For the sixth time in team history, the Cleveland Indians will play in a Game 1 on the biggest baseball stage of them all – the World Series.
Strange and inconvenient circumstances have prevented the Indians from owning home field advantage in the series in the past, which makes this year’s World Series opener from Progressive Field the first time in club history that they have hosted Game 1 in Cleveland. In that small sample size, there have been three complete games hurled by Indians starters, a controversial call, a walk-off homer, two games decided by one run, and all five games that were decided by three runs or less.
Baseball fans worldwide could ask for nothing more than that kind of excitement in the 2016 Fall Classic as the Indians host the Chicago Cubs in a matchup of the two longest suffering franchises in Major League Baseball today. Working against the Indians is a 1-4 record in starting the first game of the World Series, but all five games have been road contests. Progressive Field has played as friendly confines for the Tribe this year, both during the regular season and in four straight playoff games to start this postseason.
After trailing 2-1 in their best-of-nine series with the Brooklyn Dodgers (Robins), the Cleveland Indians win their fourth straight game and clinch the 1920 World Series with a 3-0 victory at Dunn Field in Cleveland.
The title is the first …
The 1920 World Championship was the high mark for the Indians, who had reached baseball’s pinnacle after finishing second in the previous two years. It wouldn’t last.
The Yankees’ purchase of Babe Ruth was a game changer. The speed that people thought was lacking on the team as the season dawned turned out to be unnecessary, as it was more than replaced by power. Ruth ended the season with 54 home runs, and would hit 50 or more in a season four more times, including setting the record of 60 in 1927. With six pennants and three World Series wins in the next decade, the Yankees would become the power of the American League for the better part of the next half-century.
Oct. 12, 1920 – Columbus Day – was a beautiful day in Cleveland. It was sunny and approaching 70 degrees as everyone prepared for the final World Series game at League Park.
The Indians had won three straight games at home to take a four games to two lead in the World Series. A win that day would end the series. A loss would send it back to Brooklyn. Tris Speaker danced with the one that brung him, and opted to start Stan Coveleski again. It would be his third start in the series, and he’d won his previous two. Robins manager and namesake Wilbert Robinson opted for Burleigh Grimes, who had won game two at Ebbets Field, but lost game five in Cleveland. Robinson had mentioned possibly starting Rube Marquard, but the Cleveland native was in Brooklyn owner Charles Ebbets’ doghouse after getting arrested for scalping tickets.
It was a party nearly 20 years in the making on Oct. 9, 1920. The Fifth City would host its first World Series game as the Indians hosted the Dodgers at League Park.
“Two Ohioans are running for the presidency,” the Plain Dealer wrote, referring to James Cox of Dayton, the Democratic nominee, and Warren Harding, a Republican from Marion. “No one in Cleveland cared.”
Game time was 2 p.m., but the gates opened at 10 a.m., with 9,000 general admission seats available. They sold quickly, and the bleachers filled up by 10:30 a.m. A packed house of 25,734 would watch Stan Coveleski match up against the Dodgers’ Leon Cadore. Among the crowd were about 50 people who were present at a dinner when Jim Dunn bought the Indians. Most of them were employees of the Carlin Rivet Works; owner Anthony Carlin had sponsored the banquet. At it, Dunn promised he would bring a World Series to Cleveland, and everyone in the room would be his guest at the first game. It took four years, but he made good on the promise.
Abraham Lincoln had come through the old Union Depot in Clevleand, near where the Shoreway meets West Fourth Street now on the way to Washington to be inaugurated. And his funeral train came through the station on the way to his final resting place in Illinois. And on Oct. 4, 1920, as plans were surreptitiously being made for a new train station on the edge of Public Square – the Terminal Tower – a train carrying the conquering heroes stopped as the American League champion Indians made a brief stopover in Cleveland before heading to Brooklyn for the start of the World Series.
Manager Tris Speaker made it a point to stop in Cleveland for a strategy and recharging session. They would depart by train that evening to arrive in Brooklyn for the World Series. They wouldn’t have a morning practice, seeing Ebbets Field for the first time when they got there for the game.
On Sept. 3, the Indians returned to Cleveland following a 15-game road swing. The eight-team American League was informally divided into a western group of cities – Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and St. Louis – and an eastern group consisting of New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.
The Indians had just gone through the eastern cities, starting with the Yankees at the Polo Grounds. Ray Chapman was fatally beaned in the first game of the road trip, and the rescheduling had played havoc with the team, which had lost eight of the first 12 games of the trip, dropping them into third place, trailing the Yankees and White Sox.