Andre Thornton will always be my first favorite Cleveland Indians player. Having been born in 1979, I really started following baseball in the 1985 time frame, so I all but missed Andre Thornton’s career. He finished his career at age 37 after the 1987 baseball season. Still, Thornton and his family lived in my school district and my dad told me stories about just how good a hitter Thornton had been over his ten years with the Tribe.
Thornton didn’t have the gaudiest of averages. His career with the Indians ended with a 254 mark. That didn’t matter so much because Thornton was a slugger. He amassed 214 homers, 749 RBI and 650 runs to go along with 1095 hits. That is especially impressive when you consider how bad the teams were that Thornton played on.
During the span that Thornton played with the Tribe the most games they ever won was 84 in 1986. That was good enough for the Indians to finish 5th in the East behind the Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, and Blue Jays. To say that the team was bad during Thornton’s playing days is an understatement. Thornton’s stats really show that he carried those teams. For example, during his career in Cleveland, Thornton accounted for almost 7% of the team’s hits, 8.45% of their runs and an incredible 17.12% of their home runs. He also accounted for just over 11.5% of the team’s walks.
And these stats don’t even take into account that Thornton amassed these impressive numbers while playing in only 71% of the team’s games.
In addition to fueling some of the lean times in Cleveland Indians baseball history, Thornton represented Cleveland well. He was an all-star in 1982 and 1984. He won the Silver Slugger in 1984. Also consider that in 1982 Thornton finished first in intentional walks. He finished 2nd in 1983, and 5th in 1984. What does that say about his “protection” in the lineup?
On top of all the baseball-related stuff, Thornton is just a great fixture in the community. He won the Roberto Clemente award in 1979. The Clemente award is an extremely high honor. It goes to players who exhibit the same kinds of attributes of community and charity that Clemente himself exhibited in his career. Clemente died in a plane crash while attempting to provide supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. To have a Cleveland Indians player win that award is really special. The only other player to ever win the award while with the Indians was Jim Thome in 2002.
Even though he played in such a forgettable time for the Tribe, I think it is important to remember Andre Thornton’s contributions to the Cleveland Indians and our community. As we all know too well, those kinds of guys don’t come around too often.