Posts By Vince Guerrieri
Tom Seaver and the Mets seem to go hand-in-hand.
Seaver’s the only player in the Baseball Hall of Fame (where he received the highest percentage of votes, 98.84, on his first ballot) wearing a Mets cap. He was the anchor of the starting rotations of the 1969 World Champion Miracle Mets, and the 1973 team that went from last place in the middle of the season to the seventh game of the World Series, succumbing to the Oakland Athletics.
But Seaver almost debuted with the Indians.
It’s a tradition for anyone who watches the All-Star Game: Getting to see the clip of Pete Rose wheeling around third and barreling toward home in the bottom of the 12th inning of the 1970 All-Star Game. And then …
OK, stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
The Indians host an All-Star Game in the same season they end up going to the World Series. A hometown player tears the cover off the ball in the Midsummer Classic.
The Indians were on their way to a record 111 wins that season, and had five players selected for the All-Star Game, which would be held in Cleveland for the second time. The first was in 1934. Bobby Avila and Al Rosen were in the starting lineup, and Larry Doby was in reserves on the bench. Bob Lemon and Mike Garcia were selected as pitchers, but Garcia ended up getting replaced by Sandy Consuegra of the White Sox.
Whitey Ford started for the American League and Robin Roberts started for the National League. Ford pitched three shutout innings, and Roberts put up goose eggs in the first two frames, giving no indication of the slugfest that would develop.
Sixty-five years ago, Larry Doby made his debut with the Cleveland Indians, becoming the first black baseball player in the American League – and just the second overall, after Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball earlier that year.
Tomorrow, the Indians will pay tribute to Doby with a street renaming and appearances by those who knew him best.
Eagle Avenue between East Ninth and Ontario – by Progressive Field – will be renamed as Larry Doby Way after Friday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Prior to joining the Indians, Doby played for the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues.
He started out as a sports writer. He is best known as an umpire. And by the time Billy Evans died, he had become a minor league president – and served as general managers for Cleveland’s Major League Baseball and National Football League teams.
Billy Evans was born in Chicago in 1884, but his family moved to Youngstown as his father got a job for one of the steel mills that began to pop up along the Mahoning River. Evans graduated from the Rayen School, until 1910 the only high school in Youngstown, and went away to Cornell University.
Evans had played semi-pro baseball, and was on the college team. He had also worked on his high school and college newspaper staffs. He was called home to Youngstown after the death of his father, and latched on as the first “sporting editor” for the Youngstown Vindicator at $15 a week.
By Vince Guerrieri
Chapman, the Indians shortstop, stood in the batter’s box against Mays in a game at the Polo Grounds on August 16, 1920. The official box score reads that Chapman got hit by a pitch, but that only tells part of the story.
Molly Lawless tells the rest. Lawless, a Boston native (she’s a Red Sox fan, but she was before it was cool, so it’s OK), has written and illustrated a graphic novel about the encounter and its aftermath called “Hit By Pitch,” available through McFarland Publications (www.mcfarlandpub.com, 1-800-253-2187).
It’s Lawless’ first graphic novel. She read the story of Mays’ fatal beaning of Chapman when she was about 8 years old, and found herself drawn to it.
“I couldn’t imagine it happening now,” she said. “The idea of one of them getting hurt and dying almost before your eyes is unthinkable. It kind of haunted me.”
Today is the 38th anniversary of the infamous 10-cent beer night at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Here’s an excerpt from “Ohio Sports Trivia,” by J. Alexander Poulton and Did the Tribe Win Last Night staff writer Vince Guerrieri.
Under the ownership of Bill Veeck in the 1940s, the Indians were known for some excellent promotions.
Veeck largely invented the concept of people coming out to the ballpark for events other than baseball, be they a mock funeral for the pennant, like he did in Cleveland in 1949, sending a midget up to bat, like he did when he owned the St. Louis Browns (and he feared this event would be on his tombstone) or a scoreboard that shot off fireworks, like he had at Comiskey Park when he owned the White Sox.
By Vince Guerrieri
The city of Cleveland has been fairly racially progressive in its history.
Larry Doby was the first black player in the American League, for the Indians. In 1975, the Indians also hired the first black manager, Frank Robinson. John McLendon, as coach of the Cleveland Pipers, became the first black professional basketball coach in America. In fact, Cleveland was the first major city in the United States to elect a black mayor, Carl Stokes.
And 66 years ago today – almost a full year before Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color line, a ball player for the Cleveland Buckeyes did the same. Eddie Klep became the first white baseball player in the Negro Leagues when he pitched seven innings for the Buckeyes in a game at Grand Rapids.
By Vince Guerrieri
In 1994, I was at Wahoo Winterfest, the annual preseason activity to gin up excitement for the Indians. Not that they needed to that year. The new home for the Tribe was under construction as part of the Gateway Project.
We went up to the top of what was then called the Society Tower for a presentation on the new ballpark, and a question-and-answer with Bob DiBiasio. Someone asked if the Indians would go back to Municipal Stadium if crowds were big enough.
He said no, and then said something that I’ve never forgotten just to tell us how everyone would be able to see the new ballpark.
“For the Indians to sell out every game for an entire season, they’d have to sell about 3.4 million tickets,” he said. “Not only have the Indians never done that, no team in major league history has ever done that.”
By Vince Guerrieri
One man’s done both in his career – Rocco Domenico Colavito, a Tribe fan favorite who turned into the symbol of the Tribe’s decline.
The Rock grew up playing stickball in New York City, but was drafted by Hank Greenberg for the Indians in 1950. He made a brief appearance with the Tribe in 1955, but broke in for good with the Indians in 1956, earning one vote for rookie of the year. In 1958, he socked 41 home runs, had a .303 batting average and batted in 113 runs to finish third in MVP voting. The following year, he hit 42 home runs and was named to his first All-Star team. Four of those home runs came against the Orioles on June 10, 1959, at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.
By Vince Guerrieri
The Colonial Marketplace is a relic on Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland. The office/retail/hotel space hearkens back to the days when indoor arcades were the height of a shopping experience.
And on the Euclid Arcade side of Marketplace – across from the food court that connects the Euclid Arcade with the Colonial Arcade – is what might be one of the best-kept secrets in downtown Cleveland: The Baseball Heritage Museum.
The museum’s roots date back to 1997, when Robert Zimmer started putting some of his baseball memorabilia on display at his father’s jewelry store on East Fourth Street. Zimmer, now a realtor, was at one point an antiques dealer – and describes himself as a collector.
He was the original Hammerin’ Hank. In the less enlightened time when he played, he was also known as the Hebrew Hammer.
But after a lengthy and successful career – almost exclusively with the Detroit Tigers – Hank Greenberg came to Cleveland and left his mark on the Indians.
After the 1947 season – the only one he played with the Pittsburgh Pirates – Greenberg’s playing career ended. He retired with a career .313 batting average and 331 home runs – a number which could have vastly increased had Greenberg not lost the bulk of four seasons to service in the Army Air Forces in World War II.