Posts By Vince Guerrieri
It’s one of the great trivia questions in baseball history: What’s the only game where a team had the same batting average before the game as after it?
The answer, of course, is Bob Feller’s Opening Day no-hitter against the White Sox at Comiskey Park in 1940. But 30 years prior to that – this week in 1910 – Addie Joss also threw a no-hitter against the Pale Hose at Comiskey. It wasn’t an Opening Day no-hitter, but at the time, it was the earliest no-no in a season – and the first ever in the month of April.
In honor of Jackie Robinson Day, celebrated around Major League Baseball venues on April 15 of each season, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night look back on Robinson’s ties to the city of Cleveland. This story, written by Vince Guerrieri, was originally published on July 29, 2015. – BT
Before he broke the color line, Robinson played in barnstorming tours that included Rapid Robert. Both had very well-defined opinions – and weren’t shy about sharing them. And both went into the Baseball Hall of Fame on the same day in 1962 – July 23.
Last week, Trevor Bauer scuffled his way through seven no-hit innings for the Indians. The bullpen held on until the ninth inning, when Brad Hand lost the no-hitter and the shutout, although the Tribe still won.
Of course, it was against the Blue Jays – and not just because they’ve been one of the few teams this year with an offense even more anemic than the Tribe’s. Toronto has had a strange relationship with the Indians when it comes to no-hit games.
The Blue Jays – along with the Mariners – joined the American League as expansion teams in 1977. Four years later, the Jays were the victims of Len Barker’s perfect game, in weather not unlike what we saw last Thursday, a cold day early in the season in front of a small crowd. Barker’s perfect game remains the last no-hitter to date by an Indians pitcher. (There’s only been one other no-hitter by the Indians since the Jays started play: Dennis Eckersley’s Memorial Day no-no against the Angels in 1977.)
Opening Day carried a little more significance in 1975, when Cleveland’s Frank Robinson became the first African-American manager in Major League Baseball history. As if the occasion was not momentous enough, Robinson, whose official role with the Indians was that of player-manager, would make the date even more memorable in his first trip to the plate. Here’s a look back at Robinson and his historic day, through the words of DTTWLN’s Vince Guerrieri in 2015. – BT
When the Indians dealt for Frank Robinson in September 1974, at face value, it looked like they were hoping the slugger – who led the Orioles to four pennants and a pair of world titles after being dealt from the Reds to Baltimore in 1965 at “an old 30” – had a little left in the tank to keep the Tribe afloat in the American League East race. On September 12, 1974, the day of the trade – which was front-page news in Cleveland – the Indians were six games back with 20 to play.
The Tribe ended up finishing in fourth place, but Robinson would go on to make history.
With the wailing and gnashing of teeth this off-season, it’s easy to forget how good we have it (relatively speaking) as Indians fans. I can still remember the doldrums of the 1980s, when terrible teams played in a decrepit stadium in front of a crowd of my family and what seemed like about 1,200 of our closest friends.
A lot of the Tribe’s recent good fortune is due in large part to one man: Terry Francona, who took the job in 2013. And thanks to a contract extension, it appears he’ll be in the Indians dugout for years to come.
The Indians announced a two-year contract extension Wednesday morning that will keep Francona as Tribe manager through 2022. If he finishes the contract out – and absent some terrible scandal, I still believe the only way he leaves is on his own accord – he’ll be the longest-tenured Indians manager, eclipsing Lou Boudreau.
Change was in the air as the 1973 baseball season began.
The biggest difference is that for the first time, the pitcher wouldn’t have to bat in the American League. The Junior Circuit had adopted the use of a designated hitter – something considered but voted down a dozen years earlier by the Pacific Coast League.
The most successful major league franchise, the Yankees, had fallen on hard times, and CBS sold them to the scion of a Cleveland shipbuilding family. George Steinbrenner had owned the Cleveland Pipers, a pro basketball team that had folded, and appeared to have learned his lesson, saying, “I won’t be active in the day-to-day operations of the club at all.”
As you might imagine, I go to a lot of baseball games. As a result, I’m on a lot of mailing lists. Every Monday during baseball season, my inbox fills up at 9 a.m. with emails from most teams in the Eastern time zone, with who’s in town, what giveaways are that week and why I should come out to the ballpark (I get a similar but smaller deluge at noon, when all the West Coast teams do the same).
I also get the opportunity to take a lot of fan surveys. The Indians’ survey almost always includes some variation of a question gauging fans’ interest in the team sharing plans about the future. I usually say yes, because as a journalist, I value transparency.
After this week, I’m not particularly sure of that.
The Yankees were desperate, as outfielder Dave Winfield was facing back issues that would ultimately force him to miss the entire season. But the Indians had dealt Hall – an everyday player with at that point a career .281 batting average – for Skinner, a backup catcher and a minor leaguer? It looked like the latest episode in a sad tradition for the team for really the previous thirty years, since Trader Lane dealt Rocky Colavito and Norm Cash: Deal a talented player in return for some magic beans that weren’t so magical.
But it was a move that was long in coming – and frankly, somewhat of a relief – for the Indians.
The 74-year-old Seaver announced on Thursday, March 7, that he had been diagnosed with dementia and would retire from public life. This story was originally published on July 17, 2012. – BT
Tom Seaver and the Mets seem to go hand-in-hand.
Seaver’s the only player in the Baseball Hall of Fame (where he received the highest percentage of votes, 98.84, on his first ballot) wearing a Mets cap [since joined in 2016 by Mike Piazza – BT]. He was the anchor of the starting rotations of the 1969 World Champion Miracle Mets, and the 1973 team that went from last place in the middle of the season to the seventh game of the World Series, succumbing to the Oakland Athletics.
But Seaver almost debuted with the Indians.
John Romano thought he’d be signed by the Dodgers.
Instead, the White Sox snagged him. But he had his best years with the Indians.
Romano, who died Monday at the age of 84, was a New Jersey native. His father was a longshoreman and semi-pro baseball player, and Romano attracted attention playing for Demarest High School in his native Hoboken. He even worked out regularly for the Dodgers, then still in Brooklyn, but in 1954, at the age of 19, he was signed as a free agent by the White Sox. In Triple-A, he was mentored by Walker Cooper, who was a catcher for the Cardinals when they won four pennants and three World Series from 1942-46.
Well, at least the Padres’ pursuit of Corey Kluber makes a little more sense now.
The Indians’ ace would have been a great addition to the Dodgers pitching staff. In a way, the Reds kind of made sense too. But the Padres? They were baseball Siberia. No playoff appearances since 2006, and no winning record since 2010. They were the team Bruce Bochy (who announced earlier this week that this would be his last season as Giants manager) left before establishing his Hall of Fame bona fides in San Francisco.
Don Newcombe, who died Tuesday at the age of 92, is most closely associated with the Dodgers, particularly during their halcyon years in Brooklyn.
Newk, as he was nicknamed, was one of the first African-Americans in Major League Baseball. He was an All-Star and rookie of the year for the Dodgers in 1949, and won both the first Cy Young Award (when only one was given out annually) and National League MVP in 1956. Even last year at the World Series, he could be spotted at Dodger Stadium.
But his major league career ended in Cleveland.