Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 34
Bob Toth | On 23, Feb 2018
Happy first day of Cactus League play for the Cleveland Indians as they start the spring schedule against the Cincinnati Reds. Join us at Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we look ahead to the warmer days of the 2018 season by remembering Tribe players past and present.
Countdown to Opening Day – 34 days
Two future Cy Young award winners in Cleveland, one future league Most Valuable Player, and an American League Rookie of the Year spent time in the number 34 for the Cleveland Indians. None of those apply to the current wearer of the number, Zach McAllister, but it does not take anything away from his role in the team’s bullpen for the year ahead.
McAllister is going to be counted on to eat up some of the innings and appearances that were lost when Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith left the club via free agency this past offseason. Neither was replaced, although there are plenty of candidates in spring camp in the form of numerous minor league options and a lengthy list of non-roster invitations who will vie for an opportunity to head north with the Indians at the end of March.
As it stands, McAllister will likely see an increase in his late innings usage. Cody Allen and Andrew Miller will continue to get the lion’s share of the work in the eighth and ninth innings, but manager Terry Francona will need someone to pass the ball to them from the starting staff. That is where McAllister, Dan Otero, and Nick Goody will come in to play.
McAllister has found a home in the bullpen after spending his first four years in the Majors in the team’s rotation. A 2010 addition from the New York Yankees in a trade for outfielder Austin Kearns, McAllister showed promise in the early years of his career, but by 2014, he began to fall out of favor and was sent back to Triple-A. When he returned the next month, he worked almost exclusively in relief and he has been in the bullpen since.
He made a career-high 60 appearances in relief in 2015 with an even 3.00 ERA and the only save of his big league career while averaging 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings. He made 53 appearances in 2016 and followed it up with another 50 last season, posting a career-best 2.61 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP while averaging more than a strikeout per inning pitched for the third straight year.
Lee actually wore 65 when he debuted with the Indians in 2002, just months after being acquired as part of the massive prospect haul from the Montreal Expos for Bartolo Colon. He switched over to 34 during the next season and wore it for parts of the 2003 and 2004 seasons before transitioning over to his more familiar 31, the number he wore in 2008 when he won the AL Cy in his seventh season with the club.
Kluber, like the above mentioned pitchers an acquired unproven young arm (but in one fleecing of a trade), was picked up by the Tribe in a three-team deadline trade in 2010. He came to Cleveland from San Diego, while the Padres received Ryan Ludwick from the St. Louis Cardinals. Pitching prospect Nick Greenwood also relocated from San Diego to St. Louis, while the Indians sent starting pitcher Jake Westbrook to his new home near the Gateway Arch.
Kluber debuted with three relief appearances the next season before joining the starting rotation in 2012 in his new 28. In 2013, he claimed his spot in the rotation for good, winning eleven games that season before his first Cy Young campaign in 2014 when he led the league in wins (18) and FIP (2.35) while leading the Majors in starts with 34. He posted his second and third 18-win seasons in 2016 and 2017, taking home a third place finish in the Cy in ’16 before winning the award for the second time last season. That year, he led the Majors in wins (18), ERA (2.25), ERA+ (202), WHIP (0.87), complete games (5), shutouts (3), and strikeouts per walk (7.36).
Unlike the two Cy Young winners, Joe Charboneau won his award while wearing 34 for the Tribe.
A second round pick by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 1976 draft, he was traded to Cleveland following the 1978 season for pitcher Cardell Camper, who would play just three big league games in his career (all for Cleveland in 1977).
“Super Joe” was super in his first season in the Majors, appearing in 131 games while slashing .289/.358/.488 with 17 doubles, two triples, 23 homers, and 87 RBI. He received 102 voting points in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting, taking home 73% of the share of the vote. Fifteen of 28 first place votes went to the 26-year-old as he easily defeated the runners up – Boston’s Dave Stapleton (40 voting points), Minnesota’s Doug Corbett (38 points), Toronto’s Damaso Garcia (35 points), and Chicago’s Britt Burns (33 points).
Injuries would prove costly to Charboneau’s career, however, as he was limited to 48 games in 1981 and just 22 in 1982. He played in just eleven games for Cleveland’s Double-A affiliate in 1983 and was released after the season. He signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in February of 1984, but spent the season in the minors at the Class-A and Triple-A levels in the last pro action of his career.
Lou Boudreau, the team’s second of three MVP winners in franchise history, debuted in the Majors in 1938, drawing a walk in two plate appearances in the number 34 before switching to the number that would eventually be retired by the club, 5.
Boudreau spent 13 seasons in Cleveland and two more in Boston during his Hall of Fame career. He took on managerial duties of the Indians in 1942 and made seven different trips to the All-Star Game as a player. He drew MVP votes in ten straight seasons for the Indians, finishing fifth in 1940 and third in 1947 before he claimed the award for himself during his incredible 1948 season. He had a career-high 199 hits, 18 homers, and 106 RBI that season while hitting .355 and bringing the World Series title back to Cleveland for the first time since 1920.
He played with the club through 1950 before he moved on to the Red Sox organization. He played two seasons in Boston and managed the club for three years in total before spending time at the helm of the Kansas City Athletics from 1955 to 1957 and the Chicago Cubs in 1960 (after exiting the broadcast booth in a swap with then-manager Charlie Grimm). The move preceded the disastrous College of Coaches experiment at Wrigley and Boudreau returned to the broadcast booth through 1987.
Other notable 34s in Tribe history (39 total): Ray Gardner (first to wear it in MLB in 1929), Odell Hale (1934-36), Dale Mitchell (1948-50), Sam McDowell (1963), Steve Hargan (1965-72), Jim Kern (1974-78), Brian Anderson (1996-97), Dave Burba (1998-2002), Kevin Millwood (2005), Kerry Wood (2009-10).
Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images