In 116 years of shared history, there were bound to be a few common threads between the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox organizations. Those links extend far beyond a handful of players and coaches who make up each respective dugout this season while the two face off in the American League Division Series in their fifth playoff matchup all-time.
The most visible overlap between the two franchises may start from the managerial positions. Indians manager Terry Francona spent a portion of his playing career with the Indians before guiding the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 2004 to end an 86-year championship drought. Across the diamond, Red Sox manager John Farrell spent the majority of his playing days as a member of the Indians, including time as Francona’s teammate during the 1988 season.
On Francona’s coaching staff, Brad Mills spent time alongside Tito in the Boston dugout. Indians advance coach Scott Atchison played for both franchises during his career. Farrell has three coaches with ties to the Indians franchise, including pitching coach Carl Willis (former Indians pitching coach), first base coach Ruben Amaro Jr. (an outfielder who spent parts of the 1994 and 1995 seasons in Cleveland), and Torey Lovullo (an infielder who appeared with the Indians in 1998 and later managed in their farm system).
The Indians have four former Red Sox players on their current playoff roster, including Coco Crisp, Michael Martinez, Andrew Miller, and Mike Napoli. Martinez played with the Red Sox as recently as July, while Napoli was with the club until last August. Miller was dealt at the trade deadline in 2014, while Crisp spent three years in Boston from 2006 to 2008, helping Francona win his second World Series in 2007. Marlon Byrd, who was suspended for 162 games earlier in the season, appeared in exactly 34 games for both clubs, with that total coming for Cleveland this season and with Boston in 2012.
Pitchers Drew Pomeranz and Steven Wright both contributed to the Red Sox’s success this season, with the Indians former 2010 draft pick Pomeranz coming over midseason in a trade from the San Diego Padres, while Wright made his first All-Star team in his fourth big league season after being acquired from Cleveland in 2012.
While the above mentioned players contributed to various degrees to both clubs over the course of the season, they are hardly the first nor the most successful players to spend time with both clubs.
According to baseball-reference.com, 257 players have spent time with both organizations. Names vary from Hall of Famers like Tris Speaker and Lou Boudreau to guys like Sandy Martinez (one game with Cleveland, three games with Boston in 2004) and Bruce Chen (five games with Boston in 2003, two with Cleveland in 2015) who had a cup of coffee with the clubs, to Deacon McGuire, who spent 26 years playing while appearing as a member of the Cleveland Blues, Cleveland Naps, Boston Americans, and Boston Red Sox along the way before managing the latter three in the final stages of his MLB career.
Speaker may have been the most productive of the lot. He spent his first nine seasons in Boston from 1907 through 1915, hitting .337 in that span while claiming the AL MVP award in 1912 after leading the Majors in doubles with 53 and the AL in homers with ten while putting up a then-career best 90 RBI. He moved along to Cleveland in time for the 1916 season and spent eleven years in the city, helping to guide the club to its first World Championship in 1920 when he hit .388 with a .483 on-base percentage with 50 doubles, eleven triples, eight homers, and 107 RBI. Three years later, he would drive in a career-best and MLB-high 130 while hitting 59 doubles in one year. He finished his career with seasons with the Washington Senators and Philadelphia Athletics, amassing 792 total doubles, still the most in baseball history. Over his 22-year career, the Grey Eagle hit a combined .345.
A far more familiar link between the two clubs would be a 13th overall pick from the 1991 draft out of George Washington High School in New York, one Manny Ramirez. He burst on the scene in Cleveland in 1993 and by 1995 was already a full-fledged All-Star, making the first of 12 career trips to the Midsummer Classic. By the time free agency hit following the 2000 season, Ramirez was a career .313 hitter with 236 homers and 804 RBI in eight years with the Tribe. The Red Sox lured him away from Cleveland on an eight-year deal worth $160 million and his star continued to rise. He hit .312 in eight seasons with the Red Sox, hitting 274 homers, driving in 868, and making All-Star teams each season before he was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers. At that point, his career was in decline and he played sparingly over the next few seasons, ultimately landing in Chicago with the White Sox for the end of the 2010 season and in Tampa for five games in 2011, but failed drug tests may stand in the way of any Hall of Fame aspirations for the slugger who ended his career with 555 homers, 15th on the all-time list.
Third baseman Larry Gardner’s accomplishments and contributions on the field may be lost by nearly 100 years of distance between his arrival in Cleveland and present day, but he was an integral figure in helping the Indians win the 1920 World Series. He began his 17-year career in Boston with the Red Sox, spending ten seasons with the club while hitting .282. He moved on to Philadelphia for a season with the Athletics in 1918, but joined the Indians in 1919 just as things were getting good in Cleveland. He hit .300 his first season in town and would hit .310 with 31 doubles, eleven triples, three homers, and 118 RBI in 154 games in 1920 while being a part of his fourth different World Championship club (Boston won the title in 1912, 1915, and 1916 with him on the roster). He would hit .319 with 120 RBI, 101 runs scored, and 187 hits (all career-highs) the following season, but he began to slow after that.
His teammate on the first title club in Cleveland, Bill Wambsganns, was a Cleveland native who spent his first ten seasons with the organization from 1914 to 1923, hitting .258 while handling infield duties for the club. He was dealt prior to the 1924 season as part of a seven-player trade with the Red Sox. He spent two seasons in Boston before he was purchased by the Philadelphia Athletics for the 1926 season, his last in the Bigs.
One of the players dealt in that swap was George Burns, who has the honor of being the first of three Indians players to be named the AL’s Most Valuable Player. Burns came to Cleveland for the first time in 1920, playing in 44 games in his seventh season and third city in the Majors. After hitting .361 in 84 games in 1921, he was dealt to the Red Sox, but after two seasons in Boston, he was returned to Cleveland. He spent parts of five more seasons on the shores of Lake Erie, winning the MVP in 1926 while hitting .358 with 115 RBI. His 216 hits and 64 doubles were the most in the game. “Tioga George” spent 1928 with the New York Yankees and split time between the Big Apple and Philadelphia with the Athletics in 1929 before spending five more seasons in the Pacific Coast League.
Jim Piersall won Gold Gloves with each franchise during his enigmatic 17-year career highlighted by erratic behavior on and off the field. Flashy, but volatile, a gamer, but a scrapper, Piersall spent eight seasons with the Red Sox before he was dealt to the Indians following the 1958 season. After three seasons in Cleveland, they traded him to the Washington Senators and he would also suit up for the New York Mets and Los Angeles/California Angels before his playing career was over.
When the Indians acquired Piersall late in the 1958 calendar, they dealt Vic Wertz, a four-time All-Star who was part of their AL pennant winning club of 1954. Wertz had spent parts of his first six seasons in Detroit, displaying pop, hitting for high average, while showing an ability to drive in runs for the Tigers. His years with the St. Louis Browns and then Baltimore Orioles were not as successful, but his bat came back to life in Cleveland, hitting a career-high 32 homers in 1956 before making his final All-Star team the following year. He totaled more than 100 RBI in each of his final two full seasons in Cleveland before he was sent to Boston, where he spent parts of three seasons before a return to Detroit and later a 35-game stint with the Minnesota Twins to conclude his MLB stay.
The big names reside on the pitching side of the roster as well.
Cy Young joined the Boston Americans when the team entered the American League in 1901. By that point in time, he had already spent nine seasons with the National League’s Cleveland Spiders and a pair of seasons with the St. Louis Perfectos/Cardinals. He spent eight seasons in Boston before returning to Cleveland with the Naps in 1909, but he would conclude his career back in Boston in 1911 as a member of the NL’s Braves. He was 29-29 in those three years with the Naps with a 2.50 ERA, while he was 192-112 with a 2.00 ERA in eight seasons with the Americans/Red Sox.
Wes Ferrell has been on the brink of Hall of Fame consideration in recent years as part of its Eras Committees. He spent seven seasons in Cleveland from 1927 to 1933, making his first of two All-Star teams during an 11-12 season that turned out to be his worst full season in Cleveland after winning 20+ games in each of the previous four years. He was in Boston from 1934 to 1937, finishing second in the MVP race in 1935 with a 25-14 record in 41 games (with 38 starts and 31 complete games, both MLB-bests). He later spent time with the Washington Senators, the New York Yankees, the Brooklyn Dodgers, and the Boston Braves, finishing his 15-year career with a 193-128 record with a 4.04 ERA.
Luis Tiant started his career with the Indians in 1964 and lasted six years with the club. He went 21-9 in 1968 with a 1.60 ERA and 19 complete games in 34 outings while making his first All-Star team, but he crashed back to a 9-20 record the following year with a 3.71 ERA and was dealt to the Minnesota Twins. After one season there, he joined the Red Sox and turned his career around, playing eight seasons in Boston while being named an All-Star again in 1974 and 1976. He won 20 games or more three times during his Boston days. He signed with the Yankees and spent two seasons there before a year with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1981 and the California Angels in 1982.
Sonny Siebert spent parts of his first six seasons in Cleveland (61-48, 2.76 ERA) and was named an All-Star in 1966. He was dealt to Boston in 1969 and played in five different seasons with the Red Sox, posting a 57-41 record with a 3.46 ERA in that span.
The Indians moved on from Dennis Eckersley after his first All-Star season in 1977, his third year in the Majors and ten months after he threw a no-hitter for the club. He went to Boston in a six-player deal and thrived as a starter for the club for several years, making another All-Star trip in 1982. In 1984, they dealt him to the Chicago Cubs, where he stayed until the end of the 1986 season. His Hall of Fame plaque may have been forged upon signing with the Oakland Athletics in 1987, as he began full-time work in the bullpen for the A’s while making four more All-Star teams and saving 387 games over the next 12 seasons, including a Major League leading 45 in 1988 and 51 in 1992 while winning the Cy Young Award. He remains seventh on the all-time saves list with 390, despite having spent just half of his 24-year career working exclusively in a relief role.
In the last 20 years, several fan favorites have spent time with the two teams, including Ellis Burks, Victor Martinez, Trot Nixon, Carlos Baerga, Mike Aviles, Grady Sizemore, David Murphy, Johnny Damon, Justin Masterson, and Bartolo Colon.
The two teams have also shared managers along the way, including McGuire (Boston 1907-1908; Cleveland 1909-1911), Lee Fohl (Cleveland 1915-1919; Boston 1924-1926), Steve O’Neill (Cleveland 1935-1937; Boston 1950-1951), Boudreau (Cleveland 1942-1950; Boston 1952-1954), John McNamara (Boston 1985-1988; Cleveland 1990-1991), and Francona (Boston 2004-2011; Cleveland 2013-present).
Photo: Marvin Fong/The Plain Dealer