Our countdown to Opening Day in Seattle between the Mariners and the visiting Cleveland Indians has reached 60, as just two short months from now, baseball will return around the country. We at Did The Tribe Win Last Night look ahead towards the warmer days of the 2018 season by remembering Tribe players past and present.
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 60
As might be expected, the number 60 has not seen much use in the history of the Cleveland Indians. Believed to be worn for the first time in game action in 1988 by Rod Allen in just a handful of games, the number has seen minimal trips back to the field since on the back of a player. Of the five former players to wear the number, only Jhonny Peralta and Bill Selby wore it long enough to have more than a few cups of coffee with the club.
Allen broke the number in during the ’88 season with the Indians when he debuted with the club more than two years after signing with Cleveland in May of 1986. In the years between his signing and his debut, he spent 31 games at Double-A Waterbury before playing for the club’s Triple-A affiliates in Maine, Buffalo, and Colorado Springs from 1986 to 1988. He had previously reached the Majors with Seattle in 1983 and Detroit in 1984.
The right-handed hitting outfielder moved overseas, playing for Hiroshima (Japan Central League) from 1989 to 1991 before a season with Yucatan in the Mexican League. He would be far better remembered for his successful television and radio broadcast career (including time with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers) than his 31-game MLB career. He also spent several seasons working as a coach and manager in the Florida Marlins organization.
Kane Davis signed with the Indians as a free agent after the 1999 season after seven seasons in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He made his Major League debut in 2000, making six relief appearances and two starts while posting a forgettable 0-3 record with a 14.73 ERA and a 2.55 WHIP. He was packaged with first baseman Richie Sexson, pitcher Paul Rigdon, and infielder Marco Scutaro and sent to Milwaukee in the trade that brought closer Bob Wickman and pitchers Jason Bere and Steve Woodard to Cleveland.
Davis made the rounds after that, pitching for Colorado in 2001 and the New York Mets in 2002. He moved to the independent Atlantic League in 2003 and 2004, but in both seasons he was purchased by Major League clubs (the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland) without a return trip to the Majors. He rejoined the Brewers for the 2005 season, but was a roster cut at the end of spring the following year. He spent eleven games with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2007 and later appeared in the Toronto Blue Jays minor league system before calling it a career.
The number 60 did not stay unused for long, as Selby made his Indians debut in the number just one day after the trade that sent Davis and others to Milwaukee in 2000.
A 13th round pick in the 1992 draft by the Boston Red Sox, the 30-year-old Selby was making his first appearance in the Majors since 1996, when he debuted for the Red Sox in 40 games of action. He hit .239 in 30 games for the Indians after hitting 21 homers and driving in 86 while batting .276 at Triple-A.
He was on to the Cincinnati Reds organization following the season, playing 88 games at Triple-A Louisville and 36 games for the Reds.
After just one year away, he returned to the Indians organization for the 2002 season and the first part of 2003, wearing the number 36 the second time around while appearing in 92 more games for the Tribe. His career highlight may have come on July 14, 2002, when he capped the Indians’ seven-run comeback and six-run ninth against the New York Yankees with a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning against legendary closer Mariano Rivera.
After a season on the farm for the Cubs in 2004 and a season in Mexico (where he hit .318 with 25 homers and 93 RBI in his age-35 season), Selby called it a career. He has since returned to his old college (Northwest Mississippi Community College) and remains an assistant coach for the school’s baseball team heading into the 2018 season.
As the century turned, the Indians had some difficulties in the drafting department, an issue that plagued the team for quite some time, compounding problems created by trading away young talent for veteran help during the Tribe’s playoff run of the 1990s and losing some of the key contributors from those squads to free agency.
Left-hander Brian Tallet was one such top draft pick, one who spent a long time in the Majors, but little time in the Indians rotation as hoped. Taken in the second round of the 2000 draft out of Louisiana State University, he made a quick arrival on the Major League scene, taking the mound on September 16, 2002, while throwing six shutout innings against Boston. He would give up three runs in six innings in his other start of the season and in 2003, he shed his number 60 for the far more practical 30.
The early success did not translate to long term productivity in Cleveland for Tallet. He made 15 starts at Triple-A Buffalo during the 2003 campaign, going 4-4 with a 5.14 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. With the Indians, he went 0-2 in five games (three starts) with a similarly high 4.74 ERA and 1.63 WHIP. The following season was limited to just 23 minor league appearances (only two of which were starts), but he did reemerge at the Major League level briefly in 2005, giving up four runs in four and two-thirds innings over two relief appearances after working primarily as a starter at Triple-A that year.
In January of 2006, he was traded to Toronto for Bubbie Buzachero.
With the Blue Jays, he became a steady worker in the club’s bullpen over the next five years, with the exception of the 2009 season, when he returned to the starting rotation and made 25 starts in 37 total outings. He signed as a free agent following the 2010 season with the St. Louis Cardinals, but was traded back to the Blue Jays at the trade deadline in 2011. He would go on to spend time with the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres organizations, but the big league portion of his career was done after his 2011 effort with nine MLB seasons logged.
Easily the most successful of the men to wear the number 60 at some point in their Cleveland careers was Jhonny Peralta. He signed with the Indians in 1999 out of the Dominican Republic and was making his debut in 2003 as a 21-year-old fresh-faced prospect forced to replace Cleveland’s legendary shortstop Omar Vizquel, who was out with a knee injury.
He appeared in 77 games in his rookie season, hitting .227 with ten doubles and four homers to go with 21 RBI. With Vizquel back and healthy for 2004, Peralta spent the year back in Triple-A and was a late September call-up while in his new number 16. While he had little to show in the Majors, he did win the International League MVP for his play with Buffalo.
The club did not bring back Vizquel for 2005 and instead handed the shortstop keys to Peralta, who played well offensively in his first full season of exposure in the Majors and his first in the number two. Still just 23, he hit .292 with a .366 OBP, had 35 doubles, and was second on the club with 24 homers while driving in 78. The home run production remains the career best of his 15-year career.
Peralta remained in Cleveland until the trade deadline in 2010, when the third baseman was traded with cash to the Detroit Tigers for minor league pitcher Giovanni Soto. Back at shortstop for Detroit, he made his first of three career All-Star trips in his first full year with the Tigers. Following his second All-Star season in 2013, he signed a four-year, $53 million deal with St. Louis, but the Cardinals cut him loose in June of the 2017 season. He signed on briefly with the Boston Red Sox and suited up in ten games at Triple-A Pawtucket, but he was released in July and remains unsigned.
Photo: 2004 Topps