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The Cleveland Indians' All-Time Unlikely All-Star Team: Under The C

Francisco Lindor, Corey Kluber, and Danny Salazar are all making their All-Star debuts for the Tribe this week, joining a fraternity of franchise greats... and these other guys.

Today's special All-Star Week "Under the C" column will dive deep into the archives for a refresher course on some of the Cleveland Indians most head-scratching All-Star selections of the past 83 years or so. But first... we might as well address the equally head-scratching weekend series we just witnessed, as the Tribe dropped three of four games at home to the scuffling Yankees, rounding out a great first half of the season with a bit of a thud.

If you're feeling like the inexplicably crushable pitching and porous defense exhibited over the past few days equates to a bad omen for the rest of the season, I can only say this: Remember Francisco Lindor’s first Major League hit last summer? Remember how he tripped over his own feet rounding first, a bit overexcited at the surreal good fortune of his own ascension? That was the Indians this weekend. They saw the exit sign for an interstate travel plaza and swerved on to the rumble strip for a second, dreaming of a bathroom break and an Arby's milkshake. They’re going to be fine.

The last thing you ever want to do is judge an Indians club on its Yankee resume. As I pointed out last week, the Bombers own Jacobs/Progressive Field, now holding a higher all-time winning percentage in that park since its opening (.628) than they have in both Yankee Stadiums over the same time period (.622).

Hell, even the very first World Championship club in Indians history, the 1920 team, went 9-13 against Babe Ruth’s Yanks, including a four-game sweep in Cleveland. The 1948 Indians—again, an eventual World Champ—went 10-12 vs. New York, and lost 3 out of 4 in one home series that summer, including a 13-2 shellacking. The 111-win Tribe of 1954? They lost 6-of-7 to the Yanks during one stretch that year. The magical ’95 squad? Lost their last 4-out-5 with the Evil Empire.

So relax. The Indians have been losing routinely to the New York Yankees since the Wilson administration. It rarely has much bearing on where they end up.


Later this week, WFNY will be exploring more of the odds and ends of what has, by any measure, been a very satisfying first half of baseball for Cleveland. After limping into the break at 42-46 a year ago, the Indians are a full 10 games ahead of that mark this year, with their 52-36 record ranking behind only Texas (54-36) in the AL. Even more importantly, they have a 6.5 game cushion on Detroit and a 7 game lead on Chicago and Kanas City. Aside from Yan Gomes having the worst statistical first half in the 116 year history of the franchise, just about everyone on the team has elevated their game. And with former All-Star Michael Brantley set to begin a rehab stint this week, optimism should only be increasing.

Speaking of All-Stars (since i just made an intentional, lazy segue), it is time yet again for the baseball universe to gather harmoniously for our Midsummer Classic, a night on which we all watch 2-3 innings of Injury Avoidance Theater before retreating to Netflix for a random stand-up comedy special or something.

After having just one All-Star representative in eight of the last 13 years, the first-place Indians have a solid three this season, all of whom are first timers. Danny Salazar won’t appear in the game due to a fictional injury called investment protection-itis, but Frankie Lindor and Corey Kluber are likely to get a look.

Some people still get angry about things like Cubs and Royals fans stuffing ballot boxes, or worthy guys like Jose Ramirez, Josh Tomlin, and Jason Kipnis getting overlooked. But others have long since wised up to the fact that the ASG is—for a lack of a better term—a circus of absurdity, where for every great player snubbed, there’s at least one scrub who sneaks his way in. Yes, that’s right. It’s time to revisit our all-time Cleveland Indians “Wait, That Guy Was an All-Star?!” team.

Granted, when I use the word “scrub,” I do so a bit liberally, mainly because it rhymes with “snub” and offers some fun wordplay opportunities. But the point remains… Joe Carter never played in an All-Star Game as an Indian. Nor did Travis Hafner. But you better believe Ronnie Belliard and Matt Lawton did. In fact, you can track this sort of imbalance back through the decades, much like Cleveland’s subservience to the Yankees. Some unlikely Tribe All-Stars rode the wave of a fluky first half, while others were simply the best viable ambassadors from an otherwise awful team—with all due respect to Jack Kralick in ’64 and Jorge Orta in ‘80. Whatever their path, we certainly can’t begrudge these fellas their moment in the sun. If anything, we should celebrate them again.

All-Star Scrubs: The Cleveland Indians All-Time "Wait, That Guy Was an All-Star?" Team
And just to think, some sportswriters still bring up All-Star Game selections as a factor in a player’s Hall of Fame candidacy.
 
Oral Hildebrand (SP) - 1933
With a name like Oral Hildebrand, you might think the Indians’ first ever All-Star Scrub was born in 1907 or something. And you would be right. A surprise addition to the inaugural AL-NL All-Star Game in 1933, the 26 year-old righty never actually got a chance to pitch in the game, as a pair of lefties (literally, Lefty Gomez and Lefty Grove) led the American League to a 4-2 win at Comiskey Park. Oral may have felt a bit out of place in a dugout with the likes of Ruth, Gehrig, and Foxx, but he was also fresh off an 11-5 first half record with a league best five shutouts, so the kid had some confidence brewing. Oh to be young and full of ambition during the Great Depression! As it turned out, unfortunately, Hildebrand would never make another All-Star Game, nor approach the 16 wins he tallied for the ’33 Tribe. He’d retire in 1940 with an 83-78 career record and 4.35 ERA.

Ray Mack (2B) - 1940
A graduate of John Adams High School in Cleveland, Mack served as the Tribe’s pesky second baseman for the majority of the World War II era. He hit just .232 across eight years with a .631 OPS, but in his first full season—as a wide-eyed 23 year-old—he suited up with Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and teammate Lou Boudreau on the 1940 All-Star team.  Young Ray was hitting .318 at the time, and had shown some power, too, with 7 homers. In the game, he pinch-hit for Joe Gordon in the bottom of the eighth inning and went down on strikes against the Cubs’ Larry French. The NL took the contest 4-0, and Ray Mack began his gradual descent into permanent mediocrity.

Oris Hockett (OF) – 1944
The 1944 All-Star Game in Pittsburgh was more of a wartime fundraising effort than anything else, as many of the biggest names in the game were enlisted and fighting overseas. Through this open door strolled 34 year-old Indians outfielder Oris Hockett—a graduate of Denison University and a late bloomer in the Big Leagues. The only thing he ever led the league in was getting caught stealing (18 times) in 1943. But through the midway point of the ’44 season, he was hitting a solid .294 for Lou Boudreau’s club, and earned himself a surprising roster spot on the AL All-Star team alongside teammates Boudreau, Ken Keltner, and Roy Cullenbine. The American League suffered a rare loss, 7-1, and Oris never got in the game. He retired a year later with a career OPS of .694.

Dick Stigman (SP) - 1960
He pitched for only six seasons, posting a 46-54 record, a 4.03 ERA, and nary a single transcendent accomplishment—save for an all-important selection to one All-Star Game, of course. Richard Lewis Stigmana native son of Nimrod, Minnesota—was actually off to a relatively inauspicious beginning to his rookie season (4-4, 3.80 ERA) when his manager Al Lopez (also manager of the AL All-Stars) decided to drop him into a pool of hurlers that included Whitey Ford and Early Wynn. They actually played two All-Star Games in that summer of 1960 (July 11 in Kansas City and July 13 in New York), but Dick Stigman didn’t end up pitching in either of them. He’d end that season just 5-11 for the Indians, and played out his so-so career mostly with his hometown Twins, never sniffing All-Star status again.

Steve Hargan (SP) – 1967
For whatever reason, AL manager Hank Bauer elected to use future Hall of Famer Catfish Hunter for five innings out of the pen in the 15-inning Midsummer Classic of 1967, leaving Steve Hargan with a DNP in his lone ASG opportunity. Hargan was just 24 years old, and part of an exciting young Indians rotation not unlike the 2016 edition. Usually overshadowed by Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant, and Sonny Siebert, it was Hargan who served as Cleveland’s lone pitcher in the ’67 All-Star Game, riding a 2.68 ERA into the break after leading the league in FIP (2.51) the previous year. He just couldn’t sustain that production much beyond the Summer of Love. By 1971, he was a 1-13 pitcher with a 6.19 ERA, sending him off on a journeyman conclusion to a once promising career.

Sid Monge (RP) - 1979
In May of 1977, the Indians traded their kinda not-that-amazing All-Star closer Dave LaRoche to the Angels for a man who would become their new, not-particularly-outstanding fireman, Sid Monge. The crafty Mexican lefty was abysmal in his first year with the Tribe, posting a 6.23 ERA and 1.89 WHIP in 33 games. In the pre-saves mindset of the late ‘70s, though, he soon settled into a role as the axis of the Indians pen, cleaning up Wayne Garland’s messes. At the All-Star break in ’79, Monge was 6-6 with 9 saves and a 1.75 ERA. He was selected as the Indians’ token representative for the game at Seattle’s Kingdome, and, as per usual, never got off the bench. It was Sid’s only ASG nod in his 10-year career. He retired with a 49-40 record, 3.53 ERA, and 56 saves. Nothing wrong with that.

Ken Schrom (SP) - 1986
I’m glad I didn’t have the unenviable task of informing Joe Carter, Julio Franco, and Brett Butler that their fine efforts weren’t quite up to the All-Star caliber of Ken Schrom in 1986. The Schrominator—a 30 year-old castoff from the Twins—got off to a deceptively impressive start in his first season in Cleveland, putting together a 10-2 record with a 4.17 ERA. Unfortunately, and predictably, Ken never got his number called in the big game, and even more unfortunately, he would only go 4-5 in the second half of the season—finishing with a 4.54 ERA and a 4.96 FIP. On the bright side, those numbers would actually look sparkling compared to the hideously grotesque stats he put up a year later (6-13, 6.50 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, and -1.7 WAR in 1987).  As you may have guessed, Schrom's All-Star selection streak ended at one.

Pat Tabler (1B) - 1987
The “Indian Uprising” hadn’t quite gone as Sports Illustrated had predicted, and when it came time to send their token cap-tipper to Oakland for the ’87 All-Star Game, the Tribe gave power-hitters Snyder, Jacoby, and Carter a miss and went straight to their unheralded first baseman—one of the last of the banjo-hitting corner infielders—Patrick Tabler. Now some might say Pat didn’t quite belong in an infield with Wade Boggs, Cal Ripken, and Willie Randolph. But in reality, the only place Pat Tabler doesn’t belong is on this list. The man they called “Mr. Clutch” was a .282 career hitter in the midst of a career-best season (11 HR, 86 RBI, .307 AVG, .809 OPS in '87). So what if he never hit more than 2 homers or drove in more than 60 runs any season afterwards?  So what if his nearest statistical comps are all largely forgotten 1940s players like Dick Siebert, Johnny Groth, and Babe Dahlgren? Pat Tabler was a terrific ballplayer, and his lone ASG appearance—while forgettable in retrospect—was well deserved.

Sandy Alomar (C) – 1991, 1992
Okay, I won’t actually bark up this tree. But do consider that our beloved Sandy never played more than 89 games over a five season span from 1991-1995, and still made a couple All-Star Games while putting up these numbers:
1991: .217 / .264 / .266
1992: .251 / .293 / .324

Ronnie Belliard (2B) - 2004
After the ‘90s saw the Tribe send an influx of legitimate superstars to the All-Star Game every year, fans began to long for the good old days when relatively average journeymen used to represent the club at the Midsummer Classic. In 2004, they finally got their wish, as Eric Wedge’s rebuilding Indians sent a surprising crew of five players to the game in Houston. Two of them were brilliant youngsters (CC Sabathia and Victor Martinez), and one was a steady No. 2 pitcher (Jake Westbrook), but the other two were relatively unknown to the casual fan. Ronnie Belliard got just one pinch-hit at-bat in his lone career All-Star appearance, and he struck out. Like Pat Tabler before him, Belliard was actually an underrated little hitter, and he was certainly at an offensive peak during his 2+ year stint in Cleveland (.285 / .337 / .433). Still, across his career, Ronnie’s closest statistical equals at second base include the remarkably average Adam Kennedy, Carlos Guillen, and Damion Easley. People did not tune into the All-Star Game hoping to see Roger Clemens stare down Ronnie Belliard.

Matt Lawton (OF) - 2004
But perhaps they DID tune in to see Tom Glavine vs. Matt Lawton. If so, the ancient peoples of 2004 would have been delighted to watch the underdog prevail, as Lawton singled in his first at-bat (the only man on this entire list who did anything whatsoever in the actual All-Star Game). Matty would strike out against Eric Gagne in his second and final go-round, but nobody except for everybody thought it would be the final ASG at-bat of his career. It’s easy to forget that Lawton—once a top prospect with the Twins—had played in an All-Star game for Minnesota back in 2000. By ’04, though, he was 32 and recovering from two straight awful seasons. This made his numbers in the first half of the 2004 season all the more surprising (15 HR, 49 RBI, .305 AVG). Again, he was a pretty deserving All-Star selection.  By the end of the year, though, he had sunk right back into the doldrums, only hitting .239 in the second half with five homers and 21 ribbies. He was out of the league less than two years later. No plans for a Matt Lawton statue are currently in the Progressive Field budget. But indeed, he was an All-Star.

??????? - 2010
This jersey was supposedly warn by an undeserving Cleveland Indian at the 2010 All-Star Game. Looking at the available statistics, however, there is no record of anyone by that name participating in said game.


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