We’ve reached the point in this list where very fewer players qualify for the honor, and almost all of them suited up for the Tribe within the last 30 years. As a result, when appropriate and necessary, I’ll lift the three-year minimum career when considering candidates.
50 – Julian Tavarez, 1993-1996
Tavarez wore No. 50 throughout his four years in Cleveland, first sporting the number as a 20-year-old rookie in 1993. When Tavarez made his MLB debut, he became the Indians youngest starting pitcher since Dennis Eckersley in 1975. Since Tavarez, only CC Sabathia has started a game for the Tribe before being old enough to order a drink.
Most frequently worn by: Jason Davis (five seasons)
51 – Jacob Cruz, 1998-01
Cruz played in just 72 games for the Tribe, but he’s the only player to wear No. 51 for more than two seasons. The majority of his playing time came in 1999, when he was extremely productive during a two week stretch during which he was part of the everyday lineup (presumably as an injury replacement). During 12 starts in late July and early August, Cruz hit .375 with a .090 OPS. He finished the year batting .330 in 32 games.
Most frequently worn by: Cruz (four seasons)
52 – CC Sabathia, 2001-08
No. 52 is one of the few high numbers with a legitimate deserving candidate. Sabathia has worn the number throughout his career and, as he enters his 14th season, is now easily the greatest No. 52 in baseball history. The number also had some success in the late 1980s with John Farrell, and currently with Vinnie Pestano.
Most frequently worn by: Sabathia (eight seasons)
53 – Paul Shuey, 1994-02
This is actually a tough decision, as both Shuey and Rafael Perez put together successful careers in the Indians bullpen while wearing No. 53. Shuey, the No. 2 pick in the 1992 MLB draft, was a constant disappointment throughout his Indians career because of lofty expectations, but still ranks among the most successful setup men in Tribe history.
Most frequently worn by: Shuey (nine seasons)
54 – Chris Perez, 2009-13
Too soon to honor Perez? While most fans still have a bitter taste in their mouth from the end of his Indians career, it’s tough to argue he isn’t the best choice for this honor. David Riske, Mark Clark and Rod Nichols all had moderate success in No. 54, but Perez was a two-time All-Star in the jersey and was legitimately among the best closers in the AL for the better part of three seasons.
Most frequently worn by: David Riske (six seasons)
55 – Orel Hershiser, 1995-97
Prior to Hershiser joining the Tribe, No. 55 had been worn in fewer than 25 games by an Indians player. But for a number that didn’t appear until 1985 and has been worn by only eight players, it’s been a fairly significant jersey for the Indians. Hershiser’s career in Cleveland was brief, but his success – especially in the playoffs – earns him the nod for this honor.
Most frequently worn by: Roberto Hernandez/Fausto Carmona (seven seasons)
56 – Alan Embree, 1992, 1995-96
No. 56 has been reserved almost exclusively for late-season call-ups, and hasn’t been worn by anyone for more than three seasons. Embree’s 6.11 ERA in Cleveland makes it difficult to give him this honor, but he’s one of a very small handful to ever wear the number as a full-time member of the team.
Most frequently worn by: Embree (three seasons)
57 – Jeff Shaw, 1990-92
In an alternate universe, this honor goes to John Smiley, who wore the number throughout his career and during his six starts in Cleveland. Oh well. Due to Smiley’s injury, no one of real significance has ever worn the number, and only a small handful have even worn it for a full season. So this choice boiled down to who had the best year in the jersey. And that honor goes to Shaw, who posted a 3.36 ERA in 72 innings in 1991. The Indians gave up on Shaw too soon, allowing him to walk as a free agent after the ’92 season. He would become a two-time All-Star closer for the Reds and Dodgers.
Most frequently worn by: Shaw (three seasons)
58 – Jeanmar Gomez, 2010-12
A few decent players have made cameos in No. 58 (Steve Farr, Paul Abbott, Brian Giles) but the casual Indians fan hasn’t even heard of most of the others (Garland Kiser, Jamie Brewington, Juan Lara, etc). Gomez never even pitched a full season in the majors with the Tribe, but did wear the jersey throughout his three years in Cleveland.
Most frequently worn by: Gomez (three seasons)
59 – Matt Miller, 2004-07
Carlos Carrasco has a chance to claim this honor in the near future, but for now it belongs to Miller. He was never back end of the pen guy, but Miller was a steady middle reliever for the Tribe in the mid 2000s. While his career was brief, over the past 50 seasons only five Indians pitchers have thrown at least 100 innings with a lower ERA than Miller’s 2.74.
Most frequently worn by: Albie Lopez (five seasons)