Posts By Vince Guerrieri
So this is how it ends, like T.S. Eliot, not with a bang, but with a whimper.
When the Cubs beat the Indians in the wee small hours in November 2016, it felt – at least to me – like a moral victory. Yeah, the Indians lost a 3-1 lead in the World Series, but they were playing with house money just by GETTING to the World Series, with a two-and-a-half man rotation.
The next year hurt. The Indians won 102 games – second-most in team history – and again jumped out to a series lead, this time in the American League Division Series against the Yankees. I was one of the crowd in an epic Game 2 that ended after 13 innings with an Indians win, and I told a friend afterword, “This is the type of loss that doesn’t defeat a team. It demoralizes them.”
Forty years ago this week, Rick Waits pitched the Indians to a win in the season finale – and ensured that their opponents that day would get one more game.
The Red Sox at one point held a 10-game lead in the American League East, with the Yankees a distant third. But Yankees owner George Steinbrenner shook up the team by firing manager Billy Martin and replacing him with former Indians pitcher Bob Lemon. The Yankees got hot and overtook the Red Sox for the division lead in September, and both teams were on a tear going into the final day of the season.
Both the Yankees and Red Sox were at home, hosting miserable teams. The last-place Blue Jays were playing at Fenway Park, and the sixth-place Indians were at Yankee Stadium in front of nearly 40,000 fans who were hoping to see the Yankees clinch the American League East.
When relief pitcher Lee Stange died last Friday at the age of 81, he was most recalled for his role on the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox, who won the 1967 pennant on the last day of the season.
Stange went 8-10 with a team-leading 2.77 ERA for the Red Sox that year, and worked two innings of relief in Game 3 of the World Series – an eventual loss in seven games to the Cardinals. But anyone who contributed to a team remembered that fondly is also remembered fondly, regardless of contributions.
But prior to his time with the Red Sox, Stange was a member of the Indians, both coming and going in trades that involved fan favorites in Cleveland and Boston.
Forty-seven years ago this week, the Indians became a footnote to baseball history in Washington by being the last team the second incarnation of the Senators beat on the road.
The problem is, the game ended up being at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington.
Snack food fans shed a tear last month when the Dan Dee warehouse in Valley View closed abruptly, signaling the end of a company that could trace its roots back in Cleveland for more than a century.
Maybe a few baseball fans saw occasion to mourn as well.
Over the years, Shoeless Joe Jackson has taken on a mythical quality. Even his name suggests someone born to play ball without even the encumbrance of footwear.
He’s also been immortalized in film. The original characterization of Roy Hobbs in the book “The Natural” was based heavily on him, and some of that carried over to the movie (to wit: His named special bat). Ray Liotta played him in “Field of Dreams,” a movie based on a book called “Shoeless Joe.” And D.B. Sweeney played him in “Eight Men Out,” John Sayles’ telling of the 1919 World Series fix.
Thursday marked what would have been the 100th birthday of one of the legends of the game of baseball, Ted Williams. Did The Tribe Win Last Night shares one of his many memorable encounters with the Indians during his heyday. – BT
On July 14, 1946, Ted Williams was tearing the cover off the ball against the Indians.
In the first half of a doubleheader at Fenway Park, Williams knocked in eight runs, and the Red Sox needed every one of them in an 11-10 win over the Tribe. In the second game, Indians player-manager Lou Boudreau had an idea.
Dean Stone died last week.
Stone was a pitcher in the 1950s and 1960s, predominantly with the Washington Senators. His best year was 1954, when he went 12-10. He was 7-2 at the All-Star break, and named to his only all-star team as a substitute for the injured George Kell.
In that midsummer classic, the second of four played at Cleveland Stadium, Stone became the answer to a trivia question: He was the only pitcher to get a win in an All-Star Game without officially facing a batter.
Before the 1987 season, the Indians were the trendy pick to win the American League East – to the point where Sports Illustrated put Cory Snyder and Joe Carter on the cover for the now infamous “Indian Uprising” issue.
The predictions couldn’t have been more wrong, and as Alvin Dark (himself a one-time Tribe skipper) once said, “When in doubt, fire the manager.” Out the door went Pat Corrales and bullpen coach Doc Edwards became manager.
In 1908, Cleveland’s American League team – then known as the Naps in honor of player-manager Napoleon Lajoie – came agonizingly close to the American League pennant, losing to the Tigers by a half-game because of a game Detroit had no interest in making up (the rule was changed in the offseason).
The following year, the Naps stumbled out of the gate, and 109 years ago this week, the team’s manager and namesake stepped aside.
On August 17, 1909, with the Naps sitting at 57-57 for the year in fourth place, Lajoie announced his resignation, which came as a surprise to owner Charles Somers and president John Kilfoyl, who hastened to say that Lajoie would remain a player for the team.
The New York Times reported that the team was riven with factionalism and infighting, which might have contributed to poor play, but the Plain Dealer said he was “a bigger man because of his resignation.”
It’s really easy to make fun of the Mets.
Like, almost as easy as it is to make fun of the Browns.
They’re still paying Bobby Bonilla. They’ve completely lost their way this season after an 11-1 start. And they seem to have a disproportionate amount of terrible trades. Amos Otis for Joe Foy. Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi. And one right around this time of year 23 years ago with the Indians.
We rely on baseball, Bart Giamatti said, to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive.
Sunday was one of those moments – while also a harsh dose of reality that time marches on.
Jim Thome was among the six inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend. He was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, probably because he’s a great guy in addition to being a prodigious power hitter. He went in as an Indian, something that hasn’t happened in 20 years (twice that long if you’re talking about a candidate elected by the writers).