When the Tigers and Indians met at Briggs Stadium in Detroit for the 1937 season finale on October 3, the American League standings were pretty much locked in.
The Tigers were a distant second – 13 games behind the pennant (and ultimately World Series) winning Yankees, and the Indians were five games behind the Tigers. Detroit’s Charlie Gehringer had sewn up the batting title with a .373 average, 21 points higher than the second-place finisher, Lou Gehrig.
But there were still a couple records at stake. The Tigers’ slugging first baseman Hank Greenberg – with the benefit of batting cleanup behind Gehringer in the Tigers’ lineup – had 182 RBI, two away from the American League record set by Gehrig six years earlier (the major league record of 191, set by the Cubs’ Hack Wilson, was likely out of reach). And Indians starter Johnny Allen was looking to tie a record as well. Allen had won his previous 15 starts, and a win that day would tie him for the American League mark with Lefty Grove, who had won 16 in a row in 1931, when he won 31 games, a career best.
“Stick to sports!”
It’s a common refrain for any athletes – or even sports journalists – who have the temerity to express any political thought. And my God, has that phrase gotten a workout in the past week or so.
On a cloudy but pleasant night on the lakefront 41 years ago this week at Municipal Stadium, a Hall of Fame career ended in front of fewer than 8,000 fans.
The nightcap of a doubleheader with the Baltimore Orioles marked the last appearance as a player by Frank Robinson, who had been hired as the Indians’ manager to replace Ken Aspromonte, who was fired after the 1974 season.
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.