Top 5 Ohio natives to play for Tribe

December 18th, 2020

CLEVELAND – There are many kids who grow up dreaming about becoming a professional baseball player, but not many get to live out the dream of playing for a team that’s just down the road from where they grew up.

The Indians have had 66 pitchers and 128 position players who were born in Ohio reach their big league squad. Who were the Tribe’s five best players who were originally from The Buckeye State? Let’s take a look:

Gilmore, Ohio
High school: Newcomerstown High School

The Cleveland Spiders aren’t associated with the Tribe’s franchise, however the right-hander played for the Spiders from 1890-98 and later returned to the Naps (who are part of the Indians’ history) from 1909-11. It doesn’t take much to explain how dominant Young was when the best pitcher from each season is given an award named after him, but we'll list a few examples.

In nine years with the Spiders, Young went 240-135 with a 3.10 ERA. He returned to Cleveland for parts of three seasons and owned a 2.50 ERA with a 2.38 FIP. At the end of his 22-year career in 1911, he set records in wins (511), starts (815), complete games (749) and innings pitched (7,356) that still hold to this day.

2. Elmer Flick
Bedford, Ohio
High school: Bedford High School

Flick began his career with the Phillies and was one of a handful of players to make the switch to the AL, playing for the Philadelphia Athletics in 1902. But when a court order from the state ruled that players under contract with the Phillies couldn’t play for another team, he found a loophole by signing outside of Pennsylvania with Cleveland.

In nine seasons with the Naps, Flick led the AL in stolen bases twice and triples three times, while winning the batting title in 1905. Among right fielders in Cleveland’s history, Flick ranks first in stolen bases (207) and second in bWAR (30.9), games played (935), runs scored (535) and hits (1,058).

3. Joe Vosmik
Cleveland, Ohio
High school: East Tech High School

Vosmik holds the second-best batting average by an Indians left fielder (.313). Vosmik played seven seasons in Cleveland (1930-36) and placed third in the AL MVP Award vote in 1935 after leading the AL in hits (216), doubles (47) and all of the Majors with 20 triples. At the end of his tenure with the Tribe, he finished with a .313/.376/.459 slash line, 556 RBIs and just 147 strikeouts in 824 games.

4. George Burns
Niles, Ohio
High school: Central High School (Philadelphia, Penn.)

In 1926, Burns became the first member of the Tribe to bring home the Most Valuable Player hardware following a season in which he led the Majors with 216 hits and 64 doubles. His .327 career batting average is first among all Indians first basemen, and he was a member of the '20 World Series championship team. After playing for Detroit and Philadelphia, Burns spent two seasons with the Tribe in ’20 and ’21, left for two seasons and returned from ’24-’28.

5. David Justice
Cincinnati, Ohio
High school: Latin High School (Covington, Ky.)

Justice may not have been with Cleveland as long as the others on this list, but he made the most of the time he was given. He spent parts of four seasons (1997 through mid-2000) with the Tribe and was selected to an All-Star Game in his first season with the club. Of all the Ohio-born players, Justice has the most homers (96) and highest OPS (.918). He finished his time in Cleveland with a .294/.392/.526 slash line with 335 RBIs and 102 doubles in 486 games.

Honorable mentions

Joe Smith: Smith was born in Cincinnati and played six seasons with the Tribe. After two years with the Mets to begin his career, Smith joined the Indians and went on to post a 2.80 ERA in 324 games with 234 strikeouts in 289 1/3 innings.

Bill Bradley: Bradley was born in Cleveland and played 10 seasons with the Naps. From 1901 through 1910, he was a consistent bat for the Naps, hitting .272 with a .690 OPS (110 OPS+).

Bob Rhoads: Rhoads was born in Wooster and played seven seasons with the Naps. From 1903-09, he pitched to a 2.39 ERA with a 2.80 FIP in 185 games (160 starts).