Rosen, 1953 MVP and four-time All-Star, dies at 91

Rosen, 1953 MVP and four-time All-Star, dies at 91

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Al Rosen's career with the Indians was brilliant, though far too brief. He did not need long to define himself as arguably the greatest third baseman in Cleveland's long, storied history, but Rosen might have ascended to the heights of baseball's all-time greats given more time on the diamond.

Injuries robbed Rosen of that opportunity, but they did not get in the way of him living a long and full life. It was with great sadness on Saturday afternoon that the Indians announced that Rosen -- the last Indians player to win the American League Most Valuable Player Award -- had passed away on Friday night. He was 91.

"Al led a remarkable baseball life," said MLB Commissioner Emeritus Bud Selig. "Above all, I'll recall him as a great gentleman."

"Al Rosen was truly a triple threat -- a great player, executive and man," said MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred. "We will always remember him."

Cleveland signed Rosen as an amateur free agent in 1942 -- the same year that he enlisted in the United States Navy. He served in the Pacific during World War II and left with the rank of lieutenant in '46. On Sept. 10, 1947, Rosen made his Major League debut with the Indians against the Yankees at 23 years old, beginning what would amount to a stellar, 10-year career in the big leagues.

Rosen became a lineup regular for the Tribe in 1950 and then emerged as one of the American League's top power hitters. He launched a rookie-record 37 home runs in his first full season, establishing a mark that held until Mark McGwire belted 49 for the A's in 1987.

Rosen blossomed into the best player in the AL in 1953, when he was a unanimous selection as the league's MVP, finishing ahead of runner-up Yogi Berra, the Hall of Fame catcher of the Yankees.

"He was an inspiration to us all and had a special presence, strength and intellect," Indians team president Mark Shapiro said in a statement. "His fierce competitive nature and toughness was legendary."

During that remarkable campaign, Rosen hit .336 with a league-high 43 homers and 145 RBIs in 155 games. Rosen had 115 runs scored, 201 hits and 1.034 OPS that season. Rosen nearly earned the league's Triple Crown, but Washington's Mickey Vernon beat him by the narrowest of margins for the batting title with a .337 average.

Overall, Rosen hit .285 with a .384 on-base percentage and a .495 slugging percentage in 1,044 career games for the Indians across the 1947-56 seasons. Along the way, he churned out 1,063 hits, while collecting 192 homers, 165 doubles and 717 RBIs. Rosen also had a keen eye in the batter's box, drawing 587 career walks, but only striking out 385 times.

"We lost a cherished member of the Indians family last night," said Larry Dolan, father of Indians owner Paul Dolan. "Watching Al play was a true joy and something Indians fans of our generation still cherish."

Rosen was a four-time All-Star with the Indians and was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1955.

Rosen also holds the distinction of being the only person in baseball history to win an MVP as a player and earn the Executive of the Year as a member of a front office. He took home the latter award in 1987, when he was president and general manager of the Giants.

"We were saddened to learn that former Giants president and general manager Al Rosen passed away. We express our deepest condolences to his wife, Rita, and to the rest of his family and will have them in our thoughts and prayers. We will miss him and always remember him as part of our very important Giants family," said Larry Baer, Giants president and chief executive officer.

Rosen also served as the president and CEO of the Yankees (1978-79) and Astros (1980-85).

"Al embodied the true meaning of success, as a player and person," Paul Dolan said.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.