Posts By Vince Guerrieri
The Indians in 1985 were a team in turmoil.
The on-field product was mediocre, and ownership was going through a strained period. In addition to being gouged for rent from the Cleveland Stadium Corporation run by Art Modell, the ship was rudderless, owned officially by the estate of Steve O’Neill, who had died two years earlier. In his tenure as owner, O’Neill had staved off multiple offers for the team (New York City real estate tycoon Donald Trump had even made a bid for the team) for fear of it leaving town.
New team president Peter Bavasi – son of the legendary executive Buzzie Bavasi – was shaking up management of the team. Among his hires was a baseball lifer named Joe Klein.
The home address for the Red Sox might change soon.
In a statement in the thick of the debate over honoring Confederates, Red Sox owner John Henry said he and the team would try to rename the street outside Fenway Park – currently Yawkey Way in honor of Tom Yawkey, who owned the team from 1933 to 1976.
In that time, the Red Sox won three pennants and no World Series. The best teams, of the late 1940s, made one World Series appearance in 1946, lost a single-game playoff to the Indians in 1948, and lost the pennant on the last day of the season to the Yankees in 1949 and 1950.
Just how fast was Bob Feller’s fastball?
Really, it’s a question that’s been asked of any pitcher before, say, Nolan Ryan’s time. Radar guns didn’t start to be used to measure auto speeds until the late 1940s, and it wasn’t until the 1970s that that baseball coaches and managers started using them to clock pitches (largely because as is the case with any new technology, the cost was prohibitively expensive for private use initially).
So before then, people had to get creative to measure the speed of pitches. Walter Johnson threw a fastball that was timed around 97 mph against a speeding motorcycle in 1914. In 1940, Feller took a similar test, which measured around 104 mph.
Before there were the Indians, there were the Cleveland Spiders.
The Spiders started out as Cleveland’s entry into the minor league American Association in 1887, then joined the National League two years later. In their decade in that league, the Spiders went from highs, winning the Temple Cup for the playoff between the first- and second-place teams in 1895, to lows, an unsurpassed record of 20-134 in their final year of existence in 1899.
When the Indians met the White Sox on July 31, 1935, there wasn’t a lot at stake. The Tigers were cruising in the American League lead, the Pale Hose weren’t that close, and the Indians were scuffling (manager Walter Johnson was for all intents and purposes a lame duck).
But that day, they got a power surge from an unlikely source. Not that it helped.
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.