The edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer published April 17, 1940 contained 28 pages and cost 3 cents. Headlines were strewn across the page like someone spilled a basket of words and pasted them wherever they landed.
One of the headlines read “NAZI PLANES ROAR NORTH IN STREAM,” in all capital letters. Buried further down on the front page, another headline said “Cuyahoga Poll Backs Kennedy For Governor.” But pasted at the top, in bold capital letters that spanned all eight columns, one headline screamed “FELLER HURLS NO-HITTER TO WIN, 1 TO 0.”
The day before was April 16, 1940, just another opening day for the Chicago White Sox. The 32,000 seats in Comiskey Park were filled with only 14,000 fans on what Cleveland Plain Dealer writer Gordon Cobbledick described as a “chilly afternoon.”
By Evan Matsumoto
It may have been his shining moment as a baseball player:
Kenny Lofton stepped into the batter’s box during Game 6 of the 1995 installment of the American League Championship Series only to see Seattle Mariners’ ace Randy Johnson returning his gaze. The mid-October air was chilled but alive—the Indians could clinch the series with a win or would be forced into Game 7 with a loss.
Clinging to a 1-0 lead in the eighth inning, Lofton dug in to face Johnson just moments after Johnson gave up a leadoff double to Tony Pena. With a man in scoring position, Lofton laid down a bunt that trickled up the third baseline. Lofton beat the throw to first. Two pitches, a stolen base and a 180-foot dash later, the Tribe was up 4-0.
The rest, as they say, is history. The Indians lost the 1995 World Series to the Atlanta Braves in six games. In 1996, despite claiming the best record in baseball, the Tribe was knocked out of the playoffs in the Division Series.
Larry Doby was no gimmick, he was the real deal. The seven times All-Star faced a long and hard road as the first black player in the American League. He is often overshadowed by Jackie Robinson, but Doby was only three months behind Robinson in his integration of Major League Baseball. Doby was the first to integrate the American League. He is among the Indians all-time leaders in home runs and RBI, and with his five-tool talents excelled to a Hall of Fame career.
Right Field: Larry Doby
By Craig Gifford
A central theme of the past few They Started Here features have revolved around players from the 1970s and 80s the Indians traded away in ill-conceived deals. This week’s final player to start his career in Cleveland is no different.
First baseman Chris Chambliss appeared set to be an Indian for many years. The Tribe made him the first overall pick of the 1970 amateur draft. Unlike some top selections who take several years to develop, Chambliss wasted little time in proving lofty expectations to be realistic.
He crushed the competition with Double-A Wichita through the 1970 season and spent 13 more games there in 1971 before the Indians called up their top prospect. He was an instant success in the majors. Nine home runs, 48 RBI and .275 batting average in his first big league season, earned Chambliss American League Rookie of the Year honors.
By Ronnie Tellalian
Earl Averill served as Cleveland’s center fielder from 1929-1938. He is the Indians all-time leader in several offensive categories. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1975 and his jersey number 3 was retired by the Cleveland Indians. Nicknamed the Earl of Snohomish after his home town of Snohomish, Washington, Averill hit his way into Indians lore. He is one of the Indians All-Time greats.
Left Fielder: Earl Averill
By Christian Petrila
Throughout the Flash in a Pan series this winter, I tried my best to stick with retired players whose Indians career we all knew was over. However, for the series finale, I chose to focus on a player who’s still active, but left a lasting impression on yours truly in his brief time with the Indians.
It’s Chris Gimenez’s time to shine.
Gimenez was a 19th round pick in 2004 for the Indians. The first interaction I had with Gimenez was actually when he was in Lake County during the 2005 season. I was just 12-years-old, so I really had no idea who any of these guys I was watching were. Despite that, I still got to the game early and was more than excited to get one of my favorite Indians hats signed. The very first guy out of the clubhouse for autographs was none other than Mr. Gimenez. My mom told me to turn around, as she had the camera primed and ready to go. Years later, I finally realized that the player in the picture was Gimenez.
Bo Diaz did not technically begin his career with the Indians. However, he got his first real shot at playing Major League baseball with the Tribe.
Diaz, a catcher and two-time All-Star, was actually signed by Boston in 1970 as a 17-year-old amateur free agent out of Venezuela. After seven seasons of playing minor league baseball, a 24-year-old Diaz finally got his shot in the big leagues, as a late-season call up for the the Red Sox in 1977. He appeared in two games as a defensive replacement and batted one time. That was the extent of Diaz’s major league experience before being traded to the Indians right before the 1978 season.
For Cleveland, it was another in a long line of unfortunate trades that were made in the 1970s and 80s. While Diaz would become an All-Star by the end of his Tribe tenure, he was a backup for much of it. So, too was left fielder/third baseman Ted Cox. Cleveland also received middle-of-the-road starting pitchers Rick Wise and Mike Paxton, who were each up and down in terms of success for two seasons each. What did the Indians give up for this average haul? That was superb starter and future superb Hall of Fame closer Dennis Eckersley.
Lou Boudreau was as popular and legendary a figure as has ever dawned an Indians’ uniform. He was a skilled player and a brilliant manager. He had his hands in nearly every famous event that occurred in the Cleveland baseball scene in the 1940’s and he stood atop the American League during the Indians last World Series Championship. He was a Tribe legend and the clear cut choice as the captain of the Cleveland Indians All-Time team.
Shortstop: Lou Boudreau
Boudreau attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he played basketball and baseball. The Indians heavily scouted him and wanted to make sure he would become an Indian. Cy Slapnicka, the Tribe General Manager at the time paid Boudreau under the table in return for Boudreau’s guarantee that he would sign with the Indians after he graduated. His father complained to the Big Ten and Boudreau was ruled ineligible to play college sports. Boudreau wanted to remain in school but needed to stay in shape so the college junior signed on to play pro basketball with the Hammond All-Americans in the National Basketball League. He eventually honored his agreement and signed with the Cleveland Indians in 1938.
By Christrian Petrila
There are some players that fans wish had never worn their favorite team’s jersey. Whether it was for lack of production or the player was just plain unlikable, fans will do their best to deny the fact that this player ever suited up for their team.
For many Indians fans, that player is Milton Bradley.
Bradley’s career with the Indians production-wise wasn’t bad. In 209 games over three seasons, Bradley hit .286 with 19 home runs and 94 RBI. Considering the Indians acquired him for Zach Day – a pitcher who made zero appearances for the Indians – those are phenomenal numbers.
Unfortunately for Bradley and the Indians, his off-field issues far outweighed the positives he would bring to the plate.
In 2003, Bradley was on the disabled list when he was pulled over for speeding. Bradley refused the ticket and sped away from the police. Despite pleading innocent to speeding and fleeing charges, he was still sentenced to three days in jail. Things didn’t get better for Bradley once the next season started.
By Craig Gifford
From the 1960s until the middle of the 1990s, questionable trades and signings doomed the Cleveland Indians to more than three decades of mediocrity and a lot of bad baseball. One such deal was in 1965 involving a young, promising center fielder named Tommie Agee.
Agee had a injury shortened career highlighted by an American League Rookie of the Year, two All-Star Game appearances and two Gold Glove awards. All of this came after the Tribe shipped him off to Chicago in a trade that could be viewed as an attempt to erase one of the most memorable bad deals in team history, five years prior.
A five-tool player, Agee was fast-tracked to big league stardom from day one. The Indians signed the 18-year-old as an amateur free agent before the 1961 season. At the end of the 1962 campaign, Agee was making his Major League debut at the young age of 20-years old. The numbers would indicate too much was perhaps put on his shoulders too soon. Agee, in three years bouncing between Cleveland and the minors, never put up the statistics he was expected to. At Triple-A, Agee was stuck batting in the mid-.250s. In brief stints with the Indians, he could never crack the Mendoza line of .200.
What if I told you the man who helped Boston reverse the Curse of the Bambino began his career with a Chief Wahoo patch on his sleeve? Would you believe me?
Dave Roberts is this week’s Flash.
That’s right, folks. The man who infamously stole second base for Boston in the 2004 ALCS to start the historic comeback actually began his career with the 1999 Indians.
Roberts was drafted by the Tigers in 1994, but didn’t become an Indian until 1998 when he was acquired from Detroit along with Tim Worrell for Geronimo Berroa. The Indians drafted Roberts in 1993, but he didn’t sign.
By Craig Gifford
In a career that was over much too soon due to a broken arm, Von Hayes was known best for being a sturdy run producer for the Philadelphia Phillies. Drafted by the Cleveland Indians, in the seventh round of the 1979 amateur draft, Hayes got his start with the Tribe.
The outfielder/first baseman spent parts of two seasons in a Cleveland uniform. Little over two years after being tabbed by the Indians, Hayes made his Major League debut on August 24, 1981. His first cup of coffee in the big leagues was somewhat forgettable as he hit one home run with 17 RBI in 43 games.