Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 44

Baseball takes little time off in between seasons, so neither can we. Follow along at Did the Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to March 26, when the Cleveland Indians host the Detroit Tigers for game one of the 2020 season. – BT

Countdown to Opening Day – 44 days

Hunter Wood wears 44 now for the Cleveland Indians, but he was the topic of conversation ten days ago. His new number (after wearing 54 last season) was made available when the Indians cut bait with right-handed reliever Nick Goody after the 2019 season.

Goody spent the last three seasons with the Indians, but with some injury issues and mixed results along the way, the 28-year-old reliever was a roster casualty after the season. Looking to add three players (outfielder Daniel Johnson and pitchers Triston McKenzie and Scott Moss) to the 40-man roster ahead of the Rule 5 draft and with just two spots available, Goody was designated for assignment ahead of a pay increase expected to push his salary in arbitration to $1.1 million and following the exhaustion of his last minor league option.

Goody – Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Goody joined the Tribe following his second season in the Majors with the New York Yankees in 2016, swapped that December for minor league pitcher Yoiber Marquina. He put in major work in the Indians bullpen in 2017, going 1-2 with a 2.80 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP with an 11.9 strikeout per nine rate over 56 games, riding some exceptional results from his slider.

With newfound expectations on him after a breakout season, Goody’s 2018 came to a painful halt. Pitching in his 12th game and dealing with a 5.73 ERA and a 1.64 WHIP for the year on May 3, Goody suffered a noticeably painful right elbow strain on the mound. After rest and rehab failed, he had arthroscopic surgery at the end of August.

Goody was in camp with the Indians in spring of 2019 hoping to claim a spot in the bullpen, but he was cut from camp just ahead of the start of the season. He was optioned to the Triple-A Columbus Clippers, but his work there was hardly impressive as he made a habit of allowing runners to reach base and come around to score. In his first 18 appearances of the year, opposing batters hit .329 against him while he put up a 9.78 ERA and a 1.97 WHIP. Eight balls left the yard in just 19 1/3 innings of work.

He closed May and opened June with three better outings, striking out eight and walking two in five innings of work and got a surprising call to the Majors despite the 7.77 ERA that he had piled up in the minors.

Goody’s return to the big leagues was met with mixed results. He gave up a solo homer in his first game back and four earned runs over his first seven outings. Beginning June 25, Goody went on an impressive run through August 11, working 17 times while allowing just two unearned runs and 13 base runners in a 20-inning span, striking out 23 while holding opposing hitters to a .134 average. That run of mastery ended when he allowed three runs to the Boston Red Sox on August 14. Things failed to improve much over the rest of the season, as he allowed a 9.00 ERA over his final 15 games, including a solo homer off of him on September 7 in Minnesota that led to some physical abuse of a water cooler by the removed reliever.

After the rough start to the year at Triple-A Columbus, Goody finished his 2019 in Cleveland with a 3-2 record, a 3.54 ERA, and a 1.28 WHIP with an 11.1 K/9 rate over 39 games (40 2/3 innings). He suffered from a career-high 4.9 walks per nine.

Goody was designated for assignment by the Indians on November 20 and placed on unconditional release waivers on November 22. The Texas Rangers claimed him and Goody accepted the new assignment five days later rather than rejecting it and becoming a free agent. He will be around some familiar Tribe faces with the Rangers, including trade acquisition Corey Kluber and free agent signing Cody Allen.

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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 the consistently bearded Goody) and the most memorable of the bunch can be remembered for the beards and mustaches that they sported on the field.

Rob Tringali/Getty Images
John Axford – Rob Tringali/Getty Images

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 (he ultimately did not pan out with the club and signed a minor league contract this offseason with St. Louis, returning him to his former club).

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 spent 2018 with the Toronto Blue Jays and Los Angeles Dodgers and pitched in one minor league game for the Jays in 2019.

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.

Cleveland Scene
Fasano – Cleveland Scene

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.

Cleveland Indians promotional material
Indians promotional material of Ed Vande Berg (in case you can’t read the picture caption).

Ken Hill and Reggie Jefferson both fulfilled the expectations of a 44 in Cleveland with mustaches while both contributing in their own ways to the 1995 World Series Tribe club.

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: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

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Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below!

Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 99 (Daniel Robertson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 90 (Adam Cimber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 88 (Phil Maton)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 77 (Jack Armstrong)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 76 (Tom Magrann)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 75 (Mike Walker)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 73 (Ricardo Rincon)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 72 (Jason Giambi)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 71 (Johnny Hodapp)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 70 (James Karinchak, George Kontos)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 69 (Luis Medina)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 68 (Jefry Rodriguez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 67 (Aaron Civale, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 66 (Yasiel Puig, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 65 (Zach Plesac, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 64 (Tom Kramer, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 63 (Josh Smith, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 62 (Nick Wittgren, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 61 (Dan Otero, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 60 (Jhonny Peralta, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 59 (Carlos Carrasco)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 58 (Neil Ramirez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 57 (Shane Bieber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 56 (Cody Anderson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 55 (Roberto Perez)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 54 (Hunter Wood)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 53 (Logan Allen)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 52 (Mike Clevinger)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 51 (numerous)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 50 (James Hoyt, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 49 (Tyler Olson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 48 (Emmanuel Clase, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 47 (Trevor Bauer)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 46 (Jon Edwards, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 45 (Adam Plutko)

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