of the American League Championship Series against Seattle, taking the loss in the opener but giving Cleveland seven shutout innings in the 4-0 series clincher. He took the loss in Game 2 of the World Series and started the decisive sixth and final game of the series for the Indians.
After a 9-6 record and 4.50 ERA in 20 starts in 1996, he signed with the Seattle Mariners, going 1-5 with a 7.71 ERA in nine starts. He returned to the postseason one final time with the Atlanta Braves in 1998, his last season, working primarily as a reliever.
The ceremony for the six men will be held on June 18th in St. Marys, Ontario.
“El Presidente” is one of a handful with similar news in the last week.
Heading into last weekend’s TribeFest festivities, the Indians announced last Friday that former Cleveland greats Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Frank Robinson, and Charlie Jamieson would be inducted into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame during the season.
Thome spent 13 of 22 seasons in the city of Cleveland and is the team’s all-time leader in homers and walks and is second in RBI. His 612 career homers rank seventh all-time. This would presumably be just the first big post-career Hall of Fame honors for Thome, as he would seem a likely candidate for Cooperstown when he is eligible for the ballot in a few years.
Belle trails only Thome on the home run list in Cleveland and remains the only player in MLB history to hit more than 50 homers and 50 doubles in the same season, when he had 50 and 52 respectively in that strike-shortened 1995 season. He and Thome will increase the representation from the 1995 roster in the Indians’ Hall, which already boasts members Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, Carlos Baerga, Sandy Alomar, and Charles Nagy, as well as manager Mike Hargrove.
Robinson has had his plaque hanging in Cooperstown since 1982. He spent 21 years in the Majors, playing for Cincinnati, Baltimore, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and California before ending his career in Cleveland. He was the National League Rookie of the Year in 1956, the MVP in the NL in 1961 and the AL in 1966, and was named to 12 All-Star teams. He played in just 100 games with the Indians in the twilight of his career, with 14 of his 586 career homers coming as a member of the club. When he became player/manager of the Indians in 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He would also spend four years in San Francisco and Baltimore managing, as well as three in Montreal and the first two seasons after the team’s move to Washington as the Nationals.
Jamieson was a left-handed hitting and fielding left fielder primarily and worked with the club out of the leadoff spot. “Cuckoo” roamed the Cleveland outfield for 14 of his 18 seasons, including as a member of the 1920 championship team. He came up with Washington in 1915 and moved along to the Philadelphia Athletics in 1917 before joining the Indians in 1919. He was named as one of the top 100 players in Indians history and owned a .316 batting average for Cleveland and a .303 lifetime mark. He hit .345 while leading the league with 222 hits in 1923 and followed it up with a .359 average and a third place finish in the MVP voting the following year.
The Indians Hall of Fame ceremonies are scheduled for July 30th at Progressive Field.
On January 20th, Vizquel was honored with his selection as part of the inaugural Hall of Fame class of the California League, dating back to his playing days with Salinas as a minor leaguer in the Seattle Mariners farm system.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer