Joe Sewell

Joseph Wheeler Sewell
Inducted to the Hall of Fame in: 1977
Primary team: Cleveland Indians
Primary position: Shortstop

“When I was a boy I’d walk around with a pocket full of rocks or a Coca-Cola top,” Joe Sewell said, “and I can’t remember not being able to hit them with a broomstick handle.”

Keep your eye on the ball. It’s one of the most basic tenets of hitting, stressed from the first time a young player picks up a bat. Joe Sewell took it to another level, though, and it helped pave his way to the Hall of Fame.

Sewell’s big league career was born out of one of the game’s tragedies. After Indians shortstop Ray Chapman was killed by a pitch from the Yankees’ Carl Mays in August 1920, Sewell was called up. The 21-year-old Sewell had played in just 92 minor league games before his big league debut, yet he settled in immediately and helped lead the Tribe to the 1920 World Series title.

Where Sewell really carved out his identity was his ability to get the bat on the ball more consistently than anyone else ever has. Sewell struck out 20 times in 558 at-bats during the 1922 season, and that would be his career high. He never even reached double-digits in strikeouts in any of his last nine seasons. During the 1929 season, Sewell went 115 games between punchouts. He ended his career with a rate of 62.6 at-bats per strikeout.

He had seven seasons in which he recorded over 500 at-bats while striking out less that 10 times. From September 1922 through April 1930, Sewell played in 1,103 consecutive games, the second-longest such streak in history at the time. Sewell was also known for using only a single bat through his entire career, a 40-ouncer he dubbed “Black Betsy.”

Hardly a one dimensional player, Sewell led American League shortstops in fielding percentage three times and finished in the top five six times. He shifted to third base in 1929 and, after signing with the Yankees in 1931, was the regular third baseman for the Yankees club that won the 1932 World Series.

Sewell grew up in Alabama and was an accomplished col-lege player with the University of Alabama. In later years, he returned to coach the Crimson Tide baseball team, winning a Southeastern Conference title in 1968. The university renamed its ballpark Sewell-Thomas Stadium in 1978, one year after Sewell’s induction to the Hall of Fame.

"Ted (Williams) said he could see the ball leave his bat and I could too. I did that from the first day until I finished and that’s the reason why I didn’t strike out much. "
Joe Sewell

Career stats

ESSENTIAL STATS
Year Inducted: 1977
Primary Team: Cleveland Indians
Position Played: Shortstop
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Birth place: Titus, Alabama
Birth year: 1898
Died: 1990, Mobile, Alabama
Played for:
Cleveland Indians (1920-1930)
New York Yankees (1931-1933)
CAREER AT A GLANCE
GamesG
1903
At BatsAB
7132
RunsR
1141
HitsH
2226
Doubles2B
436
Triples3B
68
Home RunsHR
49
RBIRBI
1054
Stolen BasesSB
74
WalksBB
842
Batting AverageBA
.312
OPSOPS
.804
On Base %OBP
.391
Slugging %SLG
.413