ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION IN THE PREVIOUS COLUMN: When Reds slugger Tony Perez, who was born in Cuba, broke into the big leagues in 1964, he might have felt right at home in the clubhouse. Both Leo Cardenas and Chico Ruiz were on the club and both were also born in Cuba.
You can change or remake the club from one year to the next but it never guarantees a different outcome. Take the 1962 Cleveland Indians for instance. In 1962 Mel McGaha managed his team to an 80 win 6th place finish with a team which clubbed 180 home runs. In 1963 Birdie Tebbetts took over and with almost a completely different starting line-up, took the Indians to a 79-win, 5th place finish.
While many consider GM Gabe Paul a wise baseball man, the Indians never finished higher than third under his leadership and it didn't happen until 1968. Aside from that season, his clubs never ended up higher than 5th in the standings in Cleveland. Paul fought the good fight but it was almost always a losing battle.
The 1962 team had nine players hit at least 10 homers, eight of them were starting players. The following year, the number fell to eight but only five of them were regulars in the line-up.
Johnny Romano led the 1962 Indians with 25 home runs. In 1963 he fractured a finger and was replaced in the line-up by Joe Azcue, limiting Romano's play at age 28. He did play in 89 games but only smacked 10 home runs. No one on the 1963 team came close to Romano's 25 dingers the previous season.
Chuck Essegian (21 homers), Ty Cline and Willie Kirkland who shared the outfield with Al Luplow. The next season Fred Whitfield arrived to play first base moving Francona to the outfield where he replaced Essegian. Azcue did most of the catching, Larry Brown and Max Alvis took over the left side of the infield from Phillips and Held, and Vic Davalillo became the centerfielder. Kirkland continued to share time with Luplow. Cline was gone.
The really interesting thing about this club were the prospects and the pitching. Tommie Agee who would be the ROY with the White Sox in 1966 was on both clubs, but did not qualify for rookie status. The pitching staffs were loaded with guys who would make their marks with the Indians and in some cases other clubs.
While Sam McDowell and Gary Bell would remain Indian work horses, solid pitchers with the Indians who would become better known with other teams were plenty. Jim Perry, Mudcat Grant and Tommy John had better careers with other clubs.
Perry, 163 of his 215 career wins came after leaving the Indians. Kralick would win 33 games in a Cleveland uniform before retiring in 1967. Grant of course with 21 victories, led the Twins to the 1965 pennant after being traded in 1964 for George Banks and Lee Stange.
Gabe Paul is credited with fighting and maneuvering to keep the Indians in Cleveland. While his clubs were disastrous there, he finally became a winner in New York, leading a resurgence of the Yankees and winning the pennant and the World Series in 1977. He left the following season after battles with George Steinbrenner, ended up in Cleveland again (president and part owner) and went back to losing before calling it a career after the 1984 season. He died in 1998.
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