All-Time Indians: Larry Gardner

Name: William Lawrence Gardner       Position: Third Base  
Tribe Time: 1919-1924           DOB: 05/13/1886  
Stats G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB OBP SLG AVG OPS
Best Season (1921) 153 586 101 187 32 14 3 120 256 65 16 3 .391 .437 .319 .828
Career 673 2306 321 693 128 36 10 401 923 223 99 22 .349 .400 .301 .749

Like his Hall of Fame teammate, Tris Speaker, Larry Gardner had a lengthy career with the Boston Red Sox before joining the Indians for the second half of his career. He joined the Indians at the perfect time, in 1919 as one of the final pieces to the Cleveland's first World Champion team. After two poor seasons, the Indians were able to acquire Gardner and 26 year old outfielder, Charlie Jamieson (who became one of the greatest outfielders in team history) in exchange for Braggo Roth. 

At 34, Gardner had his best year since 1912, batting .300 and knocking in 79 runs. The Indians (84-55) finished in second place in the American League that season, just 2.5 games behind the American League Champion Chicago White Sox. He turned things up another notch for the 1920 season with a career year, leading the league in games played (154) and knocking in 118 of his 934 career RBI. He was part of a solid infield as well with Doc Johnston and Bill Wambsganss also playing far above their normal offensive output. Even with the tragedy of Ray Chapman occuring mid-season, the Indians were somehow lucky enough to have a Hall of Fame short stop ready to take his place in Joe Sewell. Everything was lined up perfectly for the 1920 Indians.

Gardner started all seven games at third base for the Indians in the best of nine series and contributed slightly on offense, knocking in two runs while batting .208. Of course, the Indians didn't need many runs as the tremendous pitching staff of Stan Coveleski, Jim Bagby, Sr and Duster Mails kept the Robins to just three runs during the Indians five wins.

Gardner would never return to the play-offs, but he would play four seasons in Cleveland, including another fantastic campaign in 1921 when he set career highs in hits, RBI and doubles while batting a career high .319 and striking out just 16 times in 686 at bats. This put an interesting look to Gardner's career. Instead a normal bell curve, starting slow, playing great in his prime years and dropping off at the end, Gardner's best two seasons came in the final third of his career. It is likely that playing with greats like Speaker and Sewell had a lot to do with this. He had more RBI opportunities in his later seasons and he took advantage of them, turning a very average career into one worth remembering. 

His final three seasons saw the normal drop off of any player as he played less and less and was eventually replaced as starter by Rube Lutzke in 1923. In the end, only eight Indians played more games at third base than Gardner and he spent more than half his career with the Red Sox. While he is not really note worthy in the record books, he accomplished something most players never even dream of, he won four World Series championships.

Larry Gardner retired after just 38 games in 1924. He attempted a coaching career after that, managing the minor league Asheville Tourists from 1925 through 1927, but little came of that. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Gardner lived a long life and died at the age of 89 in his home state of Vermont.

Joseph Coblitz

About Joseph Coblitz

Joseph is the primary writer and editor of BurningRiverBaseball.com and has been since it's inception in 2011. He is a graduate of the University of Akron and currently resides in Goodyear, Arizona the Spring Training home of the Cleveland Indians.

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