The 1979 Indians (pictured here in the 1980 Topps card) was a classic schedule filler team. They were not a bad team. They finished with a winning record despite a negative run differential. But they never were really contenders.
They got off to a 43-52 start that prompted the firing of manager Jeff Torborg. Dave Garcia took over and they went 38-28 under his leadership, finishing the year at 81-80. Their 27-23 record in one run games helped.
The Indians were a strange streaky team that year. A 10 game losing streak in late June probably sunk Torborg. They were never within 10 games of first place again the whole year. A 10 game winning streak in late July padded Garcia’s resume. They reached 5 games above .500.
The 1979 Indians were one of two Tribe squads to be above .500 for the season. Friend of the Sully Baseball podcast Sid Monge was one of the stars of the team, winning 12 and saving 19 over 131 innings, all in relief. The two Ricks, Wise and Waits, were a nice 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation.
The lineup had 3 sluggers with more than 20 homers including Bobby Bonds in his lone season in Cleveland. Andre Thornton was still a reliable slugger and Toby Harrah provided power at third. Mike Hargrove was a .325 hitter. He had a .933 OPS despite only hitting 10 homers. Cliff Johnson, acquired mid season from the Yankees, gave them 18 homers in a part time role.
The Indians hovered around relevancy for the next few years. They finished 79-81 in 1980 and 52-51 in the strike shortened 1981 but could never quite contend.
The team picture shows “The Mistake By The Lake” Cleveland Stadium in the background while the team itself abandoned the funky “caveman font” and tomahawk C hats and burgundy tops for dull white uniforms, block font and a generic C hat.
It is too bad. This team had too many interesting characters to have such a dull and unmemorable look.