From Corey Kluber to Bob Feller: Connecting the 2016 Indians to the 1948 Indians
Starting with Game 1 on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET air time/8 ET game time on FOX), the Indians will try to win their first World Series championship since 1948. That '48 Indians team, which topped the Boston Braves in six games, featured an All-Star shortstop, a couple of intimidating pitchers and, of course, Satchel Paige. The '16 Indians, who will face the Cubs, feature an All-Star shortstop, a couple of intimidating pitchers and, of course, MLB's premier party host.
Just how much separates the two teams, besides 68 years? Let's find out.
We looked back and connected the 2016 Indians to famous Cleveland baseball players of yore by way of a series of teammate connections. It's like the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, but baseball-ier.
We set ourselves two rules:
1. No repeat connections. That means we can only employ Minnie Minoso once.
2. Pick the coolest paths from player to player. Nolan Ryan?
These aren't the only connections between the two teams, but we think they're among the most interesting. If you come up with your own, feel free to share in the comments below. Click here for a larger version.
Two anchors of the Indians rotation, 68 years apart. The 29-year-old Feller started 38 games in '48 and led the American League with 164 strikeouts. In '16, the 30-year-old Kluber started 32 games and notched 227 strikeouts. So, how do we connect these two mainstays on the mound?
Thanks to a couple of lengthy careers -- and Bill Veeck -- it takes just three players to span nearly 70 years. Kluber played with Josh McDonald on the '13 Indians, who played with Harold Baines on the 1999 Indians. Baines played just 28 games with Cleveland, but it was just one stop in his 22-year career -- which began with his 1980 rookie season with the White Sox. That same '80 White Sox team played two games with none other than Minnie Minoso, who'd come back as a 54-year-old after taking four years off (and 12 years off before that). Minoso's career started way back in 1949 and featured eight games with the Indians in 1951. Also on that '51 Indians team? One Bob Feller.
Miller and Lemon had slightly different approaches -- Miller's a use-him-when-need-him relief specialist while Lemon pitched 20 (!) complete games in '48 -- but both were instrumental to the Indians' postseason success.
The connection from Miller to Lemon goes through a succession of All-Star pitchers. Miller made his MLB debut with the 2006 Tigers and shared a dugout with Kenny Rogers, whose own 20-year career began with the '89 Rangers. Charlie Hough started 30 games for those '89 Rangers toward the end of his 25-year stay in the Majors. On the front side of his career, Hough closed out two games for the '72 Dodgers, which was also the last team of Hall of Fame hurler Hoyt Wilhelm's 21-year career. Finally, Wilhelm pitched two games for the '57 Indians, which also boasted Lemon in his second-to-last season.
Third in the lineup for the '48 Indians: The second baseman, batting .280/.371/.507 with 32 home runs. Third in the lineup for the '16 Indians: The second baseman, batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs.
Going from Kipnis to Gordon is slightly more involved than our previous pitcher pairs. Kipnis played with
Doby was 24 years old with the '48 Indians and in just his second MLB season, while Crisp is 36 years old with the '16 Indians in his 15th season, but both were ballhawks in the outfield, providing the defense for Cleveland's two postseason runs.
To get from Crisp to Doby, we first go to Jose Hernandez, who played with Coco in 2005 during Crisp's first stint in Cleveland. Hernandez also played shortstop for the '91 Rangers, a team for which Ryan, at 44 years old, made 27 starts. Twenty-two years before that, Ryan pitched for the '69 Mets. Catching Ryan on that team was J.C. Martin, who played with Doby on the 1959 White Sox.
Because why not? Particularly when the journey from Napoli to Paige takes us through David Ortiz (who played with Napoli in Boston in 2015), then to the '98 Twins, where Ortiz played with Otis Nixon. Nixon played with nine different teams in his 17-year career, one of which was his debut season with the '83 Yankees and Will Ferrell prototype Bert Campaneris.
And here's where it gets fun: 17 years after Paige became the first African-American pitcher in the AL with the '48 Indians and 12 years after his last season with the St. Louis Browns, Paige pitched three innings in one game for the '65 Kansas City Athletics. Leading off for that A's team: Campaneris.
In 1948, Boudreau was the All-Star and MVP Award-winning shortstop for the Indians, as well as their manager. Lindor was not the player/manager for the 2016 Indians -- Terry Francona would be quite surprised if he was, at least -- but, like Boudreau, he was the team's electric shortstop.
As Lindor is in just his second year, it takes a few steps to get to Boudreau. We start with
Before the Indians headed to the 1948 World Series, they had to face the Red Sox in a one-game playoff to determine the AL pennant winners. Despite Feller and Lemon in the rotation, the start for the game went to the rookie Bearden. It was a move that (intentionally) surprised everyone, but Bearden pitched his team to victory and into the World Series -- kind of like rookie Merritt's spot start in ALCS Game 5.
To connect these two, we start with
Two closers, four first names.
Allen's only been in the Majors for five years and Christopher only played seven seasons in MLB, but don't worry: We can connect 'em. Allen's rookie season with the Indians in 2012 also saw Travis Hafner suit up in Cleveland. A year before that, Hafner played on the same Indians team as Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera started his career with the Montreal Expos, who Tim Raines rejoined in 2001 for 47 games. Raines started with the Expos as a pinch-runner in 1979. On Sept. 22, 1979, he pinch-ran for Rusty Staub, who played on the 1964 Houston Colt .45's with Hall of Famer Nellie Fox. Fox made his debut with the '47 Philadelphia Athletics, who had Christopher in their bullpen.
(Hat tip to Baseball-Reference's Oracle)