|A “BELL” FROM A DIFFERENT ERA||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Amato (Contact & Archive) on June 28, 2003
All Cleveland baseball fans remember the awesome Albert Belle and the ever-popular Buddy Bell. How many fans recall the “other” Bell?
When the Cleveland Indians fell from grace after being swept by the Giants in the 1954 World Series there began a slow descent into mediocrity. In 1955, 1956, and 1959, they finished in second place. In all reality starting in 1958 the Tribe became almost a perennial .500 club. From 1958 through 1966 the Indians had only three winning seasons 1958, 1959, and 1965. In 1966 they broke even. From 1960 through 1964 Cleveland produced five consecutive losing campaigns. Still in that nine-year period (1958-1966) the tribe posted a .506 winning percentage (726-706). This seems somewhat remarkable when looking back at their rosters during that era.
The most consistent Tribe pitcher over this stretch may well have been Gary Bell. Over the aforementioned period Bell won 95 games while losing only 87, a .521 winning percentage. His lowest season ERA was 2.95 in 1963. His highest ERA was 4.33. With those numbers in today’s free agent market Bell would probably be a multi-millionaire. Unfortunately, Gary did not get a lot of run support, as the Tribe offense was normally weak. Only nine times did a Tribe player bat over .300. Tito Francona was tops with an impressive .363 in 1959. Tito also hit .301 in 1961. Minnie Minoso topped .300 in 1958 and 1959. Only four times did an Indian hit more then 30 home runs. Rocky Colavito hit 41 in 1958 and 42 in 1959. He also hit 30 in 1966 during his second tour with the Tribe. Only four times did an Indian break the century mark in R.B. I.’s. Three times by; you guessed it Rocky Colavito who drove in 113 in 1958, 111 in 1959 and 108 in 1965. Leon Wagner had an even 100 in 1964. In that same year “Daddy Wags” belted 31 home runs.
Gary Bell’s highest season win total was 16 in 1959. Only four Indian pitchers exceeded that mark. Dick Donovan won 20 in 1962, the only 20 game winner in this stretch. Cal McLish won 19 in 1959. Jim Perry won 18 in 1960 and “Sudden” Sam McDowell won 17 in 1965. McDowell would be the next Tribesman to win 20 games but that wouldn’t be till 1970.
Although Colavito seemed to be the hitting pacesetter some other Indians produced some better then average seasons. Minnie Minosa hit 24 HR’s and drove in 80 runs in 1958 and came back in 1959 to post (21-92-.302). In 1959 Francona hit 20 HR’s and drove in 79 to go with his .363 average. Woodie Held hit 20 HR’s in 1959. In 1961 Willie Kirkland rang up these stats (27-95-.259). In the same year catcher John Romano compiled (21-80-.299). Leon Wagner put together three solid seasons in a row, 1964 (31-100-.253), 1965 (28-79-.294) and 1966 (23-66.279). Max Alvis from 1963 through 1966 hit 78 homeruns. From 1959 through 1964 Woodie Held hit 127 dingers.
In the four seasons Colavito played (1958, 1959, 1965, and 1966) he hit 139 home runs and drove in 404 runs. From 1964 through 1967 Leon Wagner hit 97 home runs while driving in 299 runs. Although Bell won the most games, Jim Perry and “Mudcat” Grant made significant contributions as did Dick Donovan, Cal McLish, Barry Latman, Pedro Ramos and newcomers Sam McDowell, Sonny Siebert, and Luis Tiant.