Posts By Vince Guerrieri
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.
Before there was Slider, there was the Baseball Bug.
But before there were either – or the Phillie Phanatic, or the Pirate Parrot – there was the San Diego Chicken.
Ted Giannoulas put on a chicken costume for a San Diego radio station in 1974. He took his act on the road and became most intrinsically linked with the city’s baseball team, the Padres (ironically, Giannoulas – who finally hung up the chicken suit after the 2016 season – grew up listening to Indians games from Ontario). He really became the godfather of all the mascots.
He never played for the Indians – and in fact for more than a decade he terrorized pitching in Cleveland and in all the other cities in the American League – but Jimmie Foxx’s post-baseball life involved a stint in Cleveland – and he still has a baseball field named for him in Lakewood.
Foxx dropped out of high school in Maryland to play baseball and signed as a catcher by the Philadelphia Athletics. But the Athletics already had a future Hall of Famer behind the plate in Mickey Cochrane, and Foxx was switched to first base and was a mainstay for the A’s teams that won pennants from 1929-1931, and the 1929 and 1930 World Series. (Those three seasons would mark Foxx’s only postseason appearances.)
Trouppe (born Troupe; he changed his name in 1946) was a legend in the Negro Leagues, serving as player-manager for the Cleveland Buckeyes team that won the Negro World Series. He’d also played in Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico – basically anywhere that would have him with warm weather in the offseason.
They’re the two most tantalizing words in the English language, allowing flights of fancy that are leap-years away from reality but for a small turn of events could have happened.
Sports Illustrated took that direction with a recent series of articles presenting alternate scenarios throughout sports history – including a few with a Cleveland connection. One wonders about Ray Chapman not being fatally beaned in 1920, another ponders LeBron playing soccer instead of basketball, and another presents an alternate history of the 2004 NFL Draft, with the Browns possibly taking Larry Fitzgerald (he’s still on the board because the Cardinals drafted Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger went to the Giants).
But the big one develops an alternate timeline with George Steinbrenner becoming a titan in Cleveland sports.
Editor’s note: Monday’s “Pitch Talks” event has been cancelled, according to the group’s Facebook page. No reason was given for the change nor was any announcement made about a rescheduled date in the future.
A speaker series that brings top baseball media to bars and clubs across North America is coming to the Grog Shop in Cleveland on Monday, April 24.
About a decade ago, Indians broadcaster Matt Underwood read a story in the Toledo Blade about the benefit game staged at League Park in 1911 for the family of pitcher Addie Joss, struck down before the season’s start with a case of bacterial meningitis.
The story stuck with him. “It’s really great story, and it hasn’t really been told,” he said.