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 Best Home Run Hitters in Cleveland Guardians History?
While the franchise has been named everything from the Blues to the Naps to the Indians to now the Guardians, baseball in Cleveland has seen its share of power hitters. Nine players in franchise history have belted at least 200 home runs, and they've spanned from the 1930s to the 2010s. The most prominent times of power in Cleveland's history, however, came during the franchise's best stretches of success—the 1950s and the 1990s.
In this article, I will explore the top power hitters in the history of the Cleveland Guardians. These rankings are not based upon opinions, and for a player to be considered, he must have hit at least 100 home runs during his time with the Guardians. Players were then ranked by averaging their rank for both of these criterion:
- Total home runs with the Guardians
- Plate appearances per home run with the Guardians
Following the top five are the best of the rest, a handful of shorter lists of franchise leaders in more defined categories, and franchise home run records. Information from Stathead on Baseball Reference was used to compile statistics.
Note: Ranks in parenthesis in individual player capsules represent their ranking among players who hit at least 100 home runs with the Guardians. ... Statistics are current through the end of the 2021 season.
5. Travis Hafner
- Years Played: 2003–12
- Home Runs: 200 (9th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 22.07 (5th)
- Single-Season High: 42 in 2006
Travis Hafner arrived in Cleveland shortly after Jim Thome left for the Philadelphia Phillies, and the young slugger was looked upon as a potential replacement for the future Hall of Fame. Hafner delivered with splendid seasons from 2004 to '07, but was struck down by injuries throughout the rest of his career and only played more than 100 games one more time over the next five seasons. Still, he hit with enough prodigious power to have as section of the stadium renamed "Pronkville" in his honor and ended his career as one of the top 10 home run leaders for a franchise that has spanned well over a century. In 2006, which was the best campaign of his career, Hafner etched his name into the Major League record books, hitting a record-tying six grand slams during the season.
4. Hal Trosky
- Years Played: 1933–41
- Home Runs: 216 (6th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 22.48 (6th)
- Single-Season High: 42 in 1936
Hal Trosky was one of the first sluggers in Cleveland history, coming along just four years after Earl Averill became a prominent home run hitter for the Indians. That duo would form a force in the middle of the lineup for the next several seasons, but it was Trosky who became the more revered power threat. Trosky played at least 122 games in all but his first and last seasons in Cleveland, and in all but one of those campaigns, he recorded at least 25 homers. His 42 home runs in 1936 stood as the franchise single-season record until 1953. When he left Cleveland after 1941, his 216 homers stood 10 shy of Averill's franchise record (226).
3. Manny Ramirez
- Years Played: 1993–2000
- Home Runs: 236 (3rd)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 17.35 (3rd)
- Single-Season High: 45 in 1998
Manny Ramirez was the third player in franchise history to record two seasons with 40 or more home runs, doing so in 1998 and '99. He was the most balanced hitter in the potent Indians lineup of the late '90s, and as he reached his prime, he became a fierce slugger. He was a four-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger recipient in Cleveland but bolted for a rich contract in Boston after the 2000 season. Still, he is remembered as one of the best hitters in franchise history (adding a .313 average to go with the third-most homers in team history). Ramirez played in 10 postseason series with the Indians and slugged 13 home runs—including two in four straight series in 1997 and '98. In 1999, his franchise-record 165 RBI were the most recorded since 1938 and were aided by 44 homers. Ramirez was the 10th player (17th occurrence) to drive in at least 165 runs in a season, and no one has repeated the feat since.
T-1. Albert Belle
- Years Played: 1989–96
- Home Runs: 242 (2nd)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 16.22 (1st)
- Single-Season High: 50 in 1995
When Albert Belle stepped to the plate at the height of his career, everyone paid close attention. As a fearsome force for the Indians, Belle was the type of hitter who could change the momentum of a game with one swing. He never hit less than 28 home runs in a full season with Cleveland, and in the strike-shortened 1995 season (he played 143 of 144 scheduled games), Belle found a way to hit 50 home runs and 52 doubles. To this day, he is the only player in baseball history with a 50 home run/50 double season, and helping him reach that mark were a franchise-record eight multi-homer games. Those 50 homers stood as the franchise single-season record until 2002, and with 48 the next season, he became the first Cleveland player with back-to-back seasons with at least 45 home runs. Belle was a four-time All-Star and Silver Slugger winner in Cleveland and was the runner-up in MVP voting in 1995. He added six postseason home runs in four series, but left as a free agent following the 1996 season to become the highest-paid player in baseball by joining the Chicago White Sox
T-1. Jim Thome
- Years Played: 1991–2002, '11
- Home Runs: 337 (1st)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 17.23 (2nd)
- Single-Season High: 52 in 2002
Joining Manny Ramirez and Albert Belle in the powerful 1990s Cleveland lineup was Jim Thome, who holds the single-season and career record for home runs in franchise history. Thome made his debut in 1991, but didn't make a splash until hitting 20 home runs in 98 games in 1994. In 1996, he had his first of seven straight seasons with 30 or more homers to close out his first tenure with the Indians. He fell one shy of the franchise record with 49 longballs in 2001, but followed that up with 52 home runs in 2002—including a seven-game stretch from June 25 to July 3 in which he homered in every game. That established a new record, and left him as the only player in team history with three seasons of 40+ home runs. He won the only Silver Slugger of his career in 1996 and was an All-Star from 1997 to '99. In the postseason, Thome appeared in 11 series for Cleveland and hit 17 homers—including four in each the 1998 American League Championship Series and 1999 AL Division Series, which were both losses for the Tribe.
The Best of the Rest
The following three players are home run hitters from Cleveland Guardians history who just missed the top five.
- Years Played: 1955–59, 1965–67
- Home Runs: 190 (11th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 19.47 (4th)
- Single-Season High: 42 in 1959
After Rocky Colavito became the first player in franchise history with back-to-back 40+ home run seasons, he was controversially traded to the Detroit Tigers. The trade followed an All-Star season in 1959 during which he led the American League in home runs. He returned for two more All-Star years in the mid-60s and is remembered fondly by fans.
- Years Played: 1947–56
- Home Runs: 187 (6th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 22.53 (10th)
- Single-Season High: 43 in 1953
Al Rosen played sparingly during the first three seasons of his career, but in his first full season in 1950, he hit a still-standing single-season rookie record with an American League-leading 37 home runs. Rosen, who was a four-time All-Star, later won MVP honors in 1953 when he fell mere percentage points away from a batting title that would have earned him the Triple Crown.
- Years Played: 1947–55, '58
- Home Runs: 215 (7th)
- Plate Appearances/Home Run: 22.64 (11th)
- Single-Season High: 32 in 1952 and '54
Larry Doby became the first Black player in the American League in 1947, and two years later, he made his first of seven straight All-Star appearances. Doby led the American League in home runs in 1952 and '54, and he was also the runner-up in MVP voting for the 1954 season.
Cleveland Guardians Home Run History
Below are some of the franchise home run records for the Cleveland Guardians.
Cleveland Guardians Career Home Run Leaders
- 1. Jim Thome, 337
- 2. Albert Belle, 242
- 3. Manny Ramirez, 236
- 4. Earl Averill, 226
- 5. Carlos Santana, 216
Cleveland Guardians Plate Appearance/Home Run Leaders (min. 100 HRs)
- Albert Belle, 16.22
- Jim Thome, 17.23
- Manny Ramirez, 17.35
- Rocky Colavito, 19.47
- Travis Hafner, 22.07
Cleveland Guardians Single-Season Home Run Leaders
- 1. Jim Thome, 52 (2002)
- 2. Albert Belle, 50 (1995)
- 3. Thome, 49 (2001)
- 4. Belle, 48 (1996)
- 5. Manny Ramirez, 45 (1998)
Cleveland Guardians Single-Game Home Run Leaders
- Rocky Colavito, 4 (June 10, 1959)
- 25 players tied with 3 (Joe Carter did it four times)
© 2021 Andrew Harner