Posts By Vince Guerrieri
At the 1997 trading deadline, the Indians were in first place in the American League Central Division – barely.
The team was off July 31 – a Thursday – and holding on to a 2 ½ game lead over the Brewers. Less than two years removed from a World Series appearance, the team looked markedly different. Gone from that team were Eddie Murray, Carlos Baerga, Kenny Lofton, Paul Sorrento, and Dennis Martinez, in addition to Albert Belle, who’d signed in the previous offseason with the White Sox.
Chad Ogea and spot starter Brian Anderson were on the disabled list, and Orel Hershiser had a strained groin muscle. The Indians’ biggest deal at the deadline was the acquisition of John Smiley. But they benefited mightily from a deal made by their Central Division rivals in Chicago.
In 1948, Indians owner Bill Veeck made headlines with his signing of Satchel Paige. The ageless wonder was most known for his achievements in the Negro Leagues, but he was famous on at least two continents with regular barnstorming tours and playing winter ball in South and Central America.
He was so well-traveled that his stint with the Indians wasn’t even his first time in Cleveland.
On July 1, 1951, Bob Feller made major league history, throwing his third career no-hitter.
Eleven days later, Feller was on the short end of another no-hitter – at the hands of a former teammate.
A crowd of 39,195 had settled in for a pitcher’s duel between Feller and Allie Reynolds. The Tribe was in fourth place, 4 ½ games behind the league-leading Red Sox and three behind the Yankees, then in third.
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.
Monday night, for the second time this year, Indians manager Terry Francona had to leave a game at Progressive Field.
On June 13, as the Indians were hosting the Dodgers, he was taken from the dugout to the Cleveland Clinic for an elevated heart rate and dizziness. The diagnosis was dehydration, and he was back in the dugout the next day. He demonstrated similar symptoms Monday, and was told by doctors to stay home for Tuesday’s game against the Rangers. Francona was in good spirits, even joking that he was being tested for an allergy to bench coach Brad Mills.
But there’s a serious question in all of this: How much longer can Francona be expected to manage the Indians – or any other major league team? How much longer will he want to?
Last month, Ken Harrelson announced next year will be his final one in the White Sox broadcast booth.
Harrelson, who had already scaled back his broadcast schedule this year, will have the opportunity for a victory lap, but his retirement as a player, 46 years ago today in Boston as a member of the Indians, involved a news conference where he kept reporters waiting after a golf tournament – a sign of his future career aspirations.
Harrelson was a high school phenom in football, basketball, and baseball in Savannah, Georgia. His favorite sport was football, and he planned to go to the University of Georgia, but his mother suggested following the money, so Harrelson signed with the Athletics, making his major league debut four years later, in 1963.
In a baseball career that spanned nearly 40 years, there was no team Billy Martin was more closely associated with than the New York Yankees. He was a World Series hero for them in the 1950s, and he managed them to championships in the 1970s. His uniform number, 1, is retired in the Bronx, and his tombstone in Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York, reads, “I might not have been the greatest Yankee to put on the uniform, but I was the proudest.”
But in the late 1950s, exiled from the team he loved, Martin bounced around, including a stop in Cleveland in what could have been a historic year for the Indians, but one that instead laid bare the dysfunction of the team, from which it would take generations to recover.
On Tuesday, June 6, Cincinnati’s Scooter Gennett became the 17th player in Major League Baseball history to homer four times in one game as he went 5-for-5 with ten RBI in a 13-1 win by the Reds over the rival St. Louis Cardinals. In honor of his offensive gem, Did The Tribe Win looks back at the lone Indians player to accomplish the feat of four homers in one game, Rocky Colavito. – Bob T.
On June 10, 1959, Rocky Colavito was in the middle of a slump, having gotten three hits in his previous 28 at-bats.
At one point in the 1940s and 1950s, when the sport reigned supreme, it was entirely common for true stories about baseball players to become movies.
Lou Gehrig’s life became “Pride of the Yankees,” with many Yankee ballplayers, including Babe Ruth and Bill Dickey, playing themselves. Ruth himself got a biopic, with William Bendix as the title character, as did Jackie Robinson, who played himself. Jimmy Stewart was Monty Stratton in “The Stratton Story,” Ronald Reagan was Grover Cleveland Alexander in “The Winning Team,” and Anthony Perkins – before he was the keeper of the Bates Motel – was outfielder Jimmy Piersall in “Fear Strikes Out,” a story of a the outfielder’s triumph over mental illness.
Piersall, who died Saturday at the age of 87, is most closely associated with the Red Sox. Others remember him for his prank after hitting his 100th home run with the New York Mets in their early “Can’t Anyone Here Play This Game” days. But for three years, with mixed results, he was an outfielder for the Indians.
On May 30, 1934, more than 27,000 fans settled into their seats at League Park, lured by the promise of a Memorial Day doubleheader between the Indians and the White Sox. The star of the show turned out to be Hal Trosky, a player signed off the farm in Iowa in his first full year with the Indians.
The Tribe dropped a heartbreaker in the first game, losing 8-7 in 12 innings. Odell Hale hit two home runs, but the Indians were undone by three errors – one by Hale. In the second game (can you really call it a nightcap since League Park never installed lights?), Trosky hit three home runs – each over the 40-foot wall in right field, but none a cheap shot, said Plain Dealer Sports Editor Gordon Cobbledick.
“All three were socks that would have cleared the barrier in any park in the major leagues,” Cobbledick wrote. “But he saved his best shot for the last. That one, soaring high over the wall in right center, smashed through the windshield of a car parked deep in a lot on the far side of Lexington Avenue.”
In memory of the passing of “Sarge”, former Indians left-hander Bob Kuzava, on May 15, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night share the story of his Major League debut for Cleveland in 1946. – Bob T.
League Park was on borrowed time starting in 1928, when voters in Cleveland passed a bond issue for construction of an enormous lakefront stadium at the end of East Ninth Street downtown.
But it hung on for another 18 years as the home of the Indians until a group headed by Bill Veeck bought the team in June 1946. Almost immediately, it appeared that the Indians’ full-time home would be Cleveland Stadium, and on September 21, 1946, League Park hosted its last Major League Baseball game.
This year, the Indians are trying to exorcise some of their own – and not the ones you might think.