The Governor, the Mayor, & El Presidente: Indians Show Intersection of Sports & Politics

This Thursday, the Alabama Secretary of State is expected to certify the results of the Dec. 12 special election, paving the way next week for Doug Jones to be sworn into the U.S. Senate.

No, not that Doug Jones. But I certainly can’t blame you for thinking that. I did – and I was hardly alone.

Many writers at the intersection of sports and politics made that joke, and the intersection of sports and politics is really crowded – even if sometimes they’re just politicians in name only.

One of Doug Jones’ teammates in the 1980s on the lakefront was Jerry Browne, who acquired the nickname “The Governor” because of Edmund Brown Jr., the son of a former governor of California and the governor himself in the 1970s. Edmund Brown Sr., known as Pat, served two terms as California governor before losing to Ronald Reagan in 1966. Reagan retired as governor in 1974, and he was succeeded by Jerry Brown, who at that point was California Secretary of State. Jerry Brown was governor for two terms, put out some feelers for President and was re-elected as governor in 2011, a job he still holds today (Jerry Browne retired as a ballplayer in 1995).

Jerry Browne was “The Governor,” and two years after his retirement, the Indians had “The Mayor.” Sean Casey was drafted in the second round in 1995 out of the University of Richmond, and made his debut as a September callup two years later. His time with the Indians was short-lived, though. He was traded to the Reds the following spring for Dave Burba, who spent four solid but unspectacular years in the Tribe’s rotation. Casey went on to a 10-year career, predominantly with the Reds, and acquired his nickname because of his garrulity at first base and his overall cheerfulness – skills he’s since put to good use on television.

The Indians also had “El Presidente,” a nickname for Dennis Martinez, who was so popular in his native country of Nicaragua that he was touted (although probably not that seriously) as a presidential candidate. He recently served as manager of the Nicaragua national team, and a stadium in Managua is named for him.

Occasionally, the Indians owner’s box has drawn from the ranks of politics, with Huey Long and Newton D. Baker serving as minor stockholders. (The current occupant of the White House attempted to buy the team in the early 1980s as well.)

Walter Johnson was lured to Cleveland after his playing career, spending two full seasons and part of a third as Indians manager before being fired in 1935. He returned to the Washington D.C. area and entered politics. His father-in-law, Edwin Roberts, was a four-term Congressman from Nevada (when Johnson married Roberts’ daughter Hazel, the ceremony was performed by the chaplain of the U.S. Senate), and Johnson himself was a supporter of women’s suffrage – persuaded by his wife, he said – before the 19th Amendment was passed. Johnson was elected to the Montgomery County, Md., board of commissioners in 1938, and ran for the U.S. House two years later. Although he remained exceedingly popular in the nation’s capital, he was running as a Republican against a Democratic wave (that was the year Franklin Roosevelt was elected to an unprecedented third term as president) and lost.

Photo: Topps

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