I hope everyone got their fill of Indians going into the Baseball Hall of Fame this year, because it might be a while before it happens again.
Slugger Jim Thome entered Cooperstown this year, in his first year of eligibility, and one of the things that amazed me about that is how much ill will it – as well as his statue – has engendered. Sure, you can hold a grudge about the way he left, but the fact is that he’s the single-season and career home run leader for the Indians, and his 612 career home runs represent a mark that should be represented in the Hall, tainted only by the era in which he played and no failed tests or any other suspicion beyond the shadow of his contemporaries.
It’s entirely too early to start handicapping next year’s Hall of Fame ballot, but what else am I going to do? The Indians are all home for the off-season, and you don’t want to get me started on THAT topic.
Forty years ago this week, Rick Waits pitched the Indians to a win in the season finale – and ensured that their opponents that day would get one more game.
The Red Sox at one point held a 10-game lead in the American League East, with the Yankees a distant third. But Yankees owner George Steinbrenner shook up the team by firing manager Billy Martin and replacing him with former Indians pitcher Bob Lemon. The Yankees got hot and overtook the Red Sox for the division lead in September, and both teams were on a tear going into the final day of the season.
Both the Yankees and Red Sox were at home, hosting miserable teams. The last-place Blue Jays were playing at Fenway Park, and the sixth-place Indians were at Yankee Stadium in front of nearly 40,000 fans who were hoping to see the Yankees clinch the American League East.
Tribe fans had an extra reason to celebrate on Tuesday night as the Colorado Rockies pulled off a dramatic 2-1 win in 13 innings over the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field, with former Indians prospect Tony Wolters at the center of the epic game-winning hit to end a marathon National League Wild Card contest.
The run of three straight National League Championship Series appearances for the Cubs came to a crashing and shocking halt after the hometown club lost on back-to-back days of October baseball to be eliminated from the postseason on the first official day of action. The Cubs hosted the rival Brewers in a National League Central tie-breaker on Monday, but Milwaukee came away with a 3-1 upset win at Wrigley Field to earn the division title. The loss forced the Cubs into the NL Wild Card game against the Rockies, which had lost its own game #163 at Los Angeles against the Dodgers on Monday evening.
When relief pitcher Lee Stange died last Friday at the age of 81, he was most recalled for his role on the “Impossible Dream” Red Sox, who won the 1967 pennant on the last day of the season.
Stange went 8-10 with a team-leading 2.77 ERA for the Red Sox that year, and worked two innings of relief in Game 3 of the World Series – an eventual loss in seven games to the Cardinals. But anyone who contributed to a team remembered that fondly is also remembered fondly, regardless of contributions.
But prior to his time with the Red Sox, Stange was a member of the Indians, both coming and going in trades that involved fan favorites in Cleveland and Boston.
Forty-seven years ago this week, the Indians became a footnote to baseball history in Washington by being the last team the second incarnation of the Senators beat on the road.
The problem is, the game ended up being at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington.
Prior to Saturday’s game, longtime Cleveland slugger Victor Martinez announced his plan to retire at season’s end, bringing a close to a professional career that began in 1996 with the Indians organization and that has lasted 16 years at the Major League level.
Martinez’s announcement ended a month of speculation in the Motor City after the 39-year-old, relegated solely to designated hitting duties over the last two years and for the majority of the last four, had previously indicated in August that he was ‘pretty sure’ that this season would be his last. He erased those doubts prior to Saturday’s game, when the Indians honored one of the better switch-hitters in franchise history in a brief ceremony.
With his first inning two-out steal of second in his 140th game of the year on Sunday against the Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez added another accomplishment to his growing resume for MVP consideration as he turned in just the 61st 30 homer-30 stolen base season in Major League Baseball history. In doing so, he also became just the third Indians player to accomplish the feat, joining historic seasons turned in by Joe Carter in 1987 and Grady Sizemore in 2008.
Fans can easily remember the type of game-changing ability that Sizemore had, whether it was with the glove, his speed, or with one swing of the bat. Those old enough to watch Carter in his prime in the late 1980s (tough words to even have to write) saw the same power and speed potential on a nightly basis, before his contribution to Cleveland’s future success revolved not around his production, but around the price the club charged the San Diego Padres to send Carter for several prospect pieces which factored largely in the team’s run through the decade to follow.
Snack food fans shed a tear last month when the Dan Dee warehouse in Valley View closed abruptly, signaling the end of a company that could trace its roots back in Cleveland for more than a century.
Maybe a few baseball fans saw occasion to mourn as well.
Over the years, Shoeless Joe Jackson has taken on a mythical quality. Even his name suggests someone born to play ball without even the encumbrance of footwear.
He’s also been immortalized in film. The original characterization of Roy Hobbs in the book “The Natural” was based heavily on him, and some of that carried over to the movie (to wit: His named special bat). Ray Liotta played him in “Field of Dreams,” a movie based on a book called “Shoeless Joe.” And D.B. Sweeney played him in “Eight Men Out,” John Sayles’ telling of the 1919 World Series fix.
Thursday marked what would have been the 100th birthday of one of the legends of the game of baseball, Ted Williams. Did The Tribe Win Last Night shares one of his many memorable encounters with the Indians during his heyday. – BT
On July 14, 1946, Ted Williams was tearing the cover off the ball against the Indians.
In the first half of a doubleheader at Fenway Park, Williams knocked in eight runs, and the Red Sox needed every one of them in an 11-10 win over the Tribe. In the second game, Indians player-manager Lou Boudreau had an idea.
Dean Stone died last week.
Stone was a pitcher in the 1950s and 1960s, predominantly with the Washington Senators. His best year was 1954, when he went 12-10. He was 7-2 at the All-Star break, and named to his only all-star team as a substitute for the injured George Kell.
In that midsummer classic, the second of four played at Cleveland Stadium, Stone became the answer to a trivia question: He was the only pitcher to get a win in an All-Star Game without officially facing a batter.
Indians legend Jim Thome turned 48 on Monday, capping off nearly a full month of celebration for the longtime big league slugger. Just over a month earlier, he was honored in Cooperstown, New York, as part of the newest Major League Baseball Hall of Fame class, and two weekends ago, that accomplishment was recognized at Progressive Field with a jersey giveaway day in Cleveland when the team also formally retired his number 25.
In honor of the birthday of the Indians’ newest Hall of Famer and the eighth former Tribe player to have his number retired by the club, here are a few more tales from the latter years of Thome’s first decade of action in the Majors with the Tribe.