|The Tribe of the 60's: A decade of Frustration|
Written by Jim Amato (Contact & Archive) on September 07, 2003
Dykes was still at the helm in 1961, the year of the Yankees. Woody Held continued to be one of the top power hitting shortstops in the game. Willie Kirkland emerged as a true long ball threat with 27 HR's and 95 RBI's. Francona and Romano again posted good years. Piersall battled .322 and Bubba Phillips at third base racked up 18 HR's and 72 RBI's. The pitching ace this year was "Mudcat" Grant with 15 wins. Latman, Gary Bell, Jim Perry and Frank Funk all ended up with double figure. Still the Tribe ended up at 78-83 and Dykes was gone.
Mel McGaha took over in 1962, and again the Tribe finished just shy of the .500 mark. Kirkland hit 21 HR's, but his average dropped to .200. Held, Francona and Phillips all slumped. Romano had one of his best seasons with 25 HR's and 81 RBI's. Chuck Essigian my next "favorite" player had 21 HR's. Al Luplow as a part time outfielder would contribute 14 Hr's. Dick Donovan would win 20 games becoming the Indians first 20 game winner since 1956. Jim Perry, Gary Bell, and Pedro Ramos would each win 10 or more games. "Sudden" Sam McDowell who would later become one of my all time favorites went 3-7 with a 6.03 ERA.
Birdie Tebbetts took over in 1963 and Max Alvis became the new third baseman producing 22 HR's. Fred Whitfield at first base would hit 21 HR's. The Immortal" Joe Azcue would unseat Romano as starting catcher and hit 14 HR's. Vic Davalillo in center field would bat .292. It became a changing of the guard as Held, Francona, Kirkland and Romano began giving way to younger players. The pitching was suspect as best. Grant and Jack Kralick had 13 wins each. Donovan won only 11 games. No one else hit double figures and the Tribe ended up with a dismal 79-83 record.
In 1964, Indians under Tebbetts would match their 1963 record. Slick fielding, Dick Howser took over at shortstop, but Held in a utility role still cranked out 18 HR's in 364 bats. Leon "Daddy Wags" Wagner would pace the club with 31 HR's and 100 RBI's. Max Alvis again turned in a solid 18 HR performance. Bob Chance who took over at first base would hit 14 HR's with Whitfield adding 10 more. Romano who was back at catcher would bang out 19. This was the year that the Tribe pitching staff began to take on a new look. Kralick would lead the club with 12 wins, but Sam McDowell, Luis Tiant and Sonny Siebert were beginning to establish themselves.
The 1965 Indians may have been the most underachieving club in Tribe history. Although under Tebbetts they finished at 87-75, they were still far off pace of the pennant winning Twins. The returning Rocky Colavito, (my all-time favorite Indian), led the A.L. in RBI's with 108 while clubbing 26 HR's. Wagner led the team with 28 HR's. Whitfield and Alvis each hit over 20 while Vic Davalillo hit .301. Chuck Hinton as a part-timer would add 18 Hr's. Sam McDowell became the premier pitcher in the A.L. with 17 wins, 325 SO's and a 2.18 ERA. Siebert would win 16 while posting a 2.43 ERA. Ex-Yankee Ralph Terry and Tiant would win 11 each.
The Indians slipped back to .500 in 1966. Tebbetts was out late in the season while the Tribe was 9 games over the break-even mark. Interim manager, George Strickland, won only 15 of 39 games. Colavito hit 30 HR's, but his average dipped to .238. Wagner hit 23 HR's, Whitfield 27 and Alvis had 17. Many players had sub-par seasons including McDowell with only 9 victories. Siebert paced with 16 wins and a 2.80 ERA. Veteran Gary Bell had a great comeback season with 14 wins, 194 SO's and a 3.22 ERA. Steve Hargan had 13 wins and Tiant garnered 12.
Former Brave slugger and ex-Indian, Joe Adcock took over the managerial job in 1967. There were some new faces on the field too. Rocky was gone again and the veteran Chuck Hinton took his spot in right field. Chuck would hit only 10 HR's. Tony Horton displaced Whitfield at first base and Vern Fuller took over second base from Pedro Gonzalez. Alvis led the team with 21 HR's. Wagner produced only 15 HR's. Again pitching rotation was solid with Hargan winning 14 games. McDowell won 13, Tiant 12, and Siebert had 10. Still the Tribe slipped to 75-87 and a lowly 8th place finish.
In 1968, Alvin Dark became the new Tribe skipper and the resurgent Indians moved all the way up to third place with a fine 86-75 record. Tony Horton led the weak hitting Indians with 14 HR's. A completely revamped outfield of Tommy Harper, Jose Cardenal and Lee Maye proved to be very unproductive. While the hitting was poor the pitching was absolutely outstanding. Tiant had 21 wins and a league leading 1.60 ERA. McDowell won 15 with a 1.81 ERA and an A.L. leading 293 strikeouts. San Williams had 13 wins and Siebert won 12.
The Tribe had a totally collapse in 1969, winning only 62 games, 24 less than 1968. Their 99 loses were the most in the decade. The hitting improved as Horton was emerging as a dangerous hitter with 27 HR's and 93 RBI's. Newly acquired Ken "Hawk" Harrelson also had 27 HR's. Duke Sims took over as starting catcher and banged out 18 round trippers. The pitching went into a virtual tailspin. Tiant went from a 21 game winner in 1968 to a 20 game loser in 1969. McDowell was the only bright spot with 18 wins, a 2.94 ERA and a league leading 279 SO's. Dick Ellsworth and Stan Williams managed only 6 wins each. Hargan went 5-14 with a whopping 5.69 ERA.
The Indians overall record for the decade was 783 wins and 826 losses with a .486 winning percentage. Outside of 1969 they were at least competitive each season. They finished over .500 twice. They finished right at .500 once and seven times finished below it. Only Luis Tiant and Dick Donovan broke the 20-victory mark. Rocky Colavito and Leon Wagner were the only ones to reach the 30 HR and 100 RBI marks. Jim Perry and Sonny Siebert won A.L. winning percentage titles. Perry in 1060 and Sonny in 1966. Colavito won the A.L. RBI championship in 1965 with 108. McDowell captured four A.L. strikeout titles in 1965, 1966, 1968 and 1969. From 1964 thru the 1969 season Sam fanned 1,525 batters. An average of 254 per season. Luis Tiant had the league’s best ERA in 1968 with a stingy 1.60