Chris Perez made headlines a few times last year, sometimes for his play, but also, more than once, for his mouth.
After racking up a career-high 39 saves in 43 save opportunities in 2012, though, Perez ranked among the best …
With his hand clutched around the ball stuffed inside his mitt, Luis Tiant hoisted his arms above his head. He planted his right foot into the mound and pivoted on it so the batter could see the number “23” on his back. Then he flicked his left leg back around and delivered at fastball toward home.
“But Tiant, whom fans in Cleveland lovingly called ‘El Tiante,’ was more than a pitcher,” Justice B. Hill wrote in an article placing Tiant among the 100 Greatest Indians. “He was a performer. He dazzled fans and baffled hitters with a pitching motion as deceptive as any in the history of the game.”
Tiant wasn’t known solely for his delivery, though. He also holds the Tribe’s scoreless inning record—he tossed 41.0 consecutive scoreless innings in 1968.
The ovation Travis Hafner received when he was introduced as a Yankee before Monday’s home opener was as well-deserved as any.
For 10 seasons, Hafner was a fixture in the Indians lineup as the power-hitting designated hitter. Unfortunately, as was the case for many Indians after 2007, injuries plagued “Pronk” and reduced his effectiveness.
Hafner, 35, was drafted by the Texas Rangers in 1996, but didn’t make his Major League Baseball debut until 2002. The Indians decided to trade for him after the season, acquiring him for Einar Diaz and Ryan Drese.
It was one of the most lopsided trades of the last 15 years.
Although this is Terry Francona’s first year as the Cleveland Indians’ manager, he is far from a stranger to the city or the Tribe.
Mounted on a tricycle outside of the old Commodore Hotel on Euclid Ave., Terry rode back and forth with his mom while his dad, Tito Francona, suited up in Cleveland Stadium.
“I remember I learned to ride a tricycle in Cleveland,” Terry said in an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “We lived in the Commodore Hotel. I had a big red tricycle. I’d get in the elevator with my mom, she’d take me down and I’d ride my trike around Case Western. That’s my first memory of Cleveland,”
Despite the long histories of the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees organizations, the two teams have not opened many seasons against one another on the shores of Lake Erie.
In fact, with 112 home openers under its belt, the city of Cleveland has seen the Yankees occupy the opposing dugout just five total times to open their park. It was not until the Indians’ 75th anniversary season that New York came to town to open the home of the Tribe for the first time.
Seventeen years have passed since their last such visit. This year will end the drought as Ubaldo Jimenez and Hiroki Kuroda are scheduled to face off on Monday afternoon as the revamped Indians lineup looks to capitalize on a Yankees roster depleted of many of its most productive and veteran ball players.
The last time the Yankees opened the Indians home schedule, Derek Jeter was a rookie.
As Opening Day in Cleveland arrives this Monday, memories of openers-past flood back in to the minds of Cleveland fans—just as they do every year.
Just a year ago, the Tribe faced the Blue Jays in a grueling 16 inning home opener, as Chris Perez blew a save in the ninth to spoil Justin Masterson’s masterpiece and gave the fans hours of free baseball. That game became the longest Opening Day in baseball history, breaking the record previously held by the 15 inning affair between the Tigers and Indians in 1960. The Tribe came up short in both marathons.
The Indians opened the 2007 home season in the snow, then again at Milwaukee’s Miller Park when Seattle Manager Mike Hargrove spoiled a 4-0 Indians lead and a possible no-hitter by starter Paul Byrd by complaining about the weather. The Tribe was sent to Milwaukee for the next series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim as Old Man Winter continued to cover Progressive Field.
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.