By any observable metric, Jose Ramirez is on a tear.
After stepping in last year to fill roles in the infield and outfield, Ramirez has blossomed into a legitimate MVP candidate, with 5.3 wins above replacement and a .308 batting average. He’s leading the league in doubles with 47. With the right combination of speed and power, and the way the Indians are playing right now, 60 doubles wouldn’t be out of the question.
It would be a mark unseen in nearly 80 years – and nowhere near the best ever by an Indians player.
This summer, Indians fans were treated (if you want to call it that) to “The Dynasty That Almost Was,” an MLB Network documentary about those teams of the 1990s that did everything but win a World Series.
There’s enough material for another one in about 10 years – and the Tribe got a front-row seat to that dismantling last weekend.
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.
Even after watching it live, and watching it again, and again and again and again, it was hard to describe what Indians fans witnessed a year ago Saturday because it was something I had never seen in my lifetime.
With a swing and a drive, a mistimed jump, a wild sprint around the bases, a head first dive into the plate, and a rock star fist pump to the skies, Tyler Naquin cemented a place in Cleveland Indians history with an improbable walk-off inside-the-park homer against the Toronto Blue Jays to give the Tribe a 3-2 victory.
A year later, the Indians will send Trevor Bauer to the mound to start against the Kansas City Royals, just as he had on that surreal night against Toronto, but Naquin will not be with the team to remember the event. He instead will be in Columbus, more than two hours away from Progressive Field, where the magic and miracle occurred. A third place finish in the American League’s Rookie of the Year race at season’s end was not enough for him to maintain a spot with the Major League club this season, as he lasted less than two weeks with the Indians at the outset of the season. He has since been surpassed by top prospect Bradley Zimmer for the job in center field for the immediate future.
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.
The Cleveland Indians will honor another one of their legends of the past on Saturday, when the club unveils a statue of Lou Boudreau, its fifth at Progressive Field and its second to debut this season.
The statue of Boudreau will take up residence alongside two of his former teammates, Bob Feller and Larry Doby, outside of the Gate C entrance to the ballpark. The statues of Jim Thome and this year’s other addition, Frank Robinson, are on display inside the park.
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.