Dolans ‘Enjoy’ Honor at Cleveland Sports Awards

The 20th annual Cleveland Sports Awards had a Tribe feel to them Wednesday night.

The Indians received the Sports Development Gold Medal from the Cleveland Sports Commission for the 2019 All-Star Game, and the week’s festivities were also recognized as the best moment in Cleveland sports last year. The Dolan family was recognized with the lifetime achievement award – something that meant a lot to owner Paul Dolan, who accepted on behalf of the whole family.

“Baseball is important,” Dolan said. “But family is more important. To recognize this as a family award means so much.”

Thwarted in their efforts to buy the expansion Browns and the Reds in 1999, the Dolans bought their hometown team from Dick Jacobs. “We knew we weren’t just buying a great team,” Dolan said. “We bought a great organization. It was in good shape when we arrived, and we just got on the train and had a smooth ride since.”

The Dolans are now the longest-tenured owner of the Cleveland Indians – itself an astonishing feat, given the team’s history as a charter member of the American League.

It’s easy to rag on the Dolans for their penury – and not completely inaccurate. They told us to enjoy Francisco Lindor, with the tacit implication that he would be leaving Cleveland sooner rather than later – a point Dolan tried to make light of in his acceptance speech. He talked about the team’s prospects this season, mentioning the young players coming up as well as the seasoned veterans. “One of whom happens to play shortstop,” he said, “who I know I’m going to enjoy, but I’m not sure I can tell you people to enjoy him.”

And it’s also easy to say that given their penury, they should sell the team — but the devil you know is probably better than the devil you don’t. (This is where I remind you that we could have had Donald Trump as an owner in the 1980s. Infer from that what you will.)

The fact is that on their watch, the Indians have been a model of stability – in comparison with the other two major league teams in town (one wonders what their steady hand could have done with the Browns – instead of Randy Lerner’s not-so-benign neglect and Jimmy Haslam’s itchy trigger finger) and in comparison to the team’s history. It’s easy to forget that in the days before 455 straight sellouts at Jacobs Field, Tribe games at Cleveland Stadium drew flies – and the team was perpetually on the verge of relocation or bankruptcy for more than 20 years.

Dolan and team president Chris Antonetti both expressed optimism for the upcoming season – which will be here before you know it.

“In 64 days,” Dolan said, looking at team radio play-by-play man Tom Hamilton, “We’ll be underway at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.”

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