Lofton: "I was not a cheater"
Kenny Lofton played fast, played hard and, perhaps most importantly, he insists he played clean in an era when steroids were baseball's dirty little secret.
Lofton's statistics earned him a place in Cleveland's Hall of Fame.
One day, he hopes they get him into Cooperstown's shrine.
``I just went out there and did what I had to do,'' Lofton said. ``I was not a cheater.''
The pre-eminent leadoff hitter and base stealer in franchise history, Lofton was picked Wednesday for the Indians' Hall of Fame. He and Cy Slapnicka, a former general manager and scout who signed Hall of Fame pitchers Bob Feller and Bob Lemon, will be inducted on Aug. 7 before the Indians host Minnesota.
A five-time All-Star, Lofton played 10 seasons with Cleveland. He was the table-setter for the club's powerful offense, which featured sluggers Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez and Albert Belle. Lofton also roamed center field, where he often turned potential extra-base hits into outs.
One of the most popular players in Indians history, Lofton finished with a .300 average, set the club mark for steals (452) and ranks third in career runs (975) and 10th in hits (1,512). Overall, he finished with more than 2,400 career hits, led the AL in steals five straight seasons and won four Gold Gloves over 17 years.
An argument could be made he belongs in baseball's hallowed Hall.
Now more than ever.
In light of Mark McGwire's admission to using steroids and human-growth hormone while setting home run records, and with other high-profile players being suspended for banned substances, Lofton's statistics may be viewed differently by Hall of Fame voters once he becomes eligible for induction.
Lofton hopes so.
``I was a guy who never did it (steroids), never tried to do it, never wanted to do it but I played against guys who obviously were doing it,'' he said. ``My competition level had to be at a certain level to be able to compete with those guys who were cheating.
``I was not a cheater, so hopefully they'll take a look at that and see what I did under that period and hopefully they take that into account.''
Former Indians catcher Sandy Alomar believes voters should take a long look at Lofton's accomplishments before deciding on his Hall worthiness.
``Kenny was a complete player. He was a five-tool guy,'' Alomar said. ``Kenny could go deep and he took pride on the leadoff spot and playing his role. I think the voters have to realize that and they have to reward players for their abilities, not just for power numbers or RBIs but for how well he played his role. For a time, he was the most dominant leadoff guy other than Rickey Henderson.''
Lofton, who had three stints with the Indians from 1991-2007, said it was a constant challenge not to expose players who were not playing by the rules.
``I felt that I did it the right way and always felt like the good guys always lose,'' he said. ``I just sat back and kept doing what I was doing. They always say things are going to come out in the light, and that's what happened.''
Lofton said his most memorable moment with the Indians came when he scored from second base on a passed ball in Game 6 of the 1995 ALCS, clinching Cleveland's first World Series appearance since 1954. It was also the play Alomar said defined Lofton.
``He won the game by himself,'' Alomar said. ``He was a winner and a postseason guy. The bigger the stage, the better he got. Everybody talks about home runs and things like that, but this guy was the igniter for this organization for many years.''