What Happened to Tribe History?
By Jason Kaminski
This may come off as very opinionated and “rant”-like but I feel it should be said. Why have the Indians’ powers-that-be neglected to build statues for key players in the franchise’s history?
It was announced on September 26th, Jim Thome Day, that the team would be erecting a statue of Thome in the location of his record setting 511 foot homerun. I won’t get into whether or not Thome deserves a statue or not but I will definitely pose the question: why is he only the second Tribe player to have such an honor?
Everybody knows about Bob Feller (partially because he was around so long to remind people) and they are aware that he was a big reason for the Indians last World Championship. He certainly had merit for the landmark built for him outside Gate C, most would not argue that and if they did it’d be hard to give a solid argument. However, I feel that the team should be honoring players that had huge impacts for our town’s baseball history and to me it is an embarrassment that they haven’t.
Why is there no statue for Nap Lajoie? He was arguably the team’s first superstar player, I mean they were even named after him in the early days. Lajoie also played during the days when players did not wear numbers so he has no recognition in terms of a retired uniform number. He spent 12 years here and set many records in the process, some of which still stand to this day.
Another player that should be honored in such a way is Louis Sockalexis. Sure, he wasn’t here long as a player and certainly did not put up numbers that were even that good but it is widely accepted and acknowledged that the team name itself was partially chosen to honor Chief Sockalexis.
This also leads to the case for Larry Doby. Ignore the fact that it took the team entirely too long to even retire his number, they need to have a statue of him on the premises. Doby was the player that broke the American League color barrier 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson broke the Major League and simultaneously National League barrier. How could such a terrific achievement not be better “broadcast” to the average fan walking into “The Jake”?
I can certainly say I am not the only one to express these ideas or feelings, many out of town people that visited the ballpark while I worked there would ask me if such statues existed (and this was prior to Heritage Park even being there), everyone of them shocked to hear my reply. I sincerely hope that the team have future plans for these distinctions because I believe it is a colossal oversight and definitely something that can spruce up an aging ballpark.
I also believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg, a handful of other players could be discussed in the same way (Addie Joss, Tris Speaker and Omar Vizquel to name a few). As I make my travels to other ballparks and see statues for what I perceive to be less significant players than I’ve previously mentioned, I can’t help but hope the Indians brass make the right moves to surround our beautiful downtown attraction with reminders of the important franchise history.
Congratulations is deserved to Jim Thome, he is certainly humble about the honor, but let’s try and push for more recognition for those “ghosts” from our great tradition before they end up being forgotten. That would certainly be a tragedy.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images