Brother of Hall of Fame shortstop Joe Sewell, Luke was a catcher in the American League throughout the Lively Ball Era. He spent the bulk of his career with the Indians but made his only All-Star team with the White Sox. Sewell would have appeared in more All-Star Games had the Midsummer Classic been adopted before he was passed his prime. Never much of an offensive force, even in the rock ’em sock ’em times he played, Luke was noted for his defense and leadership skills. His leadership skills served him well after his playing days when he was named manager of the St. Louis Browns. Luke will always been fondly remembered by old Browns fans as the manager who won their only AL flag.
The Sewell Brothers grew up in Titus, Alabama and Luke ventured off to the University of Alabama where he matriculated and played baseball. The Indians signed both Luke and brother Joe and debuted Joe in 1920 after star shortstop Ray Chapman was killed by a Carl Mays high hard-one. Luke would follow Joe to Cleveland in 1921, the year after the Indians captured the World Series. Luke was only used sparingly by Cleveland during the years of his early twenties. In 1924 Cleveland skipper Tris Speaker began to platoon Luke with Glenn Myatt and Sewell hit .292 in part-time action. He shared the catching duties again in 1925 but the following year he was named the regular receiver.
Although Luke only hit .238 in the high average 1926 season, he stood out for his work behind the dish. He gunned down 47% of would-be basestealers, led catchers in assists and finished second in fielding percentage. Sewell would lead catchers in assists three straight years and from 1927 to 1929 he topped AL backstops in runners gunned down attempting to steal. He enjoyed his breakout year in 1927 when he set a personal high with a .294 batting average. Although it was his seventh season in the Majors, and the Deadball Era was over, Luke had yet to hit his first homerun. But his game revolved around his catch and throw skills and not brawny blasting. In ’27, Luke gunned down 51% of would-be basestealers.
Sewell’s batting average fell back down to his usual standards but in 1928 he finally lofted his first ball over the fence. But his offense became more and more a liability in the late 1920s and 1930. When he failed to reach even a .300 on-base percentage–most players reached this mark in their sleep during this period–Luke began to lose playing time. From 1930 to 1932, he failed to play in over 110 games in any of the three seasons. Out of favor in Cleveland, Luke was dealt to the Senators for Roy Spencer. The trade enabled Luke to make his only World Series appearance. Washington inserted Sewell into their everyday lineup and he guided Senators pitchers to the Fall Classic. Luke erased 48% of would-be basestealers that season but the Senators fell to the Giants in the Fall Classic.
After a down year in 1934 Luke was traded to the Browns for pitcher Bump Hadley but he didn’t play for St. Louis in 1935, rather, he was sold to the White Sox before the season began. Although he was a grizzled veteran at this time, Sewell would have some of his best years with the Pale Hose. He set a personal high in RBI in 1935 which he topped the following year when he chased 73 men across the dish. Never a homerun threat, Luke hit five dingers that year which was his best single season output of his career. He made the All-Star team in 1937 as the Midsummer Classic was in its infancy during this time. But Luke was near the end. He played briefly with the Indians in 1939 before he accepted the manager’s post of the Browns in 1941. He managed the Browns throughout the war years and he later managed the second division Reds in the early 1950s.
G 1,630/R 653/H 1,393/2B 272/3B 56/HR 20/RBI 696/SB 66/BB 486/SO 307/BA .259/OBP .323/SA .341