I am a former sports editor and currently serve as a historian with the Society of American Baseball Research and manage a valet operation.
Who Are the Most Feared Sluggers in Cleveland Indians History?
The home run is one of the most exciting plays in baseball, and over the years, the Cleveland Indians have been blessed with a bevy of power-hitting sluggers. From a player touted as potentially the next Babe Ruth to a steady run of power hitters throughout the 1950s to some of baseball's most recognizable sluggers in the '90s, the Indians have seen a wide array of long-ball talents throughout the years.
In this article, I will count down the 10 most feared power hitters to ever don the Indians uniform. Players are ranked on the basis of their power hitting contributions to the Indians—and baseball in general—as well as general hitting abilities and how much fear could reasonably be expected to be felt by opposing pictures when a particular player came to bat.
Only time spent playing for the Indians is considered, so while Frank Robinson is known for his slugging exploits with the Baltimore Orioles and Cincinnati Reds, the short time he spent with the Indians won't qualify him for this list. Following the top 10, you'll find a list of honorable mentions, as well as home run trivia and records about the Indians.
10. Earl Averill
- Years With Indians: 1929–39
- Career Home Runs: 226 (fourth all-time with Indians)
- Single-Season High: 32 (1931 and '32)
- Seasons Leading the Indians: 1929, 1931–33
Earl Averill homered in his first Major League at-bat, and that would be the start of an 11-year career with the Indians as a reliable power threat and perennial All-Star. Averill hit at least 20 home runs in five seasons in Cleveland, and also drove home more than 100 runs five times. For much of his career, he used a 44 ounce bat—about 10 ounces heavier than today's standards—and he was the first player in team history to hit 30 home runs in a season.
9. Larry Doby
- Years With Indians: 1947–55, '58
- Career Home Runs: 215 (seventh all-time with Indians)
- Single-Season High: 32 (1952 and '54)
- Seasons Leading the Indians: 1949, '52, '54 and '55
Larry Doby is most known for becoming the first Black player in the American League in 1947, but he also became a feared slugger who helped the Indians win the 1948 World Series and reach the 1954 Fall Classic. In his third season, Doby started a stretch of seven straight seasons in Cleveland with at least 20 home runs, and he led the league with 32 homers in each 1952 and '54.
8. Hal Trosky
- Years With Indians: 1933–41
- Career Home Runs: 216 (tied for fifth all-time with Indians)
- Single-Season High: 42 (1936)
- Seasons Leading the Indians: 1934–37, '39 and '40
Once hailed as the next Babe Ruth, Hal Trosky was the first true slugger in Indians history. Trosky smashed 35 home runs in his first full season, and became the first player in Cleveland history to hit at least 40 in a year. That came in 1936, when he belted 42 home runs, accumlated a still team-record 405 total bases and had an American League-leading 162 RBI.
7. Andre Thornton
- Years With Indians: 1977–79, 1981–87
- Career Home Runs: 214 (eighth all-time with Indians)
- Single-Season High: 33 (1978 and '84)
- Seasons Leading the Indians: 1977–79, 1982–85
Known as "Thunder," Andre Thornton played the last 10 seasons of his career in Cleveland and established himself as one of the top sluggers in team history. After leading the Indians in home runs for three straight seasons, he missed the entire 1980 season and all but 69 games of the '81 campaign with an assortment of injuries. He returned to form in 1982 as an All-Star, and then won a Silver Slugger in '84. "He's supposed to get 25 to 30 homers and 90 to 100 RBIs for us," manager Dave Garcia told Sports Illustrated in 1982.
6. Al Rosen
- Years With Indians: 1947–56
- Career Home Runs: 192 (10th all-time with Indians)
- Single-Season High: 43 (1953)
- Seasons Leading the Indians: 1950 and '53
Known as the "Hebrew Hammer," Al Rosen did not have a lengthy career with the Indians, but he showed plenty of power whie he was around. After appearing in a handful of games over his first three seasons, Rosen became a full-time rookie in 1950 and established a new rookie record with an American League-leading 37 home runs. In 1953, Rosen had one of the finest offensive seasons in baseball history. He fell just shy of a Triple Crown on his way to winning unamimous MVP honors after hitting .336 with 43 home runs and 145 RBI (Mickey Vernon hit .337 to rob him of the Triple Crown). Injuries, however, ultimately cut Rosen's career short in 1956 at age 32, leaving many to wonder what kind of numbers he could have posted had he remained healthy.
5. Travis Hafner
- Years With Indians: 2003–11
- Career Home Runs: 200 (ninth all-time with Indians)
- Single-Season High: 42 (2006)
- Seasons Leading the Indians: 2004–06
At the beginning of Travis Hafner's tenure with the Indians, he looked like he might contend for the title of Cleveland's greatest slugger of all-time. From 2004–07, Hafner averaged 32 home runs and 108 RBI while hitting better than .300 in three of those seasons. He was at his best in 2006, when he tied the Major League record with six grand slams as part of his career-high 42 home runs. The powerful left-hander was nicknamed "Pronk" as a combination of "The Project" and "The Donkey," and often hit prodigious homers into "Pronkville" in the right-field mezzanine at Progressive Field. But injuries added up following the 2007 season, and he would only play more than 100 games in a season one more time in his career.
4. Rocky Colavito
- Years With Indians: 1955–59, 1965–67
- Career Home Runs: 190 (11th all-time with Indians)
- Single-Season High: 42 (1959)
- Seasons Leading the Indians: 1958, '59 and '66
In both of his stints with the Indians, Rocky Colavito was a power threat in the middle of the order. In just 101 games as a rookie in 1956, Colavito hit 21 home runs to begin a streak of 11 straight seasons with at least 20 homers (six of which came in Cleveland). In 1959, Colavito led the American League with 42 home runs to become the first Indians player with back-to-back seasons of at least 40 homers, and give Cleveland the league leader in home runs in half of the seasons during that decade. He also hit four home runs in a single game that season, which remains tied for the Major League record.
3. Manny Ramirez
- Years With Indians: 1993–2000
- Career Home Runs: 236 (third all-time with Indians)
- Single-Season High: 45 (1998)
- Seasons Leading the Indians: 1998–2000
Manny Ramirez was one of the best players in baseball throughout the late 1990s, but he wasn't even the most feared power hitter on his own team. Among the all-time greats in Indians history, Ramirez averaged 36 home runs and 123 RBI from 1995–2000, all while hitting at least .294 each season. He had monster campaigns in 1998 (45 home runs and 145 RBI) and 1999 (44 home runs, 165 RBI, .333 average), and was a Silver Slugger winner in '99 and 2000 (when he hit 38 homers in just 118 games). Later in his career, Ramirez tested positive for steroids multiple times, but there's no denying pitchers took notice when he came up to the plate throughout his tenure with the Indians.
2. Jim Thome
- Years With Indians: 1991–2002, '11
- Career Home Runs: 337 (first all-time with Indians)
- Single-Season High: 52 (2002)
- Seasons Leading the Indians: 1997, 2001–02
Jim Thome is the greatest home run hitter in the history of the Indians. Thome's assault on the stands started in 1996, when he blasted 38 home runs to start a stretch where he hit at least 30 homers in 13 of 14 seasons (including seven years with Cleveland). His 52 home runs in 2002 set a single-season franchise record, and the first-ballot Hall of Famer (2018) is the only player in Indians history with three seasons of at least 40 home runs. Making matters even more difficult for pitchers was Thome's keen eye at the plate, so even though he struck out more than 100 times in eight seasons, he was far from an easy out. Thome led the American League in walks three times and had at least 111 walks in six seasons with the Indians.
1. Albert Belle
- Years With Indians: 1989–96
- Career Home Runs: 242 (second all-time with Indians)
- Single-Season High: 50 (1995)
- Seasons Leading the Indians: 1991–96
Not only would Albert Belle torture opponents with his bat, he was well-known for his competitive—and oftentimes combative—attitude. Combined, those traits make him an easy choice as the most feared power hitter in Indians history. Belle won four straight Silver Sluggers as Cleveland's cleanup hitter in the '90s, and in 1995 became the only player in baseball history to hit 50 home runs and 50 doubles in the same season. That helped the Indians to 100 wins in the strike-shortened schedule (144 games), but he finished as runner-up to Mo Vaughn in MVP voting.
Belle battled his demons and often was chilly with the media, but Sports Illustrated wrote in 1996 wrote that he thrived on his anger, turning that fury into prodigious power. "There's nobody in here who wants to produce more than he does. Nobody wants to win more. He's just very intense," teammate Sandy Alomar Jr. said in the same article. From 1991 to '96, Belle hit more home runs (234) than other Major League player, and in his six full seasons with the Indians, Belle averaged 39 home runs and 118 RBI.
The greatest power-hitting threats in the history of the Indians are listed above, but I've also included a handful of selections who left an indelible mark on franchise history but didn't quite crack the top 10.
The current version of the Indians pack a lot of power into their lineup, but Jose Ramirez is probably the most feared among them. Ramirez blossomed into a power hitter in his second full season, helping him finish third in MVP voting and win a Silver Slugger in each 2017 and '18. Ramirez has hit 127 home runs over eight seasons with the Indians—including a season-high 39 in 2018.
Well not the most well-known player in baseball history, Cory Snyder packed a lot of punch while in the Indians lineup. A key member of the late '80s teams that were supposed to break Cleveland's playoff drought, Snyder was famously featured on the 1987 Sports Illustrated cover that predicted the Indians would win the World Series. He did his part with a career-high 33 homers, but the team lost 101 games. Snyder had 115 home runs over five season in Cleveland.
Carlos Santana developed the nickname "Slamtana" for his power, and has been a key contributor in the middle of the lineup for two stints with the Indians. Santana has used consistency to rack up 216 home runs, which is tied for fifth all-time in franchise history. He's led the team in home runs in six of his 10 seasons.
Cleveland Indians Home Run History
The following is some history and trivia about home run hitters for the Cleveland Indians, as well as the team's home run records.
Power Hitters Who Made a Stop in Cleveland
Some of the top power hitters in baseball history briefly played for the Indians. Below are a handful of those players.
- Frank Robinson (586 career home runs, 14 with Cleveland)
- Eddie Murray (504 career home runs, 50 with Cleveland)
- Dave Winfield (465 career home runs, 2 with Cleveland)
- Jason Giambi (440 career home runs, 11 with Cleveland)
- Juan Gonzalez (434 career home runs, 35 with Cleveland)
- Edwin Encarnacion (424 career home runs, 70 with Cleveland)*
*Active in MLB
Cleveland Indians Rare Home Run Feats
Below are some of the rare feats in Indians history that revolve around the home run.
- On April 8, 1993, second baseman Carlos Baerga became the first player in baseball history to hit a home run from both sides of the plate in the same inning. That accomplsihment came during a 15–5 win over the Yankees. Baerga has since been joined by Kendrys Morales (2012) and Mark Bellhorn (2002) as the only players to do so.
- On Sept. 2, 2006, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff started off his career in a big way, become the first player in baseball history to hit the first pitch of his Major League debut for a grand slam (in 2010, Boston's Daniel Nava also hit the first pitch of his career for a grand slam). Kouzmanoff was the third player to hit a grand slam in his first at-bat, and the 23rd player to ever hit a home run on the first pitch he saw.
- On Sept. 30, 1930, Hall of Famer Earl Averill became the first player in baseball history to hit four home runs during a doubleheader. He hit three home runs in the first game against the Washington Senators and added an inside-the-park home run in the nightcap.
- On July 31, 1963, the Indians became the second team in baseball history to hit four straight home runs in an inning. Woodie Held, Pedro Ramos, Tito Francona and Larry Brown teamed up for the blasts in the sixth inning against the California Angels in a 9–5 victory. Reliever Paul Foytack surrendered each home run with two outs in the inning. Milwaukee was the first team to accomplish this feat (1961), and there have been 10 occurences in baseball history.
- In 2004, Ben Broussard became the fourth player in baseball history to hit two pinch-hit grand slams in a single season (joining Darryl Strawberry, 1998; Mike Ivie, 1978; and Davey Johnson, 1978).
- In 2006, the Indians hit 14 grand slams as a team to tie the Major League record. Travis Hafner led the way with six, which is tied with Don Mattingly for the Major League record.
Cleveland Indians Home Run Records
The following are home run records for the Cleveland Indians.
- Career Home Runs: 337, Jim Thome (1991–2002, '11)
- Single-Season Home Runs: 52, Thome (2002)
- Single-Game Home Runs: 4, Rocky Colavito (June 10, 1959)
- Consecutive Games With a Home Run: 7, Thome (June 25–July 3, 2002)
- Career Multi-Home Run Games: 26, Albert Belle (1989–96) and Thome (1991–2002, '11)
- Single-Season Multi-Home Run Games: 8, Belle (1995) and Manny Ramirez (1998)
- Single-Season for a Rookie: 37, Al Rosen (1950)
- Single-Season for the Team: 223 (2019)
© 2020 Andrew Harner