Posts By Vince Guerrieri
This week in 1986, Bill Veeck made the front page one last time in Cleveland.
Veeck hadn’t owned the Indians in more than 35 years at that point. In fact, he hadn’t owned a baseball team in six years. But his death of cardiac arrest at the age of 71 gave baseball fans in three cities one last opportunity to claim him as one of their own.
All in all, the past week has been a really good time to be a Cleveland sports fan.
The Browns spared us the potential ignominy of a winless season by beating San Diego on Saturday. The Cavs followed that up by a thrilling comeback win on Christmas. While the Indians aren’t on the field currently, they made a move that’s nothing shy of seismic, signing Edwin Encarnacion to a three-year, $60 million deal with a potential club option.
Mind you, the standard caveats apply: the team hasn’t officially announced the deal, which is dependent on him passing a physical (unlike near-Indian Jonathan Lucroy, Encarnacion was a free agent, so there’s no no-trade clause to fret about).
On Monday, the Electoral College certified the results of the presidential election, and barring something weird happening (OK, something weirder than we’re all used to right now), Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States.
In the early 1980s, Trump made overtures to buy several Major League Baseball teams, and at one point was in talks to buy the Indians. The deal fell through, in part because Trump wouldn’t commit to a long-term lease at Cleveland Stadium, leading to fears that he’d move the team. Trump also possessed a short attention span, and cast his eyes toward professional football, buying the New Jersey Generals of the USFL and mounting what turned out to be a quixotic challenge against the NFL.
As a child, Leslie Townes Hope tried to see as many Indians games as he could at League Park – when he wasn’t hustling pool at the Alhambra on East 105th.
For a significant portion of his adult life, Hope – known to millions as Bob – owned a piece of the team.
Bob Hope was known as many things, first and foremost a comedian, but also a philanthropist and an ardent supporter of the troops (as evidenced by his multiple USO tours). He was probably most know – at least, to himself – as a sportsman.
One of the first pieces I wrote for this website was about the Pirates turning the corner after 18 years of futility and doing it in a way that’s very familiar to Indians fans, with a general manager, Neal Huntington, …
Fifty-four years ago today, an experiment came to an end in Major League Baseball.
Starting in 1959, Major League Baseball had played two All-Star Games annually, to fund the players’ pension plan. It had started in 1947, but the league had fallen behind on some payments and concocted the two games to fund the pension plan. (It was also a sop to players who were complaining that an extended season – in negotiations at the same time and ultimately starting in 1961 – did not result in increased pay.)
Bill Veeck left Cleveland 67 years ago this week.
A year after the Indians reached the pinnacle of baseball with their World Series triumph over the Boston Braves, Veeck had to sell the team to pay for his divorce and establish trust funds for his children.
The $2.2 million sale was finalized November 21, 1949, to a group headed by 45-year-old Ellis Ryan, scion of a prominent Cleveland family. He was described as a polar opposite of Veeck, and although his time at the helm of the Tribe was short, he maintained a deep involvement in Cleveland pro sports throughout his lifetime.
While I was out – and while Terry Francona was working his magic – at some point in October, I was asked by someone who is neither a Cleveland native nor an Indians fan, “How did Francona end up in Cleveland?”
It’s a fair question. When Francona was hired in 2012, he was held in high esteem after two World Series wins with the Red Sox, but the Indians weren’t a plum job, far removed from their 2007 season when they were one win away from a trip to the World Series.
Manny Acta had been fired with six games left in an abysmal 2012 season (when he returned to Cleveland this year as a coach with the Mariners, he said, “Hey, if you’re going to get Tito, I’ll fire myself too). The only good part of the 2012 season was that the Indians hadn’t lost 100 games (just 94). They’d put together losing streaks of nine and eleven games, and their 5-24 record in August that year tied for the worst in team history.
Editor’s note: this story originally posted March 9, 2016.
Donald Trump and New York City go hand in hand.
From his roots in Queens to his real estate deals in Manhattan to his pronounced accent (“yuge!”), Trump is inextricably linked to the Big Apple.
But in 1983, before his bid for president, before his television show, before his marriages and divorces had become tabloid fodder, even before “The Art of the Deal,” his bestseller that made him nationally famous, Trump looked to Cleveland to expand into professional sports — like George Steinbrenner in reverse.
In what might be the funniest thing Tony Grossi’s ever written, he said, “Trump’s sudden and inexplicable interest in purchasing the Cleveland Indians evokes the image of a man who awakes in a cold sweat with the frightening realization that a billion Chinese never heard of him.”
I felt the ghosts of 1997 come out Wednesday.
The Indians now have the dubious distinction of playing in the two most recent World Series Game 7s to go into extra innings – and losing them both. The Indians succumbed last week in the 10th, giving the Cubs their first World Series win since the Theodore Roosevelt administration. In 1997, they lost in the 11th to the Marlins, who were all of four years old – and the first wild card team to win a World Series.
The 1997 World Series remains a blur to me. It was a weird time in my life (which has always been fairly weird, so that should tell you something). I actually had a date the night of the first game. Such scheduling might seem like apostasy now, but it had only been two years since the Indians previously appeared in the World Series. My dating dry spell had been a little longer – and a little more fruitless.
The 1945 World Series was, until this year, the last appearance in the Fall Classic for the Chicago Cubs.
It also pitted managers against each other that represented the Indians’ past – and possibly its future.
The Tigers manager was Steve O’Neill, who was originally signed by the Athletics but played the bulk of his career for the Indians. He was a part of the 1920 championship team, and ended his career with stints in Boston, the Bronx, and St. Louis.
It’s become an annual tradition that I write a note to my daughter on her birthday. This year, I told her about the adventures of being a Cleveland sports fan. Here’s the text of it:
The Browns won the weekend you were born, making it an even more momentous occasion. A Browns victory doesn’t happen often.
Last night, your mother reminisced that five years ago at that very moment, they were trying to induce labor on her. I thought about it for a minute, and realized that I was doing the same thing then that I was doing five years ago at that very moment: watching baseball while your mother drifted in and out of consciousness.