The Shock Of Losing My Idol Brought Tears To My Eyes
Buddy Bell was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the 16th round of the 1969 draft out of Moeller High School in Cincinnati.
After just three short years in the Indians minor league system he was brought up to the big leagues and made his major league debut on April 15, 1972 playing right field against the Milwaukee Brewers. He went o for 3 on the afternoon and had to wait until his fourth big league game before recording his first big league hit. It came in his first at -bat o on April 19, 1972 off the Boston Red Sox Marty Pattin.
The bulk of his rookie season was spent playing in the outfield (123 games) and only six games at third base but in 1973 he took over full time at third base for the Indians and was named to the All-Star team. The 1973 season would be his only All-Star season with the Indians and he never earned an MVP vote while a member of the Indians.
The accolades weren’t necessary for the fans as they latched on to him and his golden blonde hair and Buckeye roots. In my informative years Buddy Bell was baseball for me. My earliest memories of Indians baseball begin in 1974 and for years I had a Sports Illustrated Buddy Bell Poster hanging on my wall.
Thanks to SIPosters.com I was able to find an image of the Buddy Bell poster that I had hanging on my wall and unfortunately one look on it did not bring back good memories.
Every time I see that poster I have a memory of sitting in my room crying after I found out that the Indian had traded my first idol but…..cut me some slack I was only eight years old at the time.
The trade went down on December 8, 1978 and I can’t recall if I found out listening to Pete Franklin or if it was talked about while I was up watching Houlihan and Big Chuck as was custom on Friday nights. It may have been a Russell Schneider article that I read in Saturday’s Plain Dealer — the exact details are unknown.
The Indians were getting some guy named Toby Harrah who my dad told me was washed up and only had a few good years left. I do remember asking “why would they trade Bell!” and it was at a young age my Cleveland indoctrination began as I remember my dad saying “because they are cheap and don’t know their butts from a hole in the ground!”
For the beginning of 1979 season I would go to Indians games and internally boo this Harrah guy. Who did he think he was taking Bells spot at third base? I held him personally responsible for the trade and he was on my crap list.
I began to soften up as the 1979 season wore on and found myself chanting To-Bee To-Bee while slamming the wood chairs to my left and right to make as much noise as I could in the old stadium. By seasons end I was a Harrah fan and would remain one until he was traded to the New York Yankees prior to the 1984 season.
While with the Rangers Bell received MVP votes in five separate seasons, won a silver slugger award, won six gold gloves, and was named to the All-Start team four times.
Recently I was watching the 1981 All-Star game held at Cleveland Stadium and the representative for the Texas Rangers was none other than Buddy Bell.
While watching the player introduction it was obvious that two plus seasons away from the Indians hadn’t dampened the fans popularity for Bell.
There were several current Cleveland Indians players and coaches introduced prior to that game.
Arguably the loudest applause went to the former Indians third baseman which made me smile knowing that I was not alone in my admiration.
The trade deadline is coming and Wahoos On First will take time to look at trade deadline deals of the past but I wanted to make an exception and share a winter time Indians trade story with everyone.
As sports fans we all have the stories of our first favorite player that got traded , the first idol that let us down (for me it was Dwight Gooden), or the first player that the team we followed acquired that we were fans of (for me it was Omar Vizquel). The stories surrounding these three scenarios are often told and retold over and over and like fish tales get embellished along the way but they are the basis of a lot of our early fandom.