#TBT: Building the ultimate Cleveland Indians starting lineup

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Baerga, Belle, Lofton

Left Field: Larry Doby (1950)

Even without his historical significance, Larry Doby was one heck of a baseball player. Add in the fact he was just the second African American player in the MLB and Doby immediately becomes a legend in Cleveland.

Despite being forced to stay in separate hotels or eat in separate restaurants, Doby persevered on his way to seven All-Star games and five 100-plus RBI and eight 20-plus homerun seasons.

Doby’s 1950 season was, perhaps, the best of his big league career. He hit .326 with 25 homeruns and 102 RBIs over 503 at-bats. Doby was an All-Star that season at 26 years old, totaling a career-best 164 hits in just 142 games. Cleveland has plans to honor Doby this season, as another statue will be erected at Progressive Field.

And rightfully so; there may be no one more deserving of that honor.

Centerfield: Kenny Lofton (1994)

Another Tribe legend from the 1990s, Kenny Lofton put together his best professional season in 1994.

It was the first of six consecutive All-Star seasons for the speedy lead-off man, who also earned a Gold Glove Award for his work in the middle of Cleveland’s outfield.

In a strike-shortened season that led to the cancellation of the World Series, Lofton led the AL in stolen bases (60) and hits (160) while posting a career-best .349 batting average. He finished fourth in the AL MVP voting that season, leading John Hart to say:

"What a representative for our team and our city. He has the opportunity to be a George Brett-type player here, someone who is synonymous with a franchise."

And that he is. Lofton will forever go down as one of the all-time greats and he certainly belongs at the top of any great Cleveland Indians lineup.

Right Field: Albert Belle (1995)

Love him or hate him, Albert Belle was a bad boy. He is one of the most terrifying hitters the game has ever seen, and he was an absolute monster at the dish in 1995.

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In that season, Belle batted .317 with 50 homeruns and 126 RBIs. Coupled with round-trippers, Belle slammed a grand total of 103 extra-base hits on the season on his way to becoming the first player in major league history to hit 50 homeruns and 50 doubles in the same season. If those numbers look implausible now, consider Belle only played 143 games in 1995 due to a strike-shortened season. While the 40-40 mark has been surpassed on a number of occasions (most recently by Chris Davis in 2013), Belle’s 50-50 numbers stand alone.

Belle posted a mammoth slugging percentage (.690) and OPS (1.091), but his reputation with the media likely cost him votes for the 1995 AL MVP. He finished behind Boston’s Mo Vaughn even though he led the league in runs scored, homeruns, RBIs, slugging percentage and seemingly every other meaningful offensive category.

The fact that “Joey Bats” is not in the Hall of Fame is an absolute travesty but, again, that is a topic for another day. For now, he lives on as the right fielder for the Tribe’s all-time greatest lineup.

Next: Designated Hitter