OK, stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
The Indians host an All-Star Game in the same season they end up going to the World Series. A hometown player tears the cover off the ball in the Midsummer Classic.
The Indians were on their way to a record 111 wins that season, and had five players selected for the All-Star Game, which would be held in Cleveland for the second time. The first was in 1934. Bobby Avila and Al Rosen were in the starting lineup, and Larry Doby was in reserves on the bench. Bob Lemon and Mike Garcia were selected as pitchers, but Garcia ended up getting replaced by Sandy Consuegra of the White Sox.
Whitey Ford started for the American League and Robin Roberts started for the National League. Ford pitched three shutout innings, and Roberts put up goose eggs in the first two frames, giving no indication of the slugfest that would develop.
He started out as a sports writer. He is best known as an umpire. And by the time Billy Evans died, he had become a minor league president – and served as general managers for Cleveland’s Major League Baseball and National Football League teams.
Billy Evans was born in Chicago in 1884, but his family moved to Youngstown as his father got a job for one of the steel mills that began to pop up along the Mahoning River. Evans graduated from the Rayen School, until 1910 the only high school in Youngstown, and went away to Cornell University.
Evans had played semi-pro baseball, and was on the college team. He had also worked on his high school and college newspaper staffs. He was called home to Youngstown after the death of his father, and latched on as the first “sporting editor” for the Youngstown Vindicator at $15 a week.
By Vince Guerrieri
Chapman, the Indians shortstop, stood in the batter’s box against Mays in a game at the Polo Grounds on August 16, 1920. The official box score reads that Chapman got hit by a pitch, but that only tells part of the story.
Molly Lawless tells the rest. Lawless, a Boston native (she’s a Red Sox fan, but she was before it was cool, so it’s OK), has written and illustrated a graphic novel about the encounter and its aftermath called “Hit By Pitch,” available through McFarland Publications (www.mcfarlandpub.com, 1-800-253-2187).
It’s Lawless’ first graphic novel. She read the story of Mays’ fatal beaning of Chapman when she was about 8 years old, and found herself drawn to it.
“I couldn’t imagine it happening now,” she said. “The idea of one of them getting hurt and dying almost before your eyes is unthinkable. It kind of haunted me.”
Today is the 38th anniversary of the infamous 10-cent beer night at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Here’s an excerpt from “Ohio Sports Trivia,” by J. Alexander Poulton and Did the Tribe Win Last Night staff writer Vince Guerrieri.
Under the ownership of Bill Veeck in the 1940s, the Indians were known for some excellent promotions.
Veeck largely invented the concept of people coming out to the ballpark for events other than baseball, be they a mock funeral for the pennant, like he did in Cleveland in 1949, sending a midget up to bat, like he did when he owned the St. Louis Browns (and he feared this event would be on his tombstone) or a scoreboard that shot off fireworks, like he had at Comiskey Park when he owned the White Sox.
By Vince Guerrieri
The city of Cleveland has been fairly racially progressive in its history.
Larry Doby was the first black player in the American League, for the Indians. In 1975, the Indians also hired the first black manager, Frank Robinson. John McLendon, as coach of the Cleveland Pipers, became the first black professional basketball coach in America. In fact, Cleveland was the first major city in the United States to elect a black mayor, Carl Stokes.
And 66 years ago today – almost a full year before Jackie Robinson broke Major League Baseball’s color line, a ball player for the Cleveland Buckeyes did the same. Eddie Klep became the first white baseball player in the Negro Leagues when he pitched seven innings for the Buckeyes in a game at Grand Rapids.
By Craig Gifford
Joe Carter had his best years and biggest moment of his baseball career as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. The greatest Indian of those teams that struggled to win games in the 1980s may well best be known to Cleveland sports fans for being traded away in a deal that laid the foundation for the Tribe’s success in the 90s. However, on Sunday, Carter will be immortalized with a bobblehead doll day.
Does he deserve such an honor? Yes.
The key statement in that first paragraph is Carter was the best player to wear a Tribe uniform in the 1980s. For six seasons he did all he could to get the Indians over the hump. The piles upon piles of losses cannot be pinned to Carter.
During his time in Cleveland, from 1984-1989, Carter hit 151 home runs. That included a career-high 35 in 1989 and 32 in 1987 – the season Sports Illustrated erroneously predicted the Tribe would find their way back to baseball’s postseason for the first time since 1954. The popular magazine was only eight years early.
By Vince Guerrieri
One man’s done both in his career – Rocco Domenico Colavito, a Tribe fan favorite who turned into the symbol of the Tribe’s decline.
The Rock grew up playing stickball in New York City, but was drafted by Hank Greenberg for the Indians in 1950. He made a brief appearance with the Tribe in 1955, but broke in for good with the Indians in 1956, earning one vote for rookie of the year. In 1958, he socked 41 home runs, had a .303 batting average and batted in 113 runs to finish third in MVP voting. The following year, he hit 42 home runs and was named to his first All-Star team. Four of those home runs came against the Orioles on June 10, 1959, at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore.
By Vince Guerrieri
The Colonial Marketplace is a relic on Euclid Avenue in downtown Cleveland. The office/retail/hotel space hearkens back to the days when indoor arcades were the height of a shopping experience.
And on the Euclid Arcade side of Marketplace – across from the food court that connects the Euclid Arcade with the Colonial Arcade – is what might be one of the best-kept secrets in downtown Cleveland: The Baseball Heritage Museum.
The museum’s roots date back to 1997, when Robert Zimmer started putting some of his baseball memorabilia on display at his father’s jewelry store on East Fourth Street. Zimmer, now a realtor, was at one point an antiques dealer – and describes himself as a collector.
He was the original Hammerin’ Hank. In the less enlightened time when he played, he was also known as the Hebrew Hammer.
But after a lengthy and successful career – almost exclusively with the Detroit Tigers – Hank Greenberg came to Cleveland and left his mark on the Indians.
After the 1947 season – the only one he played with the Pittsburgh Pirates – Greenberg’s playing career ended. He retired with a career .313 batting average and 331 home runs – a number which could have vastly increased had Greenberg not lost the bulk of four seasons to service in the Army Air Forces in World War II.
By Vince Guerrieri
Twenty years ago last week, construction started on Cleveland’s field of dreams.
On April 16, 1992, concrete started being poured for the new baseball stadium as part of the Gateway Project in downtown Cleveland, which also included a new arena that would be the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, then playing in the Richfield Coliseum.
The throwing out of the ceremonial first pitch is a tradition that started in 1910 with President William Howard Taft. And it’s all because of a Youngstown native and former Cleveland baseball player and manager named Jimmy McAleer.
McAleer knocked around the minor leagues in the 1880s before breaking into the National League with the Cleveland Spiders in 1889. He was regarded as speedy on the basepaths and in center field. His batting was a little less solid. The Robisons, owners of the Spiders, also bought the St. Louis Browns of the National League (later the Cardinals) and essentially cherry-picked all the talent from Cleveland to St. Louis. McAleer opted to stay in Northern Ohio. The Spiders folded after the 1899 season, but McAleer latched on as player/manager for the Lake Shores, a team in the American League in 1900.
In 1901, the Lake Shores became the Blues, taking the name of an older team. The Blues, of course, would go on to be the Indians. McAleer was their manager, and participated in what is now regarded as the first American League game as part of the major leagues, an 8-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
By Vince Guerrieri
Cy Young opened it – twice. Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run there, and it was the site of the only unassisted triple play in World Series history. It was home to an NFL team and a practice field for another.
League Park opened as a wooden grandstand at the end of a cable car line in 1891, and 19 years later, was rebuilt as a concrete and steel ballpark. It served as the home of the Indians full-time until 1932, and then on and off until 1946. It was also the brief but successful home field for the Cleveland Buckeyes of the Negro Leagues.