Posts By Vince Guerrieri
Age has caught up with Rocky Colavito.
The dark hair has gone white. He’s fought off cancer, had a quadruple bypass after a heart attack, and lost a leg to complications by diabetes. At his event Friday night at the Keybank State Theater in Playhouse Square, he was wheeled out on stage and helped into a chair.
But the love was still there. Colavito, a fan favorite whose trade to the Tigers incensed his legions of rooters, was subject to a sustained standing ovation when he appeared on stage. And he was just as overjoyed to see the crowd as they were to see him.
“I love you all,” he said. “I love Cleveland and I always will.”
With the 90th Midsummer Classic coming to Cleveland on Tuesday, July 9, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night look back at some of the other All-Star Games hosted by the city over the years. This story was originally published July 5, 2017. – BT
As soon as plans were announced for an All-Star Game at Comiskey Park to coincide with the Chicago World’s Fair of 1933, every other city in the major leagues wanted to host one – including Cleveland.
The Indians had a history with all-star contests, holding a benefit game for Addie Joss’ family in 1911 that was then the largest collection of star power on one field. The city’s newly-constructed stadium on the lakefront downtown would also make a perfect venue for the game.
And it did, two years later – but that turned out to be the only major league game played at the stadium that year.
Like most baseball fans of a certain age, Mark Sommer was an admirer of Rocky Colavito.
The Bronx-born slugger came to Cleveland in 1955 and quickly became a fan favorite, thanks to his offensive prowess and what were described as matinee idol good looks. In fact, Sommer even owned a copy of “Don’t Knock the Rock,” the book written by former Plain Dealer Sports Editor Gordon Cobbledick in 1966.
Sommer revisited the book years later, and found it less than comprehensive, no doubt written quickly to capitalize on Colavito’s return to Cleveland six years after his unceremonious departure. He also found that Colavito, despite being one of the most popular ballplayers of his day, had no biography written about him since. So he set out to do it himself.
Last week, the owners of the Tampa Bay Rays floated the idea of the team calling two cities home, suggesting the team could play a number of games in Montreal, which has been without an MLB team since the Expos were moved to Washington following the 2004 season.
The idea isn’t completely foreign. In the Expos’ last two years of existence, they split time between Montreal and San Juan, Puerto Rico. And while the Dodgers were casting about for a replacement for Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, they played several games across the river in Jersey City.
Last week, the Raptors took a 3-1 series lead in the NBA Finals against the Warriors.
The Warriors won Game 5, and I – and I’m sure many people in the Bay Area, Canada and yes, even Northeast Ohio – thought, “They can’t possibly come back … can they?” Someone on Twitter even presented the scenario that the Warriors would rally to win the series, becoming the only team to blow a 3-1 lead and recover from a 3-1 deficit. And of course, the ensuing ESPN special would be replayed ad nauseum.
The Warriors are the modern NBA dynasty, and it’s impossible to count them out of the money. In addition to that, being a Cleveland fan has scarred me enough that until the clock hit zeros in Game 7 in 2016, I knew it was still possible for the Cavs to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. As it turns out, the scarring came a little less than five months later, when the Indians couldn’t close out the Cubs in 2016.
Twenty-four years ago today, the Indians played their first game home after a four-game stint in Milwaukee (then part of the American League).
The Tribe beat the Orioles 4-3 to maintain their lead in the newly-formed American League Central Division, and at 31-11, they had the best record in the majors. Despite giving up a home run to future Hall of Famer Harold Baines, Charles Nagy got the win, and Jose Mesa nailed down the save. It was the Indians’ second straight win – but it became famous as the start of a streak of a different kind.
Paid attendance for that game? 41,845. A sellout.
On June 10, 1959, Rocky Colavito was in the middle of a slump, having gotten three hits in his previous 28 at-bats.
It was a long fall from the previous season, when the young slugger with the matinee-idol good looks had clubbed 41 home runs, good for second in the American League. And the Indians, who were fading from contention, were playing the Orioles at Memorial Stadium – not known for its hitter-friendly dimensions. And to top it off, a throwing error the night before by Colavito sparked a rally for the Orioles to win.
But the next day, Colavito had a game for the ages that day – which remains his proudest moment as a major leaguer.
In “Major League,” Ricky Vaughn arrived in spring training after spending some time in the California Penal League. Seems entertaining, but too far-fetched for reality, right?
Well, something similar happened 98 years ago this week prior to an Indians game against the Yankees at the old Polo Grounds. To Babe Ruth, no less.
A couple weeks ago, I said that the Indians were one bad stretch away from a fire sale.
I no longer believe that. Oh, sure, they’re in the middle of a bad, possibly season-defining stretch, and need a pair of binoculars to see the Twins in first place. In fact, any hope the Indians have of winning the division involves multiple things happening: Them getting back all the injured talent, a hot streak, and the Twins coming back to earth. (The Twins ARE playing out of their minds. They’re on pace to win more games than ever in franchise history, and I just don’t see them doing it. Then again, I didn’t see the Magic keeping up their ridiculous shooting percentage throughout the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.)
I don’t see the Indians having a fire sale simply because they don’t have a lot to offer, in terms of trade value.
Bill Buckner died Monday.
As expected, there were a lot of mentions of the ground ball he let dribble between his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, allowing the Mets to score the winning run and cap an improbable comeback. It’s probably his most memorable moment, but one to be unfairly remembered for.
But Shane Bieber makes it all right for a little while. In a little over a year since his debut (pressed into service in a doubleheader against the Blue Jays), he’s done just about everything that could be asked of him.
There are some parts of the baseball experience we take for granted, which have been around since time immemorial, it seems. The games start with the national anthem, a tradition that dates back to World War I. Hot dogs are available to eat, which goes back to Harry Stevens’ contract with most major league clubs for concessions and scorecards.
And speaking of scorecards, they all feature pertinent information about the players (“You can’t tell the players without a scorecard,” Stevens himself would bellow as he tried to sell them), including their numbers. But uniform numbers are, comparatively speaking, a new tradition in baseball. It was “only” 90 years ago this week that two teams wearing uniform numbers took the field against each other – the Yankees and Indians at League Park.