The 1980 Cleveland Indians had a 79-81 record and finished 6th in the AL East ahead of the 4th year Blue Jays (67-95). Finishing a couple of games under .500 *and* in 6th place says a lot about how strong the AL East was (and how many bad teams were in the AL West).
The Indians were a young team, with a starting lineup which featured three 25-year-olds and nobody over the age of 31.
Best Offensive Player:
This was a tough call because there were several players who had very good seasons, but nobody who truly dominated offensively. I finally let Baseball Reference’s 1980 Cleveland Indians page make the decision for me; they have Toby Harrah as the top player with a 4.4 WAR.
Harrah played 160 games at third, batted .267 with 100 runs scored and 72 RBI.
The only candidate for “Best Offensive Player” who doesn’t get featured elsewhere in this post is Jorge Orta, who was the team’s representative at the All-Star game.
Len Barker went 19-12 with a 4.17 ERA and a 1.336 WHIP. He also lead the league with 187 strikeouts.
Andre Thornton missed 1980 due to a knee injury, but he’s got the best name on the team.
Best Nickname and Best Full Name:
Mike Hargrove used to take forever (relative to the day) to get ready for each pitch, thus earning the nickname “The Human Rain Delay”.
His full name is Dudley Michael Hargrove, and he was also a candidate for best offensive player (.304, 85 RBI, 86 runs)
Nothing much to say about this Bo Diaz card, just a nice candid shot.
Best In-Game/Action Shot:
This team set is not full of tremendous action shots, but I like this shot of Duane Kuiper ready for action in Yankee Stadium II.
Best Rookie Card:
Hassey was the starting catcher in 1980, and still batted .318 with 65 RBI. He was also a candidate for “Best Offensive Player”.
Hassey would play for 14 years with 6 different teams. He caught two different perfect games (Len Barker in 1981, Dennis Martinez in 1991) and between December, 1985 and July, 1986 he was traded from the Yankees to the White Sox, traded back to the Yankees and then traded back to the White Sox.
The cartoons in 1980 Topps were kinda short on goofy appeal, but I liked this Tom Veryzer cartoon that shows him winning half a trophy.
Best player not on a card:
“Super Joe” Carboneau had a breakout year in 1980, won the A.L. Rookie and captured the attention and imagination of Cleveland. He was also a candidate for “Best Offensive Player”. This is his rookie card in 1981 Topps:
“Super Joe” batted .289 with 23 homers, 83 RBI, 76 runs, 17 doubles and 2 triples.. Due to back problems his celebrity faded as quickly as it came and he became the early 1980’s cautionary tale towards investing in rookie cards. In 1981 he batted .210 over 48 games, his numbers dropped further in 1982, and then he was gone from Major League baseball.
Best player pictured with another team:
When I was looking at Baseball Reference’s “Top 12” players from this team, I was surprised to see Miguel Dilone in there with a 3.0 WAR. As it turns out, Dilone was purchased from the Cubs on May 7th and went on to have a career year.
Dilone batted .341 (3rd in the league), stole 61 bases (also 3rd in the league) and finished tied with Tony Perez for 22nd in the AL MVP voting.
Most Notable Airbrushing:
I was about to write off this category completely and declare that there is no airbrushing at all in this team set… and then I took a closer look at Bobby Cuellar on this card:
Even though he looks to be wearing the same uniform as his card-mates, the logo on his cap looks a bit odd… So I’m going to venture that he’s got an airbrushed cap because he’s wearing the cap of an Indians farm team.