Cole, Alex

Position: Centerfield
Birthplace: Fayetteville

First, Middle Names: Alexander Jr.
Date of Birth:  Aug. 17, 1965                         

Current Residence: Undetermined

High School: Jefferson-Huguenot-Wythe High School, Richmond, VA
College: State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, FL

Bat: L   Throws: L        Height and Weight: 6-0, 170
Debut Year: 1990       Final Year: 1996          Years Played: 7
Team(s) and Years: Cleveland Indians, 1990-92; Pittsburgh Pirates, 1992; Colorado Rockies, 1993; Minnesota Twins, 1994-95; Boston Red Sox, 1996

Career Summary
G         AB       H         R          RBI      HR       BA.      OBP.    SLG.     WAR
573   1760  493   288     117      5          .280     .360     .351     4.2

Alex Cole arrived in the major leagues accompanied by the promise of stardom. He departed seven seasons later as merely a good player, his road to greatness blocked by injuries and indifferent outfield play. His life later spiraled out of control into the depths of drugs and included time in federal prison.

Cole was born in Fayetteville where his father, Alex “Fuzzy” Cole Sr., had played football for what’s now Fayetteville State University. The family moved to Richmond, Virginia, where the younger Cole played high-school baseball and football. He later concentrated on baseball at State College of Florida, a two-year school near Sarasota.

The St. Louis Cardinals, enamored at the time with Vince Coleman-type players., drafted Cole, a speedy, slap hitter, in the second round of the 1985 amateur draft. He languished for six years in the Cardinals’ farm system, however, before being traded to the San Diego Padres and then to the Cleveland Indians midway through the 1990 season.

In the final 63 games of the year, Cole stole a staggering 40 bases for the Indians while hitting .300. He swiped five in one game to set a major-league record. Indians’ management and fans rightfully thought that this speedster with the distinctive goggle eyeglasses was a budding superstar who would top their lineup for a decade or more. So convinced were they of Cole’s potential that the team’s owners moved the centerfield fence back at old Municipal Stadium before the 1991 season to take advantage of Cole’s ability to hit the gaps for doubles and triples.

All those hopes slipped away when Cole did as he stumbled out of the box in spring training trying to beat out a slow tapper. He hit the ground hard, dislocating a shoulder. The team’s manager later blamed the injury for the cautiousness that Cole displayed on the base paths throughout the season and his hesitancy to slide headfirst into second base. Cole would end up with 27 stolen bases – only 10 more than his failed attempts. He also developed a habit of being picked off. His batting average was a respectable .295, but a full season exposed his poor defensive play in centerfield. His inconsistent defense would be a liability for the rest of his career.[I]

The Indians traded Cole in 1992 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who let him go in the expansion draft later that year. Cole was the starting centerfielder for the first Colorado Rockies team. Then, it was on to Minnesota, where Cole seemed to be reaching the potential everyone saw in him as a rookie. He was hitting .342 during the first 28 games of the 1995 season for the Twins, while getting on base more than 40 percent of the time. It was the best start of his career.

And the end of it, as it turned out. Cole broke his right leg and dislocated an ankle while chasing a fly ball. His season and career were over. His attempted comeback with the Boston Red Sox in 1996 ended after only 24 games and a .222 average.

Though stardom eluded him, Cole played well wherever he landed. His 148 career stolen bases rank eighth among North Carolina players with more than 1,000 at bats. His .360 lifetime on-base percentage is 14th and his .280 batting average is tied for 18th.

Cole settled in Florida where he was a mortgage broker. He played ball in Mexico and in independent leagues in the United States. Cole was playing for the Bluefish in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in the Atlantic League on Aug. 9, 1991 when federal agents arrested him at the ballpark for selling heroin to undercover agents. He pleaded guilty the following year to conspiring to possess heroin with the intent to distribute and was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison. Four years later, a judgment in excess of $30,000 was entered against him for running up credit card debts under a friend’s name.[II]

References
[I] Kreitzer, Chris. “Alex Cole: Tales from the Teepee.” Bleacher Report,  May 29, 2008. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/26048-alex-cole-tales-from-the-teepee.
[II] “Ravens On the Move?” Hartford (CONN) Courant, June 7, 2002.