When it came to making contact, no one matched Joe Sewell. Few rookies have faced a tougher assignment than Sewell did in 1920. While Sewell was playing his first professional season in New Orleans, Cleveland hero Ray Chapman was killed by a Carl Mays pitch in August. When Chapman’s replacement, Harry Lunte, was hurt on Labor Day, the kid from Alabama was thrust into the American League pennant race with less than 100 professional games played. Little Joe (5’7″) proved equal to the task, batting .329 in and helping Cleveland to its first pennant. From September 13, 1922 to April 30, 1930, he played 1,103 straight games, a major league record at the time. No one threatens to break his record of just 114 strikeouts in 7,132 games. Using a 40-ounce bat called “Black Betsy,” Sewell had three full seasons (1925, 1929 and 1933), in which he struck out just four times.
He was, however, far more than just a contact hitter. Sewell led the Indians in RBI three times and hit below .299 just once in Cleveland. He led AL shortstops in putouts four straight years (1924-27), in assists four times, and twice in fielding percentage. Moved to third base in 1929, Joe led the league in assists again. Released after the 1930 season, Sewell filled a trouble spot at third for the Yankees for three seasons before retiring and spent two more years with the Yankees as a coach. He later scouted for the Indians and coached at the University of Alabama, leading the school to a Southeastern Conference title in 1968.