Major League Baseball teams have begun reporting to their spring homes, including the Cleveland Indians as they take up residence in Goodyear, Arizona, for the next month and a half before the regular season kicks off on March 28. Follow along with Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down the days until Opening Day 2019. – BT
Countdown to Opening Day – 44 days
There is a strange correlation between quite a few members of the #44 family in Tribe history – many were (and still are) well known for having some pretty glorious facial hair, for those who are a fan of such a thing.
It’s a weird coincidence, to be sure. Forty players have worn the number (most recently by Tribe reliever Nick Goody last season) and the most memorable of the bunch can be remembered for the beards and mustaches that they sported on the field.
Goody’s 2018 season came to a quick and disappointing end, as the 26-year-old right-hander made just a dozen appearances before a painful elbow injury on the mound on May 3 sent him to the disabled list, never to return from the right elbow strain.
The Indians were looking to Goody to fill some of the void left when the team did not re-sign free agent reliever Bryan Shaw following the 2017 season. Shaw headed to Colorado, signing a three-year, $27 million deal and scuffling in the high altitude, while the consistently bearded Goody started the year looking capable of handling some of the late inning work load for Cleveland. Through his first eight outings, he had allowed just a run on five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in eight innings of work, earning a pair of holds.
That changed quickly as the next week altered the course of his season entirely. He took the mound on April 26 for his third appearance in three days. He faced four batters – walking one intentionally and giving up two doubles – in a 12-pitch span. He was charged with a run and took the loss in the Indians’ 5-4 defeat to the Seattle Mariners. He next pitched on April 29 against the same Mariners club in the finale of the series. He was on the hook for three runs on three hits with a walk and two strikeouts in the 10-4 loss.
Goody returned to the mound on May 1 and made a season-high 28 pitches in an inning and two-thirds. He allowed two runs on three hits with a walk and two strikeouts and was tagged for a pair of home runs and the loss in an 8-6 final against Texas. Two days later, he lasted just 12 pitches (ten strikes). His first pitch of the game to Josh Donaldson sailed over the tall green wall in left-center and into the bleachers for a game-tying two-run home run. After getting a strikeout and groundout to end the inning, he returned for the top of the seventh, but on his fourth pitch to Kevin Pillar, he immediately crouched to the ground after a slider and chucked his glove off of his left hand. He was placed on the disabled list in between games of the doubleheader and the Tribe went on to lose, 13-11, in eleven innings.
With the remaining five months of the season and the offseason that followed to rest and recuperate from his elbow strain, Goody will once again be looked to as a key cog in the Indians’ uncertain bullpen mix. The team will need a stable bridge to All-Star closer Brad Hand, and it will be guys like Goody, Dan Otero, Neil Ramirez, and Adam Cimber who will get a look from the right side to get the game to the ninth with the Tribe up.
Goody turned out to be a valuable relief weapon for the Indians in 2017, months after being scooped up from the New York Yankees for a player to be named later in December of 2016 (minor leaguer Yoiber Marquina was sent to the Bronx in May of 2017 to complete the trade). A former sixth rounder in the 2012 draft, Goody had two small samples of work with New York in 2015 and 2016 with mixed results before being designated for assignment in December. Five days later, he was dealt to Cleveland.
He began the 2017 campaign at Triple-A Columbus, but he got the quick call-up after making three scoreless appearances for the Clippers, striking out ten, walking one, and giving up two hits in four and one-third innings. He worked in 56 contests for Cleveland, going 1-2 with a 2.80 ERA, a 1.08 WHIP, and a .198 batting average against in 54 2/3 innings of work with 72 strikeouts (a career-best 11.9 per nine innings) and 20 walks (a career-low 3.3 per nine).
Goody has continued a long history of groomed 44s on the field for the Tribe.
In 2015, Brandon Moss wore the number and wore a beard for stretches of his stay. While his time in the city was short, it did lead to a trade for a young left-handed arm in Rob Kaminsky, who in now one of the Indians’ non-roster invitees to spring training.
John Axford came to town to close in 2014 and he did it with some of the flashiest facial hair arrangements known to man. While his looks were memorable, his stay sadly was not, as the Ontario, Canada, native headed out of town towards the end of the season after falling out of favor in the bullpen, passing the torch to Cody Allen, who was also known to rock the bearded look during his time with the Indians.
Axford, who is a fantastic follow on various social media platforms for those who are in to such a thing, spent last season with the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers. Like many others still this offseason, he remains a free agent as camps report.
Carl Pavano’s stay was short in 2009, just like the above-mentioned players, but he managed to rock the facial hair, sometimes going with the chin stubble while at other points going with a goatee or the solo mustached look. His Tribe career lasted 21 starts before he was traded to Minnesota.
When Sal Fasano joined the Indians for the final 15 games of his big league career the previous year, he may have been best known for his longer hair and a thick Fu Manchu that started above his upper lip, or even the horseshoe mustache, looking like a baseball equivalent of Hulk Hogan behind the plate.
Fasano is still involved in baseball and has kept his facial hair intact, spending several seasons as a minor league manager. He is back in the Majors now, serving as a catching coach for the Atlanta Braves.
Even young Richie Sexson took pride in his hair, both that on his chin and on the top of his head. In addition to a partial goatee look, the soul patch, and sideburns, he had a bleached-blonde top hidden under his hat and helmet throughout his Major League career. His four seasons in Cleveland from 1997 to 2000 were arguably the best stretch for a #44 in Indians history, but he took his looks and his power bat with him when he was dealt to Milwaukee.
Sexson remained a big time slugger in the game for nearly a dozen seasons, with additional time spent outside out of Cleveland and Milwaukee in Arizona, Seattle, and New York with the Yankees. Now, he is the head baseball coach at Summit High School in Bend, Oregon, a job he took over in 2017 after several years as the assistant coach on the staff there under his former teammate with the Indians, Alan Embree (the two were teammates briefly in spring training in 1996 before Embree was dealt to Atlanta).
Kevin Mitchell wore the number before Sexson claimed it and he sported a mustache, soul patch, and the circle beard during his career. A former National League MVP in 1989, his best years were behind him by the time that he came to town as he hit just .153 in 20 games for the club and, after two months, he was released after hitting four homers in 59 at bats.
Mitchell landed in Oakland the following year, but played in just 51 games before his August release.
Hill pitched for the staff after being acquired in late July from the St. Louis Cardinals and was 2-1 in four postseason appearances, while the trade of Jefferson brought in Omar Vizquel, who was obviously a significant piece of the Indians’ success in the 1990’s.
The 1980’s and even the 1990 season were dominated by mustaches on 44’s. Ken Phelps, Ed Vande Berg, Neal Heaton, and Ed Glynn championed the look during their playing days, as did Rick Sutcliffe in his first of three seasons with the club in 1982 (before he was dealt to Chicago in 1984 on the way to a Cy Young second half with the Cubs that year).
The 1970’s weren’t exempt from the look at all. Jim Strickland had a notably thick mustache, as did Don Hood to follow, and catcher Cliff Johnson combined the look with the soul patch in 1979 and 1980.
Vince Colbert may have been the first to usher in the look for the number for the Tribe with his sideburns in the early ‘70’s. He was the fifth to wear the number, which had come back into use beginning in the mid-1960’s following a lengthy layoff. Ben Chapman is believed to have donned it first in 1940 and Les Webber had it during the 1946 season.
Photo: Quinn Harris/Icon Sportswire (Getty Images)
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 61 – Dan Otero
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 59 – Carlos Carrasco
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 58 – Neil Ramirez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 57 – Shane Bieber
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 56 – Cody Anderson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 55 – Roberto Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 54
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 53
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 52 – Mike Clevinger
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 51
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 50
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 49 – Tyler Olson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 48
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 47 – Trevor Bauer
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 46 – Jon Edwards
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 45 – Adam Plutko