Posts By Vince Guerrieri
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.
***editor’s note: this story was originally published on 9/23/15.
The 1908 season – like so many since – ended in disappointment for Cleveland baseball fans.
But it was a wild ride for the last two weeks of the season.
Going into the series with the Boston Red Sox on September 17, the Naps were in second place in the American League, tied with the Detroit Tigers in the win column with 78, but with four more losses, putting them two back with 16 to play.
The Naps – still named for player-manager Napolean Lajoie – took the first game, a 1-0 shutout, but gained no ground. The following day, pitcher Bob Rhoads was in less than top form, loading the bases on a couple occasions and letting in an unearned run in the second inning. He walked Doc Gessler, who advanced to second on a sacrifice by Jack Thoney. Heinie Wagner’s grounder was fumbled by Lajoie, putting Gessler on third, and a wild pitch scored him for the Red Sox to take the lead.
***editor’s note: This story was originally posted 11/4/2015.
Since 2003, Major League Baseball has used the All-Star Game to determine home field advantage for the World Series.
It’s a dumb idea, implemented as a knee-jerk reaction to the 2002 All-Star Game, which ended as a tie as both managers, who treated the game as a glorified exhibition, blew through their rosters as the game went into extra innings.
But it’s really not much dumber than the way home field advantage was determined before that: It simply alternated between leagues, with no consideration for which team assembled the better regular season record.
One of my unofficial duties with this website is as its book reviewer.
I’ve read plenty of books about baseball history and talked to a lot of authors. The most recent was “No Money, No Beer, No Pennants,” a book by Scott Longert about the Indians during the Depression.
Also on my list of books to read is James Sulecki’s book, “The Cleveland Rams: The NFL Champs Who Left Too Soon.” It’s about the football team that called Cleveland home and in fact won the NFL championship in 1945 before decamping for the West Coast (the people of Cleveland weren’t too disappointed by their depature; a new team in a new league was coming into existence with a deeper connection to the city: the Browns).
Obviously, the books cover similar time periods, so there is a certain amount of overlap, but there’s one person who figures into the history of both the Rams and the Indians – and Cleveland sports in general: Billy Evans.
Last Thursday, for the first time this century, I went to an Indians postseason game.
Admittedly, there haven’t been as many in the past 15 years as there had been in the late 1990s, when October baseball was a matter of course, filling the days during the time the Browns were on hiatus (or, as I like to call it, the three years they were undefeated).
And it certainly didn’t feel like October. Shortly before midnight, the scoreboard thermometer read 70 degrees. But it did feel like October. I went with Chuck (my father, to the uninitiated).
The 1920s and 1930s are not remembered as halcyon days in Cleveland baseball history.
Six years after the Indians won the World Series in 1920, owner Jim Dunn was dead, ownership was in disarray and player-manager Tris Speaker had left the team under a cloud of suspicion after allegations of gambling on fixed games.
But that’s the era encapsulated in “No Money, No Beer, No Pennants,” the newest book from Cleveland sports historian Scott Longert.
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.
It was a Saturday, the penultimate one in the baseball season and the last one for baseball in Cleveland that year. The game marked the Major League debut of Bob Kuzava, who had been signed five years earlier as an amateur free agent – but World War II had intervened, and Kuzava served, rising to the rank of sergeant and giving him a nickname for life.
League Park served as home for an NFL Champion, a Temple Cup Champion and a Negro World Series Champion, but only once did the Indians win a World Series during their time at the ballpark at East 66th and Lexington – the 1920 Fall Classic, which was clinched in seven games at League Park.
But shortly before it met its end as a major league venue, it served as the spot for the Boston Red Sox to clinch their only pennant in a nearly 50-year span, 70 years ago. And the Red Sox did so in a strange way.
The “Kid from Cleveland” is making his return this weekend.
Russ Tamblyn, whose lengthy film and television career included playing the title role in that 1949 movie (credited as Rusty Tamblyn), will be in town this weekend for a showing of that movie and some of his more well-known films, “Human Highway” and “Tom Thumb.”
Tickets for those screenings are available through the Cleveland Cinematheque website.
While thumbing through “Total Baseball,” a history of the sport compiled by John Thorn, Bob Ross came across a brief entry on the Players League, a league that sprung into existence for one season in 1890 and then quickly disappeared.
It was right in the wheelhouse for Ross, a graduate student in geography, typically historical labor geography.
“It was an interesting story that I’d never heard before,” Ross said. “It was interesting as a quirk in baseball and as part of labor history.”
So Tim Tebow’s decided to give baseball a shot.
Tebow, who won a national title at the University of Florida but has had a limited career in the NFL, wouldn’t be the first Heisman Trophy winner to go pro in a sport other than (or addition to) football. Elyria’s own Vic Janowicz played briefly for the Pirates, Charlie Ward played in the NBA, and Bo Jackson memorably tried to play in the NFL and Major League Baseball at the same time.
The Indians’ Twitter account joked about Tebow being signed by the Indians (they made a similar statement when Kobe Bryant announced his retirement from the NBA), but the Tribe was one of 20 teams that scouted Tebow at a private workout Tuesday. I have to believe it’s unlikely that the Indians will take a flyer on him, but it’s worth noting that a Tribe Hall of Famer had a brief pro career in a sport other than baseball.
He’s been dead for nearly 80 years, but Braggo Roth’s been a popular figure for the past couple weeks to Indians fans – and not just because he’s a right-handed power hitter.
He was part of a pair of memorable moments in the team’s history that were recalled by equally memorable moments in the past couple weeks.