Posts By Vince Guerrieri
The Yankees were desperate, as outfielder Dave Winfield was facing back issues that would ultimately force him to miss the entire season. But the Indians had dealt Hall – an everyday player with at that point a career .281 batting average – for Skinner, a backup catcher and a minor leaguer? It looked like the latest episode in a sad tradition for the team for really the previous thirty years, since Trader Lane dealt Rocky Colavito and Norm Cash: Deal a talented player in return for some magic beans that weren’t so magical.
But it was a move that was long in coming – and frankly, somewhat of a relief – for the Indians.
The 74-year-old Seaver announced on Thursday, March 7, that he had been diagnosed with dementia and would retire from public life. This story was originally published on July 17, 2012. – BT
Tom Seaver and the Mets seem to go hand-in-hand.
Seaver’s the only player in the Baseball Hall of Fame (where he received the highest percentage of votes, 98.84, on his first ballot) wearing a Mets cap [since joined in 2016 by Mike Piazza – BT]. He was the anchor of the starting rotations of the 1969 World Champion Miracle Mets, and the 1973 team that went from last place in the middle of the season to the seventh game of the World Series, succumbing to the Oakland Athletics.
But Seaver almost debuted with the Indians.
John Romano thought he’d be signed by the Dodgers.
Instead, the White Sox snagged him. But he had his best years with the Indians.
Romano, who died Monday at the age of 84, was a New Jersey native. His father was a longshoreman and semi-pro baseball player, and Romano attracted attention playing for Demarest High School in his native Hoboken. He even worked out regularly for the Dodgers, then still in Brooklyn, but in 1954, at the age of 19, he was signed as a free agent by the White Sox. In Triple-A, he was mentored by Walker Cooper, who was a catcher for the Cardinals when they won four pennants and three World Series from 1942-46.
Well, at least the Padres’ pursuit of Corey Kluber makes a little more sense now.
The Indians’ ace would have been a great addition to the Dodgers pitching staff. In a way, the Reds kind of made sense too. But the Padres? They were baseball Siberia. No playoff appearances since 2006, and no winning record since 2010. They were the team Bruce Bochy (who announced earlier this week that this would be his last season as Giants manager) left before establishing his Hall of Fame bona fides in San Francisco.
Don Newcombe, who died Tuesday at the age of 92, is most closely associated with the Dodgers, particularly during their halcyon years in Brooklyn.
Newk, as he was nicknamed, was one of the first African-Americans in Major League Baseball. He was an All-Star and rookie of the year for the Dodgers in 1949, and won both the first Cy Young Award (when only one was given out annually) and National League MVP in 1956. Even last year at the World Series, he could be spotted at Dodger Stadium.
But his major league career ended in Cleveland.
As is the case with so many instances in my life, the news last week of Francisco Lindor’s injury reminded me of a moment of the Simpsons.
This one, to be precise:
Frank Robinson, whose stint managing the Indians made him the first African-American manager in Major League Baseball, died today at the age of 83.
“The Cleveland Indians organization is deeply saddened by the passing of baseball legend Frank Robinson,” the Indians said in a statement. “Our organization and the city of Cleveland are proud to have played a role in Frank’s significant impact on the game when he became the first African-American manager in baseball history on April 8, 1975. The fact Frank hit a solo home run in his first at-bat that day as the Indians’ player-manager symbolizes his greatness as a Hall of Fame ballplayer. The entire Indians organization extends its thoughts and prayers to the Robinson family.”
This year, the tables were turned, with Grover and Carlos Baerga – who came with Alomar to the Indians in the trade for Joe Carter that sent the team into the stratosphere in the 1990s – presenting Alomar with the lifetime achievement award. And it was a big difference to Alomar.
“You see how much I’m sweating,” he said in a news conference at the awards in the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Cleveland.
Well, for at least another year, the only way Omar Vizquel is getting into the Hall of Fame is by buying a ticket.
Results were announced Tuesday of the annual voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America. In the second of theoretically 10 years on the ballot, Vizquel got 42.8 percent of the vote, still well short of the 75 percent needed for induction, but it was an increase over the 37 percent he got in his first year. Former Indian Manny Ramirez also saw his vote total increase year-over-year, from 22 percent to 22.8 percent. Travis Hafner’s stay on the hall ballot was a brief one. In his first year of eligibility, he received no votes, and will drop off the ballot.
Sandy Alomar Jr. has been an integral part of the Indians for the better part of the last quarter-century.
And on Feb. 6, he’ll be recognized by the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission with the ceremony’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
While I was living in the Pittsburgh area, the Pirates opened their new home, PNC Park, to great fanfare.
It was, put simply, gorgeous. Its predecessor, Three Rivers Stadium, looked like nothing so much as a giant ashtray, completely enclosed to shut off any view of the city’s skyline from your seat – an error rectified by the new park, which was sold, in part, on what had happened in Cleveland in 1994. If you build it, the winner would come – and Pittsburgh was in need of a winner. Since the 1992 season ended for Pittsburgh with Barry Bonds’ inability to throw Sid Bream out at the plate in the deciding game of the National League Championship Series, the Pirates hadn’t even finished with a winning record.
PNC Park opened in 2001, and a club record of more than 2.4 million fans came through the turnstiles. In that beautiful new ballpark, they saw a team that lost 100 games. The following year, the Pirates lost a mere 89 games, but attendance slipped to 1.7 million. Gradually attendance, and more importantly, season ticket sales, dropped. But they reached a new high in 2006 when, not coincidentally, PNC Park hosted its first All-Star Game – just a dozen years after the last one in Pittsburgh at Three Rivers Stadium.
Why do I bring this up? Oh, no reason…
The Indians’ moves lately – at least, the ones they’ve been making – have caused me to relive the 2016 World Series. And I don’t like it one damn bit.
The Indians are making some moves, but probably not as many as we’d like. As it stands now, this Indians team is no better than the one that ended the season ignominiously with a sweep by the Astros in the American League Division Series. (It is my fervent hope that the Indians aren’t done making offseason moves, but it feels like that’s starting to border on delusion.)