Written by Jim Amato (Contact & Archive) on February 19, 2007
During the 1950's you can make a very strong argument that the Cleveland Indians were the second best team in the American League behind the great New York Yankee clubs. In fact the Tribe broke the Yankee stronghold when they won the pennant in 1954.
The Indians had great hitting but they had even better pitching. In fact their starting rotation featured three future Hall Of Famer's, Bob Feller, Bob Lemon and Early Wynn. It also had a fierce competitor in Mike Garcia. Nicknamed " The Big Bear " Mike put in several solid campaigns for the Indians in the early and mid 50's.
Born in California in 1923 he broke in playing in one game for the Indians World Championship team of 1948. He became a starter in 1949 and went 14-5 with an impressive 2.36 ERA. Mike went 11-11 in 1950 and then rebounded in 1951 to post 20 wins. He followed that the next season with a 22-11 ledger and a 2.37 ERA. Mike had a fine 18-9 record in 1953 and in 1954 Garcia played a major role in the Indians pennant drive. Mike went 19-8 with a 2.64 ERA.
Mike finished 1955, 56 and 57 with double digits in victory column gaining 11, 11 and 12 in those respective seasons. In 1958 and 1959 Mike's role with the Indians had diminished and he went to the White Sox in 1960. The following season was spent in Washington D.C. That was his final year. In the last four years of his career Mike only appeared in 66 games picking up just four wins. Nevertheless Mike retired with some very, very respectable numbers.
Garcia won 142 while losing only 97. He won 104 games between 1949 through 1954. He had a lifetime 3.27 ERA. Mike fanned 1,117 batters and pitched 27 career shutouts. He even saved 23 games. Al Lopez was a great manager for the Indians during this era. Lopez, a former major league catcher had a knack when it came to handling pitchers. He handled Feller, Lemon, Wynn and Garcia just fine.