Bob Kuzava, a member of the Cleveland Indians starting rotation in September of 1946 and 1947, passed away on May 15 in Wyandotte, Michigan. He was less than two weeks short of his 94th birthday.
Kuzava joined the Indians organization prior to the 1941 season and put up impressive numbers on the farm in 1942 at the age of 19, but it was off to the war effort for the southpaw, derailing what looked to be a promising start to his professional career. Three years were spent serving with the U.S. Army during World War II and in his early 20’s, he reached the rank of Sergeant. The nickname “Sarge” would follow him throughout his days.
Prior to Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Royals, the Cleveland Indians will recognize longtime player and manager Frank Robinson with a statue during a ceremony at Heritage Park at Progressive Field.
Robinson will become the fourth former member of the organization to be honored in such a way by the club, joining Bob Feller, Larry Doby, and Jim Thome. Another former Indians player-manager, Lou Boudreau, will also be added to the collection of bronzed guardians at the ball park later this season.
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.)
Sam Mele, former big league outfielder, first baseman, scout, and manager who spent nearly a half century involved in professional baseball, passed away at his home in Quincy, Massachusetts, on Monday, May 1. He was 95 years old.
Born on January 21, 1922, in Astoria, New York, Mele attended New York University prior to his playing days. Those days were delayed as, like so many others to come of age during wartime, he joined the efforts during World War II as a member of the Marine Corps and served from July of 1943 into 1946. But before leaving, he signed an agreement with the Boston Red Sox, spurning smaller offers from the Washington Senators and Chicago Cubs.
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.
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.
If Congressional representatives in Ohio, South Carolina, and New Jersey – among other states – get their way, Larry Doby could soon be in some select company.
Ohio’s senators – Democrat Sherrod Brown, an avowed Indians fan, and Republican Rob Portman – have introduced legislation to make Doby the latest recipient of a Congressional Gold Medal, and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) has proposed the same bill in the House.
A little over ten years ago now, the Cleveland Indians had one of the more unusual starts to a home slate of games in the history of baseball.
The date was Friday, April 6, 2007, and the Indians were set to open Jacobs Field for play for the first time that season with a 4:05 PM start against the Seattle Mariners. Hopes were high in Cleveland that the Tribe would rebound from a disappointing 78-84 record in 2006, just one season after going 93-69 and falling games short of the playoffs courtesy of a late September collapse.
With one game under his belt, San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner is nearly a quarter of the way to a record.
Bumgarner hit two home runs Sunday in a loss to the Diamondbacks (he took a perfect game into the sixth inning, but even with new personnel, the Giants’ bullpen continues to blow leads, dropping not one, but two save opportunities), each a solo shot and a towering blast. It was the first time that a pitcher had hit two home runs on Opening Day.
The record for home runs in a season by a pitcher is nine, set in 1931 by Indians hurler Wes Ferrell. Both Wes and his brother Rick found their way into the big leagues. Rick went on to a Hall of Fame career as a catcher. Wes’ career was good but not hall-worthy, at least, not yet; he was on the cringe-inducingly named pre-integration era ballot in 2016.