New Book Coming out About ‘The Jake’
Vince Guerrieri | On 11, Mar 2014
On April 4, 1994, Vince McKee was one of the 41,459 fans celebrating the opening of the Indians’ new home, Jacobs Field, and watching a new era begin in Tribe history.
“It was a blast, and it was really the beginning of a lot of good memories,” McKee said.
Now, as the park – now Progressive Field – celebrates its 20th anniversary, McKee has published a new book detailing the history of the ballpark – and the great years and memories it’s created for players and fans.
The book, “Jacobs Field: History and Tradition at the Jake,” is published by the History Press and will officially come out March 25. (Full disclosure: I have also had a book published through the History Press: “The Blue Streaks and Little Giants: More than a Century of Sandusky and Fremont Ross Football.”) It’s McKee’s third book, but the first he didn’t self-publish.
McKee, a bill collector by trade, is also the author of “Hero,” an autobiographical work of him as an 18 year old, coaching a little league team that was expected to go nowhere fast (spoiler alert: They exceeded expectations). His second book, “Cleveland’s Finest,” was about great sports stories in Cleveland, told by the athletes who made them.
McKee could have self-published the book about Jacobs Field, but he started shopping it around to several interested local publishers. The History Press, based in South Carolina, wanted to move the quickest on it.
“They called about 10 minutes after I sent the email,” he said. “I was stunned.”
McKee said he signed a contract with the History Press in early December, and sent the manuscript by the end of the month.
The book features forewords written by Kenny Lofton, Charles Nagy and Jim Thome, who were also interviewed at length for the book. McKee also made it a point to talk to Carlos Baerga, John Hart and Mike Hargrove.
The Indians of the 1990s were the most talented team the city had seen since the 1950s, but despite its success, the team couldn’t win it all – and emotions still run high over it in the book. Nagy and Hargrove are still raw from the 1997 World Series loss, when the Indians were two outs away from their first World Series victory since 1948, only to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Both Baerga and Hart talk at length about the trade that sent Baerga away from Cleveland, and Lofton remains disappointed at departing Cleveland on two different occasions.
“There’s a lot of intense stuff in there,” McKee said.
He found it particularly interesting to hear from Hargrove about his strategy for the 1994 season as the Indians clawed their way up the standings and a strike loomed. Hargrove said he managed like the team was facing elimination, because he was afraid that the standings when the strike started would be the standings used for any postseason that might be played if players and owners could reach a deal (as it turned out, the entire season was canceled, marking the only year since 1902 that no postseason baseball was played).
“It was cool hearing from all those guys about the intensity they had down the stretch,” said McKee, who is the lead writer for vpeterpress.com.
The book is available to buy at HistoryPress.net, and McKee will be scheduling personal appearances to promote the book and sign copies. He is already scheduled to appear at Visible Voice Books in Tremont on April 11.
“I think it’s a great story,” McKee said. “People still love Jacobs Field and there’s so much neat history.”