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.
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.
Jim Piersall, a character on and off of the baseball field known for his erratic behavior and public battle with bipolar disorder, passed away on Saturday, June 3. He was 87 years old.
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.”
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.