Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 48: Catching Up With Ted Power

As Did The Tribe Win Last Night helps fans count down the days until the Indians retake the field in an official Major League game, we look back at some of the greats who wore the Cleveland jersey with pride.

Countdown to Opening Day – 48 days

Former slugger Travis Hafner may have mashed 200 home runs with the Tribe and pitcher Sam McDowell may have struck out more than 2,000 batters, but nobody who has worn the Indians #48 jersey got to put the word “POWER” on his back except for former reliever Ted Power.

A bad pun and weak lede to a story? No doubt…but Power did throw the ball relatively hard and he did post one of the best seasons of his solid career during his one and a half seasons with the Indians in 1992.

A free agent signee just as the 1992 season was about to start, the 37-year old Power had already established himself in the Major Leagues during his stints with the Dodgers, Reds, Royals, Tigers, Cardinals and Pirates and thought he’d give his career one more shot with the up-and-coming Indians.

“I had been released out of Spring Training by the Reds and they flew me out to Tucson, Arizona, and where I got the chance to throw one bullpen,” Power recalled of his last-ditch effort to extend his career, “and then I flew with the team to play in that exhibition game that they used to play against the Reds. I was scheduled to pitch that day and told my wife to bring my suitcase full of clothes to the game. I said to her, ‘I’m either going to go to Cleveland, or go home with you.’ I pitched well in that game and Mike Hargrove told me that he wanted me on the club. That was pretty special.”

Power’s impressive outing against the Reds extended into the regular season where he became a key member of the Indians bullpen. Power worked in 66 games and posted a 3-3 record with six saves and a 2.54 ERA, primarily as a setup man to closer Steve Olin. Power’s 2.3 WAR was the second highest of Power’s career and placed sixth on the 1992 team. Power’s WAR placed behind the likes of Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga and Charles Nagy, but ahead of some other Indians’ greats like Albert Belle, Paul Sorrento, Sandy Alomar and Brook Jacoby. The level of talent on the young roster was not lost on the veteran Power.

“Oh yeah. They were putting together that core group,” Power said. “They had guys like Sandy Alomar behind the plate, Charles Nagy, Jose Mesa, Mark Whiten and Jim Thome. I could see it coming.”

Power and the improving Indians held a 13-29 record on May 22, but put together a 63-57 record for the remainder of the season. Expectations were high heading into Power’s second season with the Tribe, but a boating tragedy that killed both Olin and teammate Tim Crews in Spring Training of 1993 put the team into neutral rather than drive for the entire season.

“Everybody was depressed. There was no intensity,” Power remembered. “We all missed those guys terribly.”

The tragedy hit the entire organization hard, but is especially difficult for Power.

“I was supposed to be out there that day,” Power said of the off-day barbecue. “I was supposed to be at that outing. I know I’d have been right in the front of that boat and I’d be gone. That’s something that has stuck with me all my life. I try to relay that to people. You never know when your time is coming. You really need to watch what’s coming and be careful with the things you do. It was awful. I wasn’t ready to pitch and that’s how I got hurt early in the year.”

The difficult time took its toll on Power’s ’93 season, as the right-hander struggled through 20 games. He was released in July and signed on with the Seattle Mariners where Power finished his 13-year career.

“I really wanted to stay there, but it just didn’t work out for me,” Power said of his time in Cleveland. “The year of the boating accident I got hurt early and by the time I came back, someone younger had taken my spot and I ended up going to Seattle. There were no hard feelings with Cleveland whatsoever.”

Prior to his tenure with Cleveland, Power began his career in 1981 with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a late season call-up. After helping the Dodgers’ AAA affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes to a league championship, Power was called up to finish the regular season of the Dodgers’ eventual championship run. Power made such a good impression with his teammates over the month that he was there that he got an unexpected surprise the following spring.

“I did get a (World Series) ring and I wasn’t expecting one,” Power recalled. “The following year, after they won the Series, I was with Los Angeles for about the first month. They presented the rings to them Opening Day in Dodger Stadium and everyone was lining up along the lines. We had won the championship in Albuquerque that season too, so they sent out a ring chart with the sizes in it. So everybody is getting these beautiful, cherry boxes and they’re handing them to everyone as they call their names. I figured my Albuquerque ring would be in there because I hadn’t gotten it yet, so I didn’t open my box until after the ceremony and when I opened it up, it was a Dodger ring. It was different back then, because everybody didn’t get one. The veterans on the team voted on who got rings, a share and the trophy and I got everything. That meant a lot to me.”

A starter in the minors, Power got two starts to rest the Dodgers regulars at the end of the season. Even though he pitched well, his offense ran into two buzzsaws and provided him with just about as little offense as possible.

“My first start was against Nolan Ryan and he threw his fifth no-hitter and my next start was against Mario Soto, who threw a one-hitter.”

Power pitched sparingly for the ’82 Dodgers as they tried to defend their title and was then traded to the Reds prior to the 1983 season. It was after the deal to the Reds that Power’s career took an unexpected turn.

“Starting is what I did for six years in the minor leagues—that’s all I did,” Power said. “When I got traded over to the Reds, they were going to put Joe Price as a left-hander in the bullpen and me as a starter and then they decided to switch. I had to learn how to pitch out of the bullpen at the Major League level.”

Learning a new role at the game’s highest level isn’t something to envy. Power took the change in stride, however, and realized the differences immediately.

“You don’t throw as much every day and have to be ready to pitch every day,” Power said of the biggest difference about being in the bullpen. “I learned from a lot of good guys with the Dodgers. When they call your name you get all excited, but you can’t wear yourself out warming up. You just had to be close so that in six to eight pitches you would be ready to go.”

Power spent the next five seasons mostly in the Reds bullpen—his longest stretch with any team in his career. He was traded to the Royals after the ’87 season and then dealt to the Tigers that next August. After signing with St. Louis in 1989, Power joined the Pittsburgh Pirates for the 1990 season where he finally reached the Postseason for the first time in his career. Power’s opponent in the NLCS was a familiar one, as the Pirates faced the eventual champion Reds and Power’s old teammates. Power made a start in Game Six of the NLCS—even though he hadn’t made a start all season.

“It was really exciting because, even though I had been away for a few years, I still lived in Cincinnati. My kids went to school there, we still had friends there. It was real exciting. I ended up getting a save the first game in Cincinnati and then I came in one more time in relief and then started Game Six in Cincinnati. There were no ill-feelings or anything like that, but I was a little nervous and very excited.”

After getting eliminated by the Reds, Power signed back on with Cincinnati the season before joining the Indians in 1992. After his stint with the Tribe and eventually the Mariners, Power retired from baseball and turned to the next chapter of his life.

“(I’ve done) a lot because that was a long time ago,” Power said of his next step. “I’ve moved from Cincinnati, where I lived for a long time, to Florida. I live near Sarasota now. I became a grandfather last year, so really I’ve just been enjoying my family and my off-seasons from coaching and just been living a normal life.”

Eventually, Power got the itch to get back into baseball when he became a coach in 2000 for the Billings Mustangs. He eventually moved on to coach the Dayton Dragons for a season in 2002 and then got his current job as Pitching Coach for the Reds’ AAA affiliate, the Louisville Bats, in 2006. Power really enjoys the level that he is currently at.

“The thing I like about coaching at this level – I coached at Rookie Ball two years and A-Ball one year and that’s too much babysitting for me – is the development that you can give guys at the AAA level.”

If nothing else was captured from his 13-year playing career, Power at least had some good mentors to learn his coaching style from.

“I was fortunate to have played for some great managers, but I also played for some great pitching coaches, too. Ray Miller was a great pitching coach in Pittsburgh. Mike Roark in St. Louis was awesome. I learned a lot from them. My day to day stuff is bullpens, working with pitchers, and paperwork…charting, looking at the other teams lineups and seeing who’s hot and who’s not, who steals. I’ve been in this league for ten years now and I just give my opinion. I don’t give orders, just my opinion. I don’t tell the guys how to throw pitches, it’s basically just pitch to your strength.”

Saying that Power pitched for “some great managers” is quite the understatement. Power’s roster of coaches played for could likely rival anyone else’s in the history of the game. After starting his career playing for Tommy Lasorda in LA, Power also played for Pete Rose in Cincinnati, Sparky Anderson in Detroit, Whitey Herzog in St. Louis, Jim Leyland in Pittsburgh, Lou Piniella during his second stint in Cincinnati and with Seattle and, of course, Hargrove in Cleveland. When forced to choose who the best of the bunch was, Power hemmed and hawed before “settling” on his two favorite.

“It would probably be between Whitey Herzog and Jim Leyland,” Power said reluctantly, “and that’s not to short any of the others – they’re all great men. Honestly, it’s impossible to pick between those two because they were such good baseball people. They managed the game so well. They never got caught shorthanded. They always had that extra guy in the 15th inning or that guy in the bullpen who could come in and pitch four or five. It was remarkable and both of them were very calm until something happened in the game where they had a good reason to be pissed off. Both of those guys were under control all the time.”

Power caught Hargrove at the beginning of his remarkable stretch as the Tribe’s skipper, but he saw what made Grover so special immediately.

“Hargrove was a great guy and he knew all of his players,” Power said. “He knew how to relate to each guy differently, in different ways. To me, he wasn’t my manager, he was my friend. He still is. I always see him down at Spring Training and it’s always good to see him and catch up. He hated it when they let me go, but I had actually asked for them to let me go because there just wasn’t a spot for me anymore. Grover is a great man. He’s a great family man and is a great friend to me.”

Hargrove was just part of what made Power’s time in Cleveland memorable, as the now-60 year old coach looks back on his time on Lake Erie fondly.

“I really enjoyed my time there,” Power recalled.

Photo: Topps Stadium Club

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