A more than a couple of the greatest Indians of the past 110 years have been shortstops including two of the Indians Hall of Famers. It has also been a very prominent position in recent years, with four players on the list playing in the 1990’s or later. This list also includes some of the longest tenured Indians with four players who played more than 10 years with the team including the player who played more games as an Indian than any other player. Of all offensive positions, shortstop has to be considered the second most storied in Indians history behind just centerfield.
10. Johnny Burnett – Starting Short Stop – 1931-1932
Burnett was the shortest termed short stop on the list, but did play very well during his time with the team. Along with a nice average of .292 and an impressive 272 runs scored, Burnett currently holds the Major League record for hits in a single game with nine. While he wasn’t a true short stop (he played 196 games at second, third and in the outfield as well), he did spend the majority of his time in the middle of the diamond.
9. Terry Turner – 1904-1908, 1910
Turner played more games as an Indian than any other player which allowed him to rack up almost 1,500 hits in his Indians career. Of course it took him longer than most to add up all those hits as he hit just over .250 over that period. For his contributions to the team over 15 seasons, Turner deserves a space on this list, but his numbers simply don’t compare to the other great Indians short stops.
8. Woodie Held – 1959-1962
The next two players were incredibly similar, being the only true power hitting short stops in team history. They also both played positions outside of short as they were below average defenders. Held was a second baseman for a few seasons after he was done at shortstop. He has the strongest dichotomy as a hitter, leading all players in home runs and slugging percent and coming in dead last in average.
7. Jhonny Peralta – 2003, 2005-2008
Peralta was hated during his time with the Indians, mostly because he didn’t “look” like a short stop, but it is impossible to deny that he was the most successful power hitting short stop in team history. He ranks second in home runs and third in slugging, while maintaining an average 15 points higher than Held, the other power shortstop. At the end of Peralta’s career he was moved to third to make room for the next player on the list, but he stayed at short long enough to set the Indians record for most home runs while playing short stop.
6. Asdrubal Cabrera – 2009-2014
While likely the worst defensive short stop on this list, Cabrera instead brought a powerful bat from a usually defense heavy position. A rare combination of speed and power, he was the first short stop in Indians history with at least 50 home runs and 50 steals. In eight seasons, he played in almost 1,000 games for the Tribe, almost all of those at short stop. Among short stops, he ranks third all time in home runs and sixth in average and steals.
5. Julio Franco – 1983-1988
Franco played two stints with the Tribe, but was only a short stop during his first time around. He was actually one of the most well rounded players, coming in fourth among short stops in home runs and steals. He did this despite playing in more than 500 less games than the leaders.
4. Ray Chapman – 1913-1920
Chapman was a great talent who had his career cut short in 1920 when he was struck in the head with a pitch. Before that, Chapman was the Indians first great short stop, stealing 233 bases and scoring 671 times in over 1,000 games played.
3. Omar Vizquel – 1994-2002, 2004
Vizquel is known as the greatest defensive short stop in Indians history (or at least since the development of televised baseball), winning nine straight Gold Gloves starting 1993. Of course, Omar wasn’t just a glove, leading all Indians short stops in steals and runs scored. He also set the postseason records for games played, hits, triples and steals in his six playoff seasons.
2. Lou Boudreau – 1940-1949
Boudreau is almost certainly the most famous player on this list and was the player/manager during the last Indians championship. He is second to Turner in games played at short, but he did have great rate numbers, batting almost .300 and slugging more than .400. He is one of three players on this list with more than 800 runs scored and one of two with at least 700 RBI. He is undoubtedly one of the top ten greatest offensive Indians of all time regardless of position.
1. Joe Sewell – 1921-1928
Boudreau was great, but Sewell was better. His most impressive feat was that he (almost) never struck out. From 1925 through 1933 Sewell lead the league in AB/K. After doing that he still ranks second all time in all of Major League baseball history in this stat. As an Indian he played in less games than Boudreau, but scored more runs, had more hits and stole more bases. He was the only short stop in team history to break 800 runs batted in and still batted .320. Sewell also won a World Series after he took over for Chapman when he was killed in 1920. Sewell was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977 and is unquestionably one of the greatest Indians hitters of all time.
Borderline: Larry Brown, Bill Knickerbocker, Frank Duffy, George Strickland, Lyn Lary