A lot of emotions boiled to the surface as the 1993 baseball season ended in Cleveland.
It was a bittersweet ending to the Indians’ time at Municipal Stadium. In its later years, the stadium had become a decrepit home for a mediocre team, but there were still people who remembered when the ballpark was filled to the seams for some of the best players and biggest characters in baseball. Bob Hope, the Cleveland native who was part owner of the Indians during those glory years in the 1940s, sang “Thanks For the Memories.”
At the same time, there was excitement, as the team readied for its new home in the Gateway project, on the site of the old Cleveland Central Market. The Cavs would also be moving back into the city from their home in Richfield to an arena right next to the new baseball-only stadium. Also, the pieces were almost all in place for what would become the 1990s dynasty, as Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome, Charles Nagy and Manny Ramirez played for the Indians in 1993.
But mostly, there was a desire for the year to be over. The Indians struggled to a 76-86 record, next to last in the American League East, as a spring training tragedy cast a pall over the season. On an off day, three Indians pitchers, Bob Ojeda, Tim Crews and Steve Olin went boating on Little Lake Nellie in Florida. Crews had been drinking, and the boat hit a dock in the darkness. Olin died instantly, and Crews died the next day. Ojeda was out for most of the year, recovering physically and mentally.
And then, on Nov. 4, all those bad feelings came back to the Indians. Cliff Young, who had signed with the Indians in January and went 3-3 in 21 appearances, was killed in a wreck near his hometown of Willis, Texas. Young, who had become a free agent after the season ended, was reaching to light a cigarette in his truck when it went off the road, hit a tree and flipped over.
Young was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1983, but didn’t make it to the majors until 1990, when he broke in with the Angels. He spent two years in Anaheim, but knocked around the minors in 1992 before signing with the Indians, who were negotiating with Young to retain him.
“I had that same heart-wrenching feeling of sorrow and helplessness,” general manager John Hart said in an Associated Press story. “We are looking forward to calendar year 1993 going away. You just shake your head and you wonder, why is this happening?”
Headlines talked about the Indians plunged into mourning once again, but manager Mike Hargrove said it was nothing more than a tragic twist of fate, and not a curse that had befallen the team.
“It’s a part of life,” he told the AP. “It happens every day somewhere. It just has happened to us twice now.”
Young was buried in his hometown of Willis four days later, leaving behind a wife and two sons. Hargrove attended the funeral.