I laughed, I cried, I cheered, and I was only 10 chapters in.
He may have given fans a list of 100 things to do but, with “100 Things Every Indians Fan Should Know and Do Before They Die,” Zack Meisel of Cleveland.com has given Indians’ fan their 101st task:
Read this book.
“100 Things” is, essentially, a Tribe checklist, with 100 chapters, each dedicated to a different event, situation, player, or occurrence that Indians fans should be privy to or experience themselves during their lifetime. Along with a forward by the voice of the Indians, Tom Hamilton, there are the usual facts that all Indians fans should know — World Series wins and appearances, the 455-game sellout, Larry Doby’s signing, and performances of players such as Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Nap Lajoie, Omar Vizquel, and other greats — as well as lesser-known happenings, such as Slider breaking his leg or an inside look at the sibling rivalry and eventual partnership of Robbie and Sandy Alomar, Jr.
As mentioned, “100 Things” also highlights events that Indians fans should attend, such as Spring Training in Goodyear, Ariz., visiting Heritage Park in Progressive Field and League Park on Cleveland’s east side, and watching the Hot Dog Derby during any home Indians’ game.
Meisel, who is coming up on his second season covering the Tribe with Cleveland.com and fifth season covering the team overall (he spent three seasons covering the Indians and the league as a whole with MLB.com), maintains his human interest story style of writing with “100 Things,” using his prose to place readers in the scene which he is describing. Through quotes from current and former players, managers, and front office personnel — including lengthy personal testimonies from Bob DiBiasio, Indians senior vice president for public affairs, who has been with the team for 36 years this season — Meisel paints these 100 facts about the Indians’ franchise in vivid detail. Events such as Pete Rose’s collision with Ray Fosse during the 1970 All-Star Game and the tragic boating accident that killed Steve Olin and Tim Crews are captured so fully, it’s often difficult to remember that Meisel was only born in 1989 and didn’t cover this history first-hand.
“100 Things” is very ‘90s-heavy, though not at the expense of other seasons. It fits, as many club records and outstanding moments happened during the glory days of mid-90s. Meisel recreates individual games, including those of the ‘95 and ‘97 World Series that bring fans heartbreak, and individual moments for readers in a way that brings many modern fans back to the Indians’ most recent hey-day, and it’s not hard to imagine sitting in the stands and watching a ball bounce off Jose Canseco’s head into the crowd.
Sure, some events may be missing from the book and some facts not stated — there is no mention of the local minor league facilities, for example — but with only 100 options, Meisel had to make some decisions. Of course, those that didn’t make book one are now always available should the list ever expand to 200 things for Indians fans to know and do.
To decide which 100 things to include in the book, Meisel said he wanted to “strike a balance between the different generations of Indians’ baseball.”
“I grew up with the ‘90s teams and I know a lot of fans connect with that group better than any other. But I wanted to make sure I highlighted some of the older players and teams because those eras are just as worthy.”
“On a flight back from Spring Training last year, I happened to be sitting next to an older woman decked out in Indians’ gear,” Meisel remembered. “She started talking about a bunch of random old-time players without even knowing I was writing a book. When I told her I was writing this book, she helped me brainstorm since she seemed to be an expert on the Indians’ teams of the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.”
Meisel said the chapters that allowed him to relive glory moments and get the inside scoop on what players were like off the field were the most fun for him to write.
“[I enjoyed writing about] the Indians comeback against the Mariners in 2001 because it allowed me to go back and watch the replay of the game over and over and over, which never gets old, and talking to Kenny Lofton, Omar Vizquel, and other guys, and getting their perspectives on that game, was fascinating,” Meisel said. “The other chapter [I liked writing] is the Omar comedy chapter because I love writing about players’ personalities and it was fun listening to Omar talk about his standup routine.”
“It was very challenging to write this while also covering the Indians on a daily basis,” Meisel said; he wrote the bulk of the book from May through October 2014. “I found that the best time to get writing done for the book was on flights to and from road trips.”
However, even upon completion, there was still work to be done.
“I got to the end of my manuscript and thought I was completely finished and was ready to submit it,” Meisel said. “Then I went back and counted and I actually had 101 [chapters]. I ended up combining two [to get the count back down to 100].”
“100 Things Every Indians Fan Should Know and Do Before They Die” is published by Triumph Books and is available on Amazon.com, local libraries, and bookstores including Barnes and Noble. Meisel will be doing book signings at local Barnes and Noble’s, as well as talks and signings at branches of the Cuyahoga County Public Library throughout the summer. He is currently working on his second book for Triumph Books, about the Ohio State University.