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10 Players You Forgot Played for the Cleveland Guardians

I am a former sports editor and currently serve as a historian with the Society of American Baseball Research and manage a valet operation.

Hall of Famer Dave Winfield spent a season with the Cleveland Indians at the tail end of his career.

Hall of Famer Dave Winfield spent a season with the Cleveland Indians at the tail end of his career.

Did You Know These Players Played for the Cleveland Indians?

There are certain names that are synonymous with Cleveland baseball. Legends like Nap Lajoie, Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Jim Thome, and more recently Jose Ramirez are known for their time in Cleveland. But for every one of those players, there is a well-known baseball star who spent a short amount of time in the city, and this article will explore some of those stories. Whether he was a player breaking into the big leagues or a veteran hanging on at the end of his career, the players below are all better known for their time on a different team.

What follows is a list of 10 players you forgot played for the Cleveland Guardians franchise (this is not meant to be an all-inclusive list, as many, many other players could have been mentioned). All the players listed below played when the team was known as the Cleveland Indians.

Tommie Agee is pictued on his 1965 Topps rookie card with the Cleveland Indians.

Tommie Agee is pictued on his 1965 Topps rookie card with the Cleveland Indians.

Tommie Agee

  • Position: Outfield
  • Years Played: 1962–73
  • Career Games Played: 1,130
  • Years in Cleveland: 1962–64
  • Games Played in Cleveland: 31
  • Cleveland Stats: .170 average, 1 home run, 5 RBI, 0 SB

Tommie Agee was the 1966 American League Rookie of the Year and one of the top players on the 1969 Miracle New York Mets World Series championship team, but before any of that success, he was stationed in Cleveland. Agee was signed by the Indians before the 1961 season, and he spent brief portions of the next three years in the majors. Going into the 1964 season, the 21-year-old was confident he could win the right-field job, telling the Cleveland Plain Dealer that "I know it's up to me to take advantage of the situation and make the most of it." He instead appeared in just 12 games as a September call-up and was part of a three-team trade that sent him to the Chicago White Sox before the 1965 campaign. That's where he garnered back-to-back All-Star selections once he became a starter in 1966 (that year, he hit 22 home runs and stole 44 bases, and won a Gold Glove).

Johnny Antonelli is pictured on a 1961 Kahn's trading card, a rare glimpse at him with the Cleveland Indians.

Johnny Antonelli is pictured on a 1961 Kahn's trading card, a rare glimpse at him with the Cleveland Indians.

Johnny Antonelli

  • Position: Pitcher
  • Years Played: 1948–50, 1953–61
  • Career Appearances: 377
  • Years in Cleveland: 1961
  • Appearances in Cleveland: 11
  • Cleveland Stats: 0–4, 6.56 ERA, 48 innings, 23 strikeouts

In December 1960, the Cleveland Indians made a trade with the San Francisco Giants to acquire Johnny Antonelli, hoping to get some of the magic back from the 30-year-old's left arm. As a six-time All-Star and twice a 20-game winner, Antonelli was supposed to be a boost for the Cleveland rotation as the club held aspirations to contend for the American League pennant following a 76-78 mark in the 1960 campaign. "If he can win in the American League, and I think he can, he'll make the Indians a strong pennant factor," said George Weiss, the recently retired New York Yankees general manager. Antonelli instead flopped, allowing at least one run in all 11 appearances he made with Cleveland before getting sold to the Milwaukee Brewers on July 4. The Indians didn't fare much better, finishing the 1961 season at 78-83.

Granny Hamner

  • Position: Middle infielder
  • Years Played: 1944–59, '62
  • Career Games Played: 1,531
  • Years in Cleveland: 1959
  • Games Played in Cleveland: 27
  • Cleveland Stats: .164 average, 1 home run, 3 RBI, 1 double, 1 triple

The Cleveland Indians acquired Granny Hamner on May 16, 1959, and hoped the 16th-year veteran would give the team some infield depth. "He's just the type of fellow we need on our bench," said general manager Frank Lane. "He's an old pro, a good hitter and can play any position on the infield." After filling that role for 2 1/2 months, Hamner suffered a shoulder injury that cut his season short, and the Indians released him at the end of the year. Hamner made his debut at 17 years old and was a mainstay with the Philadelphia Phillies throughout the 1950s, making three All-Star teams from 1952 to '54.

Willie Horton was featured in a set of 1978 Cleveland Indians postcards.

Willie Horton was featured in a set of 1978 Cleveland Indians postcards.

Willie Horton

  • Position: Designated hitter
  • Years Played: 1963–80
  • Career Games Played: 2,028
  • Years in Cleveland: 1978
  • Games Played in Cleveland: 50
  • Cleveland Stats: .249 average, 5 home runs, 22 RBI, 7 doubles

Willie Horton spent the first 14 seasons of his career as a powerful bat in the Detroit Tigers lineup, but after the four-time All-Star left Motown, he played for five teams in four years. That included a brief stay in Cleveland in 1978, a season during which he later played for the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays. Horton beat out incumbent designated hitter Rico Carty in spring training, but after 50 games, Horton was released and signed by Oakland. Oddly enough, Carty was traded to Toronto before the season began, and later in the summer, the Blue Jays sent Carty to Oakland in exchange for Horton.

Kevin Mitchell is seen with the Cleveland Indians on his 1997 Ultra baseball card.

Kevin Mitchell is seen with the Cleveland Indians on his 1997 Ultra baseball card.

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Kevin Mitchell

  • Position: Outfield/Designated hitter
  • Years Played: 1984, 1986–94, 1996–98
  • Career Games Played: 1,223
  • Years in Cleveland: 1997
  • Games Played in Cleveland: 20
  • Cleveland Stats: .153 average, 4 home runs, 11 RBI

Going into the 1997 season, the Cleveland Indians were hoping to sign an ace for their rotation, but as the top free agents signed elsewhere, other signings would have to make the difference. One of those pickups was former National League MVP Kevin Mitchell, who was hoping to recapture some of his early-career magic in Cleveland after signing a minor-league deal. Mitchell won the starting designated hitter role to open the season and homered in three of the first four games of the year, but he fizzled out by the end of May and was designated for assignment.

John "Blue Moon" Odom smiles after pitching a shutout in his only start for the Cleveland Indians.

John "Blue Moon" Odom smiles after pitching a shutout in his only start for the Cleveland Indians.

John 'Blue Moon' Odom

  • Position: Pitcher
  • Years Played: 1964–76
  • Career Appearances: 295
  • Years in Cleveland: 1975
  • Appearances in Cleveland: 3
  • Cleveland Stats: 1–0, 2.61 ERA, 1 shutout, 10 1/3 innings, 10 strikeouts

As the Cleveland Indians found themselves competing with the best teams in the American League, they began working some trades to improve their club. One of them came on May 20 when two-time All-Star John "Blue Moon" Odom came over from the Oakland Athletics. "We'll continue to work Odom out of the bullpen," said manager Frank Robinson. "He's been getting hit, but we feel his arm is sound. Maybe a change of scenery is all he needs." Odom blew a save in his first chance with Cleveland on May 24, allowed a run in relief on May 30, and pitched a shutout on June 4. After that, he was traded to the Atlanta Braves (who were left to deal with Odom's request for an extra $8,000 due to potentially missing out on a bonus if the A's were to win a fourth straight World Series, which they did not).

10-players-you-forgot-played-for-the-cleveland-guardians

Lance Parrish

  • Position: Catcher
  • Years Played: 1977–95
  • Career Games Played: 1,988
  • Years in Cleveland: 1993
  • Games Played in Cleveland: 10
  • Cleveland Stats: .200 average, 1 home run, 2 RBI

With a major injury to starter Sandy Alomar Jr., a minor injury to backup Junior Ortiz, and struggles from rookie Jesse Levis, the Cleveland Indians had a catching conundrum early in the 1993 season. To help get through the rough patch, Cleveland signed 36-year-old Lance Parrish, an eight-time All-Star and six-time Silver Slugger winner. "I almost felt people forgot about me," he said. " All of a sudden, there was no interest. It shouldn't have taken an injury for me to be signed." With Parrish's arrival, Levis was sent down to Triple-A for more seasoning, but Parrish committed three passed balls in 10 games. Less than a month later, Parrish was released and Levis was recalled.

John Smiley suffered a career-ending injury shortly after joining the Indians in 1997.

John Smiley suffered a career-ending injury shortly after joining the Indians in 1997.

John Smiley

  • Position: Pitcher
  • Years Played: 1986–97
  • Career Appearances: 361
  • Years in Cleveland: 1997
  • Appearances in Cleveland: 6
  • Cleveland Stats: 2–4, 5.54 ERA, 37 1/3 innings, 26 strikeouts

John Smiley came to the Cleveland Indians on the day of the trade deadline in 1997, but an injury prevented him from making an impact. Smiley, a two-time All-Star and former 20-game winner, was supposed to be the pitcher that pushed the Indians back toward the top of the American League. "This is a ballclub with talent," said general manager John Hart. "This is a ballclub not playing very well. We needed a pitcher. We delivered a pitcher." After a handful of starts, Smiley was shut down for a sore left elbow and shoulder, and on the day he was set to return, he broke his arm warming up in the bullpen. Smiley never pitched professionally after the injury.

Johnny Vander Meer made one start for Cleveland, but that was enough to get onto a 1951 Bowman baseball card.

Johnny Vander Meer made one start for Cleveland, but that was enough to get onto a 1951 Bowman baseball card.

Johnny Vander Meer

  • Position: Pitcher
  • Years Played: 1937–43, 1946–51
  • Career Appearances: 346
  • Years in Cleveland: 1951
  • Appearances in Cleveland: 1
  • Cleveland Stats: 0–1, 18.00 ERA, 3 innings, 2 strikeouts

Long after he became famous for throwing back-to-back no-hitters with the Cincinnati Reds, a 36-year-old Johnny Vander Meer came to the Cleveland Indians without a contract on a "look" basis before the 1951 season. He showed enough promise in spring training that the club gave him a contract the day before the season, but Vander Meer only made one start on May 7. Vander Meer was on the roster until late June, and his last act came on June 25 in an exhibition game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, a game that raised more than $8,000 for Pittsburgh's children's hospital.

As a 43-year-old, Dave Winfield closed his Hall of Fame career as a part-time player with Cleveland in 1995.

As a 43-year-old, Dave Winfield closed his Hall of Fame career as a part-time player with Cleveland in 1995.

Dave Winfield

  • Position: Outfield/Designated hitter
  • Years Played: 1973–88, 1990–95
  • Career Games Played: 2,973
  • Years in Cleveland: 1995
  • Games Played in Cleveland: 46
  • Cleveland Stats: .191 average, 2 home runs, 4 RBI

Dave Winfield was among the most feared offensive players in baseball throughout the 1980s, but by the time he came to the Cleveland Indians in 1995, he was a veteran brought in to help lead a young group of sluggers. Winfield was technically acquired in a trade on August 31, 1994, but because of the players' strike, he never came to Cleveland and became a free agent. Once the strike ended, the Indians signed him. "I don't think I would have played baseball just to play baseball this year," said Winfield, who ended his 22-year career after the season. "There had to be something special, some excitement involved." The 43-year-old Winfield was the active leader in hits, home runs, and RBIs going into the season, and the future Hall of Famer (2001) filled his role as designated hitter and pinch hitter all year, though he did not appear during the postseason as the Indians advanced to the World Series.

© 2022 Andrew Harner

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