It could be argued that the Indians dynasty of the 1990s actually began Dec. 6, 1989.
Carter was the Tribe’s marquee slugger for the 1980s, hitting 151 dingers for the Tribe from 1984-1989. But he was a free agent after the 1990 season, and new Indians general manager Hank Peters decided that if he couldn’t re-sign Carter, he would trade him. Carter had turned down a five-year, $9.6 million deal after the 1988 season.
The 1987 Cleveland Indians might be the biggest disappointment in Cleveland sports history. The Tribe was supposed to be a contender. They had finished the 1986 season at 84-78, which was the downtrodden franchise’s best record since 1968. The Indians drew 1.47 million people went to Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium that summer, the largest number that the Indians had drawn since the pennant race of 1959. Hopes were high, excitement was in the air and the Indians had something in Cleveland that they hadn’t had in decades…optimism.
It wasn’t just the city of Cleveland that had high hopes for the Tribe either. The popular national sports magazine, Sports Illustrated put Indian stars Joe Carter and Cory Snyder on the front cover of their baseball preview issue with the title, Indian Uprising. The subtitle of the article read “Believe it! Cleveland is the best team in the American League.” The famous magazine had picked the Cinderella Indians to finish first in the American League Eastern Division and to win the American League pennant.
“It’s like getting your first baseball card,” Carter said when asked what it was like to be asked to be on the cover of the magazine, “We didn’t know (if we felt we were the league favorite) and we didn’t care. I was happy because I was going to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated.”
The predictions were a national feel-good story. The Indians had been so bad for so long and they finally had a nucleus of good players. A large percentage of the country was rooting for the Indians to finally break the curse that had been placed on the city since the trade of Rocky Colavito.
This week the DTTWLN staff is doing an in-depth look at the Cleveland Indians attendance. While everyone knows the Indians have an attendance problem, how they necessarily got to this point appears to be an explanation with many answers including play on the field, population and economic changes and improvements in technology. Regardless of the reasons, one thing is certain, the Indians have an attendance problem. This afternoon, we examine the tipping point in the current attendance decline.
Previous Stories This Week:
From the Perfect Storm to the Indians Attendance Disaster by Bob Toth
Times Have Changed While Indians Attendance Issues Have Worsened by Mike Brandyberry
Indians Attendance Issues Have Spanned Over 65 Years by Vince Guerrieri
In 1986, the Jacobs brothers were heralded as the latest people to save baseball in Cleveland.
The Indians’ grip on the town had been tenuous for the past 30 years, and seriously discussed leaving the city on several occasions. But in each instance, a change in ownership led to some stability in the team – but usually its own upheaval in the front office, leading to decades of mediocre baseball.
By Craig Gifford
Joe Carter had his best years and biggest moment of his baseball career as a member of the Toronto Blue Jays. The greatest Indian of those teams that struggled to win games in the 1980s may well best be known to Cleveland sports fans for being traded away in a deal that laid the foundation for the Tribe’s success in the 90s. However, on Sunday, Carter will be immortalized with a bobblehead doll day.
Does he deserve such an honor? Yes.
The key statement in that first paragraph is Carter was the best player to wear a Tribe uniform in the 1980s. For six seasons he did all he could to get the Indians over the hump. The piles upon piles of losses cannot be pinned to Carter.
During his time in Cleveland, from 1984-1989, Carter hit 151 home runs. That included a career-high 35 in 1989 and 32 in 1987 – the season Sports Illustrated erroneously predicted the Tribe would find their way back to baseball’s postseason for the first time since 1954. The popular magazine was only eight years early.