One of the top second basemen of the 1950s, Bobby Avila was a three-time All-Star and the batting champ of the 1954 season. The native of Veracruz, Mexico led the American League in fielding percentage at second base twice and posted three consecutive seasons of 100 or more double plays turned. Bobby was a good batsman who rarely struck out more than he walked and was a .300 hitter in three separate seasons.
The Indians called Avila up for a brief trial in 1949 and he received only 14 at-bats in his first cup of Major League coffee. He played more the following year but Cleveland had Hall of Famer Joe Gordon at second base. Although Bobby easily outhit Gordon for batting average and on-base percentage, he didn’t have the long ball hitting ability of Flash. However, Gordon was in his mid thirties and Avila in his mid twenties, so the Tribe gave Avila the starting second base assignment in 1951. Bobby responded with a terrific season for Cleveland. He hit .304, belted ten homeruns and walked twice as much as he struck out in his first year as an everyday player. Sharp defensively as well, Bobby fielded second at a .982 clip–four points above league average.
Avila possessed above average speed and in 1952 he paced the AL with eleven triples. A .300 hitter again, Bobby made his first All-Star team and finished second in the AL in the runs scored department. After a down year, by Bobby’s standards, in 1953, he rebounded in ’54. Avila enjoyed his best season that year as he guided the Indians to an AL pennant with his league-leading .341 batting average. The batting champ made his second All-Star team and established career highs in BA, OBP, SA, runs scored, hits, doubles, homeruns, RBI and total bases. The deft second baseman turned 100 double plays and led his peers in assists. Avila finished third in MVP voting but he didn’t have any magic in the World Series and hit just .133 against Giants pitching.
He came back down to earth in 1955 with a .272 batting average. Named to his final All-Star team that season, Avila socked 13 homers and turned 108 double plays. But that would be Bobby’s last great season. In his early thirties he began to lose a step and his batting average plummeted to .224 in ’56–just two seasons removed from his batting title. He nevertheless posted his third consecutive season with a double-digit homerun total. He rebounded the following year by hitting .268 but his power was diminished. When he failed to regain his slugging stroke in 1958 the Indians bid farewell to the fellow from Veracruz. Bobby spent his last year in the Majors in the most nomadic of fashion–he played for three teams and hit a combined .227 in 1959.
G 1,300/R 725/H 1,296/2B 185/3B 35/HR 80/RBI 467/SB 78/BB 561/SO 399/BA .281/OBP .359/SA .388