2014 Hall Class Harkens Back to Indians’ Glory Days

It is hard to argue the names of the players who were announced for the 2014 class of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. After a dark year for the game, in which no living players were enshrined in 2013, a very good group will take its rightful place in Cooperstown this summer.

Starting pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and slugger Frank Thomas are three of baseball’s brightest stars from the 1990s. Maddux is arguably one of the game’s top five to 10 pitchers ever, while Thomas is among the few big boppers of the final decade in the 20th century who collected awe-inspiring stats without the aid of pharmaceuticals. Glavine spent much of his career as a No. 2 starter only because he was in the same rotation as the great Maddux for many years.  His 300 wins made him a lock for the Hall.

That trio will be inducted along with the managing threesome of Joe Torre, Bobby Cox and Tony LaRussa. Those three were announced last month and had their best years at the same time as the players who are being enshrined. Cox, of course, managed Maddux and Glavine during Atlanta’s great run in 1990s and early 2000s. The combined six entrants will make this one of the more memorable Hall of Fame classes in some time. In fact, it is the first time since 1999 that three players are stepping into the doors in Cooperstown.

It is nice to see players and managers from an era mired in question to be given the accolades they earned through hard work on and off the field. The three come from an era that is also fondly remembered in Cleveland as the Glory Years. They were carving out their legendary statuses while the Indians were creating fond memories for the fans night after night at a sold-out Jacobs Field.

All three players and the managers were likable in their own way. However, in Cleveland, many of the names being inducted this year will resonate in vastly different ways. Maddux, Glavine and Cox going in the Hall together will be one of the bigger headlines. They captained a Braves ship that had an unparalleled run of success, reaching the playoffs every year from 1991-2005. It was a record 14 straight postseason appearances, with the 1994 playoffs being derailed due to the player’s strike.

Those Braves won but a single World Series title, however. Naturally, it came at the hands of the Indians in 1995. To make matters worse for Tribe fans, the deciding game of that series was a 1-0 loss in Game 6. The man responsible for shutting down one of the best lineups in Cleveland history? Glavine. He is not fondly remembered by Indians fans.

Cleveland fans can be thankful, however, that they did not have to deal with the Braves very often. Interleague play began in 1997. By the time it was expanded to include teams outside of your division counterpart in the other league, the Braves’ run was coming to an end.

Indians fans, however, did get a huge dose of Thomas and Torre. Thomas did most of his slugging damage with the White Sox, winning a pair of MVP awards in the 90s. When divisions were realigned in time for the 1994 season, the Indians and Sox found themselves both in the AL Central. For most of the 90s, the Tribe ran roughshod over the rest of the division, making any rivalries minimal. However, Chicago pushed the Tribe in 1997 before unexpectedly throwing in the towel midway through the campaign.

However, through the years, the Big Hurt did plenty of damage against Cleveland. Even when the Indians were at the top of their game, seeing Thomas come to the plate was usually cause for concern among Tribe fans. He was always just one swing of the bat from winning a game, tying a game or making it closer.  In the 90s, though, it was hard to hate the White Sox and Thomas as they were rarely a threat to Cleveland’s run of AL Central dominance.

Torre, on the other hand, was not well-liked in Cleveland as he managed the much-hated Yankees. Cleveland and New York went back and forth a lot in the latter part of the 1990s. The Indians won a memorable playoff series against Torre and New York in 1997 on their way to the World Series. The Yankees kept the Tribe from going back to the Fall Classic beating the Tribe in the ALCS. The Yankees were and remain as disliked in Cleveland as any sports team other than maybe the Pittsburgh Steelers. Torre is a name closely linked to that club. Winning three World Championships, Torre deserves the call to the Hall, though Indians fans will grit their teeth when they applaud his inductions.

In the end, all six names likely have the hearts of Tribe fans nowadays, rather than the heat they once had. With playing and managing careers long over, they all can be looked at fondly no matter the rivalries any team and their fans had with them. Surely Red Sox fans will appreciate Torre and his accomplishments. If they can, so, too, should Indians fans.

This year’s Hall of Fame will be fun to watch. After a year in which no living player or manager was put into Cooperstown, the 2014 group has a chance to go down as one of the best. An era that some would like to forget in baseball’s history has plenty of reasons and people to remember. This summer, the baseball world will be reminded of a lot of those reasons. It will also take Indians fans back to a time when winning games and going to the playoffs happened often. For that reason, this year’s class of the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame should give Clevelanders reason to smile and reflect fondly on some very good times.

Photo: Jim Miller/Getty Images

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