The Cleveland Fan on Facebook

The Cleveland Fan on Twitter
Misc General General Archive Top Cleveland Sports Figures, By the Numbers - #28
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

BlylevenThis is one installment in a team effort by The Cleveland Fan, highlighting the top local sports figures by jersey number. Please weigh in with your thoughts, in the Boards. As David Letterman would say, “For entertainment purposes only; please, no wagering.”


There was a lot of almost to the career of Rik Aalbert Blyleven’s baseball career and his post-baseball career.  Blyleven almost won 300 games, and that’s a big deal in some circles.  He was almost in the Hall of Fame for many years, but you might also say he was almost shunned from Cooperstown forever over the aforementioned shortage of wins.  His 287 wins were dismissed by the numbers snobs that vote for candidacy to Cooperstown, even though people who take careful looks at the number said they were wrong.  The two-time World Series Champion was finally inducted in Cooperstown when cooler heads finally prevailed.

The Holland-born prankster that was known around Major League Baseball as the “Frying Dutchman” for his pyromaniac act with teammates’ shoelaces in the bullpen played 22 seasons, and spent almost a quarter of it with the Indians.  His time in Cleveland saw him win 48 games and lose 37, but career seemed to gain a second win when he was on his way out, via trade with his original team, the Minnesota Twins, 1985.

fartBlyleven was sent to the Twins on August 1, 1985, in exchange for Jay Bell, Curt Wardle, Jim Weaver, and a player to be named later; unfortunately, that player’s name was Rich Yett.  He would win 83 more games in his second stint with the Twins and the California Angels, who sent a package of prospects to the Twins that included Paul Sorrento after the 1988 season.  Sorrento was almost worthy of an honorable mention at #11, but it didn’t work out that way.

One big almost in Blyleven’s career as it pertains to the Indians is something that almost made the Indians a big footnote in Major League history, when he lost a no-hitter in the 9th inning at Exhibition Stadium in Toronto on May 6, 1981.  That’s less than two weeks before the Indians blanked those same Blue Jays 3-0 at the Stadium with Len Barker on the hill, in front of 7,290 shivering fans.

In the no-hitter that never was, Blyleven’s was just not meant to be.  He knew he had a no-hitter going, there was no denying it after 6 or 7 innings, if you ask Blyleven.  It wasn’t his first, he’d thrown one as a Texas Ranger in 1977, but this was the chance for a second one, not to mention his first as a Cleveland Indian.  He did walk back-to-back Blue Jays in the seventh inning, but perfection had left the ballpark on left fielder Joe Charboneau’s error in the fourth.

As luck would have it, Tribe manager Dave Garcia brought in Larry Littleton as a defensive replacement for Super Joe Charboneau, and Toronto batter Lloyd Moseby hit one out there.  Littleton failed to secure an out on what was considered a “catchable” ball by man, but it was ruled a double for Moseby. 

The Indians still had a 4-run lead and Bert had his shutout, even if not a 2nd career no-hitter.  Blyleven admits he was dejected, and Littleton even apologized, but he only had himself to be angry at about losing the shutout when George Bell singled home Moseby.  Bell hit what Blyleven described as a “pretty good curveball”, and that’s saying a lot.  While not dominant, Blyleven’s curveball is generally recognized as one of the game’s best.  Nine days later, Manning wouldn’t lose the 9th inning ball of the bat of Ernie Whitt in the lights; he was wearing #20 (Blyleven wore #28 in 1981), even though the #28 was his right up until Blyleven arrived.

Honorable Mentions

No Cleveland Cavalier has ever worn the number 28, so their exclusion here is merely by default.

ManningRick Manning played center field for the Indians and was fierce on the base paths.  No one was referencing Yastrzemski Triple Crown and Manning in the same breath; he never hit over .300 or reached double-digits HRs.  He hit more triples than HR on more than one occasion, but it was the base hits that he stretched into doubles and his 142 stolen bases in an Indians uniform that earned him a mention here.

There are other Indians to have worn the numbers, but you can only look at players like Les Webber*, Ernest Groth*, Ray Boone*, Dick Tomanek**, George Susce, Bobby Tiefenauer, Richie Scheinblum, for so long before realizing how little is there.  Webber, Groth, and Boone at least wore the number during the last World Championship season.  Tomanek is the last to wear the number in a World Series game, so there’s something.  For those of us who don’t have a solid recollection of the 1954 World Series, there’s Cory Snyder.

Snyder had a cannon for an arm and could hit the ball far.  It didn’t take him long to fall into favor with young Indians fans with highlight reel style of play, but his man strikeouts helped him fall out of favor just a few years later.  Snyder was called up at the age of 23.  He hit .272 with 24 HR and 21 doubles in 1986, his rookie season, but he could never elevate the batting average.  He hit 33 out of the park in ’87, but the average fell, and he was hitting .215 in his final full season with the Tribe, just two years later.

BoddenOn the gridiron, there’s a decent set of defensive backs to consider.  Representing the “new” Browns is Leigh Bodden, who spent five years with the Browns.  Bodden had 12 picks in his time with the Browns, and is best known for not being checked off Chad Ochocinco Johnson’s list of who could not stop him.  Bodden was a shut-down corner in a time where it didn’t matter if the Browns had a shut-down corner or not.  A favorite personal memory of Bodden takes me back to the opener in 2004, the only such opener that has ended with a Browns victory since they came back, saw Bodden step in front of a Ravens pass intended for former Brown Kevin Johnson.

Ben Davis started at cornerback for three seasons for the Browns in the early 70s, and was a Pro Bowl selection in 1972.  He finished his career with 20 interceptions, including three in the playoffs.

Ron Bolton was traded to the Browns by the Patriots in 1976 and stayed with them through 1982.  In an on-camera interview with Sportstime Ohio’s Steve King, Bolton revealed how much more he enjoyed playing in Cleveland.  He was a big part of the Kardiac Kids defense, and scored the Browns only TD in the infamous Red Right 88 game.  Bolton intercepted Jim Plunkett and took the ball 42 yards for the score.

The TCF Forums