In 1908, Cleveland’s American League team – then known as the Naps in honor of player-manager Napoleon Lajoie – came agonizingly close to the American League pennant, losing to the Tigers by a half-game because of a game Detroit had no interest in making up (the rule was changed in the offseason).
The following year, the Naps stumbled out of the gate, and 109 years ago this week, the team’s manager and namesake stepped aside.
On August 17, 1909, with the Naps sitting at 57-57 for the year in fourth place, Lajoie announced his resignation, which came as a surprise to owner Charles Somers and president John Kilfoyl, who hastened to say that Lajoie would remain a player for the team.
The New York Times reported that the team was riven with factionalism and infighting, which might have contributed to poor play, but the Plain Dealer said he was “a bigger man because of his resignation.”
It’s really easy to make fun of the Mets.
Like, almost as easy as it is to make fun of the Browns.
They’re still paying Bobby Bonilla. They’ve completely lost their way this season after an 11-1 start. And they seem to have a disproportionate amount of terrible trades. Amos Otis for Joe Foy. Nolan Ryan for Jim Fregosi. And one right around this time of year 23 years ago with the Indians.
We rely on baseball, Bart Giamatti said, to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive.
Sunday was one of those moments – while also a harsh dose of reality that time marches on.
Jim Thome was among the six inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend. He was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer, probably because he’s a great guy in addition to being a prodigious power hitter. He went in as an Indian, something that hasn’t happened in 20 years (twice that long if you’re talking about a candidate elected by the writers).
Okay, stop me if you’ve heard this one: The Indians and the Padres make a deal that involves a catcher that might be destined for great things but doesn’t have a shot at breaking into the starting lineup.
That happened last week, when the Indians dealt Francisco Mejia to San Diego for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. But it also happened after the 1989 season – the Indians, seeing that Joe Carter was on the verge of leaving for free agency, dealt him to San Diego.
At first glance, the 1974 Indians season doesn’t look like one for the ages.
Oh, sure, there were historic moments, like the infamous 10-cent beer night, and Dick Bosman threw a no-hitter in front of the home crowd against the defending champion Oakland Athletics, but the team finished 77-85 for fourth place in the American League East Division.
But to Jim Clark, the voice of the Akron Rubberducks since their days as the Canton-Akron Indians, it was a watershed year – and one that he believes ultimately kept the team in Cleveland.
The 89th edition of the Midsummer Classic has arrived, with the annual exhibition set to take place at 8:00 PM on Tuesday, July 17. The Indians are well-represented for the second straight season, sending six players to the contest.
The game may not mean as much as it used to, with the advent of daily interleague play around the country, and it no longer has bearing on home field advantage for the World Series, but it still remains a great opportunity to watch some of the greats of the game take the field in competitive action.
Cleveland will be represented this year by starting third baseman Jose Ramirez, backups Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, and Francisco Lindor, and pitcher Trevor Bauer. Corey Kluber was selected to the club but will not participate due to injury.
One hundred and four years ago today, the Indians got the first view of one of the greatest players of all time – one who would bedevil them for the better part of the next two decades.
When the Indians (at that point still known as the Naps) met the Red Sox at Fenway Park on July 11, 1914, they did so before a crowd of 11,087 – the largest non-holiday crowd to see the Naps (who lost 102 games that year, giving no one a really good reason to see them). But they were there to see Boston’s newest pitcher, acquired from the minor league Baltimore Orioles, the team in his home town.
The next day’s Plain Dealer only used the pitcher’s last name: Ruth. His given name was George, but he became known worldwide as Babe, a nickname hung on him because of his naivete in his brief time with the Orioles.
By 1938, League Park had already seen an abundance of baseball history.
Cy Young opened the place – first in 1891 when it was home to the Spiders, and then the new concrete-and-steel ballpark in 1910. Addie Joss threw a perfect game at the close of the 1908 season in what might have been the greatest game ever pitched. Legends like Tris Speaker and Napoleon Lajoie patrolled the field, and the Indians won the 1920 World Series there.
And all those moments were on display July 3, 1938 – when League Park hosted an old-timers game between representatives of the 1908 and 1920 teams, at that point the two best teams in Indians history.
Last year, as the Indians’ prepared for what we hoped would be a lengthy playoff run, I said I was getting a 1996 vibe from the team.
That team followed up a World Series appearance with the best record in the major leagues and high expectations – and a quick exit from the postseason, losing in the American League Division Series.
Last year’s team followed up the best record in the American League and high expectations – and a quick exit from the postseason, losing in the American League Division Series.
I promise you, I derived no pleasure from being right.
Nothing ever really dies on the internet. That’s how I ended up talking to the guy who was the infamous Baseball Bug.
Ron Chernek emailed me last week, saying he’d stumbled upon the article I’d written last year about the Baseball Bug, Cleveland’s short-lived mascot in the 1980 and 1981 season (actually, his son stumbled upon it; Chernek by his own admission isn’t particularly active on the internet or social media). He offered to tell his story and I offered to listen.
Ninety years ago this week, League Park was invaded by the over-the-hill gang.
The Athletics came to town, and their roster included talent on the rise like Al Simmons, Jimmie Foxx and Lefty Grove – three key cogs in the teams that would win three straight pennants from 1929-31 (including World Series in the first two of those years) – but it was also home to some players who were great names but had their best days behind them.
On June 10, 1966, Sonny Siebert etched his name permanently into the record books when he no-hit the Washington Senators at Cleveland Stadium.
His gem was the eleventh no-hitter tossed by a member of the Cleveland franchise, as he joined the likes of Bob Rhoads, Addie Joss (2), Ray Caldwell, Wes Ferrell, Bob Feller (3), Don Black, and Bob Lemon. He ended what might have felt then like a never-ending drought between hitless games – the Indians were less than a month away from the 15th anniversary of Feller’s final no-hitter against the Detroit Tigers on July 1, 1951.
That nearly 15-year span is now the second longest in Indians history, as the team has not thrown a no-hitter since Len Barker’s perfect game in 1981.