|Born: May 31, 1967|
East Chicago, Indiana
|Batted: Left||Threw: Left|
|September 14, 1991 for the Houston Astros|
|Last MLB appearance|
|September 29, 2007 for the Cleveland Indians|
Kenneth Lofton (born May 31, 1967 in East Chicago, Indiana) is a former Major League Baseball outfielder known for his great speed on the base paths as well as in the field, award-winning defensive play (four Gold Glove awards), timely hitting, and playful spirit. He batted and threw left-handed. During his career he played for the Houston Astros, Cleveland Indians (10 seasons), Atlanta Braves, Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Texas Rangers.
He was his league's Player of the Week three times (twice with Cleveland, once with Atlanta), and was named to six All-Star teams (five times with the Indians, once with the Braves).
From 2001 to 2007 Kenny Lofton did not spend more than one season with a team. It was later parodied in a DHL commercial in 2007 saying that he was being traded to several teams and then eventually Japan; nevertheless, the commercial is a testament to Lofton's status as a perennial fan favorite with transcontinental appeal.
In college, he was the backup point guard (to Craig McMillan and Steve Kerr) on an Arizona Wildcats team that made it to the Final Four of the 1988 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, and he set season and career school records for steals. He was the starting point guard the following year as Arizona made it to the Sweet Sixteen. Lofton is one of only two men to play in a college basketball Final Four (1988, the first for the Arizona Wildcats) and a Major League Baseball World Series. The other is fellow East Chicago Washington High School alumnus Tim Stoddard, who was a member of the N.C. State team that won the 1974 NCAA Basketball Championship. Stoddard later pitched for the Baltimore Orioles in the 1979 World Series.
Lofton decided to try out for the baseball team during his junior year. Although he did not see much playing time, his speed and potential were recognized by baseball scouts, and he was chosen by the Houston Astros in the 17th round of Major League Baseball's [[ in baseball|]] amateur draft. He played minor league baseball during the summer while completing his basketball eligibility at Arizona.
Lofton struggled initially in his professional baseball career in the Houston Astros farm system. He hit .214 in 48 games for Auburn in the New York - Penn League, although he did steal 26 bases in 30 attempts and was solid in the outfield.
Lofton returned to Auburn in [[ in baseball|]], hitting .263 with 26 steals in 34 games. He then hit .329 with 14 steals in 22 games for Asheville in the South Atlantic League. As his college basketball career came to an end, Lofton was able to concentrate fully on baseball and he improved rapidly, finishing second in the league in hitting at .331 while adding 62 steals for Osceola in the Florida State League. He also drew 61 walks, demonstrating patience and intelligence as a hitter, while improving defensively.
After a great spring training in [[ in baseball|]], he jumped directly to Tucson Toros of the Pacific Coast League, skipping Double-A. He hit .308 with 30 steals and 52 walks for Tucson Toros, with 19 doubles and 17 triples. At Tucson (where he was a local fan favorite due to his University of Arizona basketball career) he led his team to the PCL championship and made the league's All-Star squad. On September 14, 1991, the Astros promoted Lofton to the majors. In his major league debut, he had three hits and scored three runs against the Cincinnati Reds.
Stellar debut aside, Lofton struggled during his brief stint in Houston, batting only .203. With future all-star Steve Finley already firmly entrenched in Houston's center field, Lofton was traded during the off-season to the Cleveland Indians for catcher Eddie Taubensee and right-handed pitcher Willie Blair.
The Indians would prove to be a good fit for the young center fielder. During his rookie season in Cleveland, in 1992, Lofton hit .285, his 66 stolen bases establishing an all-time record for an American League rookie and the most by a Major League rookie since Vince Coleman's 110 in [[ in baseball|]]. He finished second (to Milwaukee's Pat Listach) in AL Rookie of the Year balloting. His career blossomed from that point on, as Lofton proved to be one of the consistently excellent players, and perhaps the premier leadoff hitter of the 1990s. He appeared in six consecutive All-Star Games (1994–1999) and won four straight Gold Gloves (1993–1996) for the Indians. Through the [[ in baseball|]] season, Lofton had tallied a .299 career batting average with 123 home runs, 110 triples (2nd among active players), and 1,442 runs (6th among active players) in 1,967 games.
He played with the Indians until [[ in baseball|]], when, as an impending free agent, he was traded near the end of spring training to the Atlanta Braves along with Alan Embree for Marquis Grissom and slugger David Justice. After one season with the Braves, Lofton rejoined the Indians in [[ in baseball|]] when he signed as a free agent. His second stint in Cleveland took him through 2001. From [[ in baseball|]] to 2007, Lofton played for eight teams, playing in the postseason for the San Francisco Giants, the Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. On July 27, 2007, Lofton was traded by the Texas Rangers, his Major League record eleventh team played on, back to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for minor league catcher Max Ramírez, marking the beginning of his third stint with the Cleveland Indians. A surprised Jacobs Field crowd greeted Lofton with a standing ovation during his first at bat for this tour of duty with the Indians. Lofton noted, "I missed being in Cleveland... I enjoy Cleveland. It's the city that got me going." Lofton became a free agent at the end of the season. When no team offered him a contract, he retired from baseball.
He was known for an amazing catch he made on August 4, 1996, at Jacobs Field in Cleveland. B.J. Surhoff of Baltimore hit a fly ball deep into center field. It was headed out, but Lofton timed his leap perfectly, and while he was shoulder-high with the top of the fence, he reached over it and grabbed the ball as it was coming down into home run territory. He also shocked a Kingdome crowd in Seattle when he scored from second base on a Dan Wilson passed ball in the sixth and final game of the 1995 ALCS, all but securing the 1995 pennant for the Indians.
On January 27, 2010, the Cleveland Indians announced that Lofton would become the newest member of the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame. On August 7, 2010, the Cleveland Indians inducted Kenny Lofton into their Hall of Fame during a ceremony before their game against the Minnesota Twins.
Lofton played in 95 post-season games and enjoyed many successes. Beginning in 1995 (during his first stint with the Indians) and ending in 2007 (his third stint with Cleveland), he hit .247 with 7 home runs and 34 RBIs. In addition to his thrilling race from second to home on a passed ball in 1995, he hit the 2002 NLCS-winning single for the San Francisco Giants, driving in David Bell from second.
In Game One of the 2003 NLDS, at Turner Field in Atlanta, Kenny Lofton's single for Chicago put the Cubs ahead 4-1. Chicago went on to win, 4-2.
Back with the Indians, in Game One of the 2007 ALDS against New York, he went 3-4 with 4 RBIs and 1 stolen base, tying him with Ricky Henderson for Major League Baseball's all-time post-season stolen bases record (33). In game two, he went 2 for 3 with two walks and scored the winning run in the 11th inning; then, in Game Three of the 2007 ALCS, he hit a two-run homer against the Boston Red Sox. Lofton earned his 34th career post-season stolen base in Game Four of the 2007 ALCS, setting a new MLB record for playoff steals.
But Lofton also endured many heartbreaking postseason losses over the course of his career.
In 1995, he played on an Indians team that lost the World Series to the Braves in six games despite finishing the regular season with a major league best 100-44 record in the strike-shortened year. The following season, the Indians again had the best record in baseball, but lost in the 1996 ALDS to the Baltimore Orioles in four games. Three years after that, the Indians held a two-games-to-none lead on the Boston Red Sox in the 1999 ALDS but then lost three in a row.
In 2002, he played on the Giants team that held a five-run lead in the seventh inning of Game Six of the World Series against the Angels. Eight outs away from a World Championship, the Angels rallied to win 6-5, then took Game Seven the following night to win the series.
The following season, he played on a Cubs team that held a three-run lead in the 8th inning of Game Six of the 2003 NLCS. The Marlins rallied to win that game on took Game Seven the following night to eliminate the Cubs.
After that, he played for the Yankees, who become the first Major League team to blow a 3-0 series lead in the 2004 ALCS against the Red Sox.
And in his final year in baseball, 2007, he returned to the ALCS with the Indians, who blew a 3-1 series lead against the Boston Red Sox.
Lofton currently has his own television production company.