On September 27th the Tribe’s record was 78-78. Not exactly a contender, but during the horrible 35 year period called “The Curse of Rocky Colavito era” this would be considered a minor miracle for the fans up on Lake Erie. From the outset of the season Cleveland never contended, but they did manage to stay near or above .500 all the way to the end. This meant that on any given night their fans could see a team that would put out a good effort and more often than not win a ballgame. In a town where Pennant Fever was described as “lasting 48 hours” this was big news.
The biggest excitement of the season centered around a young rookie DH/OF named Joe Charboneu. “Super Joe” came out of nowhere and snatched the AL ROY award. He was so good with the stick and so exciting to watch that everyone neglected to realize his defensive deficiencies and personality issues. Charboneu really gave the Tribe national notice for the first time in decades. For the first time ever we started hearing the terminology “rookie card” when in 1981 3 companies (Fleer/Donruss/Topps) were fighting over who could claim to have issued his first card. Collectors started buying up lots of his cards as if it was AT&T stock. This might have been the point where the baseball card collection industry went big time. Lost in the mix was the fact that slugger Andre Thornton missed the entire 1980 season with what was thought to have been a career ending knee injury. Thornton’s absence opened the slot for Joe to excel.
Besides Joe the Tribe had 25 year old Miguel Dilone, who hit .341 and stole 61 bases. Fans in northern Ohio figured that between those two and centerfielder Rick Manning their outfield was set for the next decade. Oh, how a desperate fan base can delude themselves into thinking those shinny nuggets were more than just fool’s gold.
With the Tribe’s pitching staff finishing dead last (14th) in the league it is amazing how they were able to stay above or near the .500 mark. With no starter under a 4.00 ERA the Tribe had to score a lot of runs night in and night out. Len Barker (19-12, 4.17) was the best of the bunch. Things got so bad they took a flyer on Expo castoff Ross Grimsley (4-5, 6.75) who must have gotten the best run support in the history of baseball to get 4 wins. The pen was average, and they probably would have been better if they didn’t get as much work as they got. Four guys from the pen posted over 85 innings apiece. Sid Monge (14) and Victor Cruz (12) shared the closing duties.
21 new cards were create in all
The Wihtol card is a neat little airbrushing from one of his minor league cards. I can’t help but think he must have been the brunt of so many “he ain’t that Sandy, that’s for sure” comments, which Tribe fans must have said year in and year out as he came up for his cup of coffee. I love the new Charboneu card since for all intents and purposes we can call it his new “Rookie Card”. Sure wish I had color photos for Don Collins and Andres Mora. Jack Brohamer has a sullen look on his face. I imagine that might be because until Ross Grimsley arrived he had the best “white guy fro” on the team. Mike Stanton might have thought he had that title, but he would have been delluding himself by thinking that !