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MLB – Cleveland Indians – The End of An Era

04 Oct

The Major League baseball regular season wound up this week and an event of historical proportions took place in Cleveland, Ohio as that city’s big league team ended the 100+ year era as the “Indians”. The franchise had been known as the Cleveland Naps, after star player Nap Lajoie, but when Lajoie left the club, owner Charles Somers asked baseball writers to pick a new name. They went with Indians to honor another player, Louis Sockalexis, a Native American. And so, the “Tribe” was born. Bowing to pressure from Native and other groups to change the name, Cleveland’s team, beginning in 2022, will be rebranded as the Guardians, named after iconic statues on a local bridge that “guard” the city.

Perhaps the rebranding will change the team’s luck. They have won only a pair of World Series titles, in 1920 and 1948, and the span of years from ’48 until today marks the longest non-title drought in major league baseball. The Indians have had some iconic players and moments over the years. Bob Feller was one of the greatest pitchers of all time, and Larry Doby broke the color barrier in the American League shortly after Jackie Robinson did it in the NL with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Frank Robinson became the first African American manager in the majors when he took the reins as player/manager in 1975. The Indians were the opponent when Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak came to an end in 1941.

Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller

 

There were tragic and comical moments also. In 1920, Tribe shortstop Ray Chapman was hit in the head by a pitched ball and died the next day, becoming the only player in history to die from being hit. Pitcher Herb Score was struck in the face by a batted ball, breaking facial bones and effectively ending his career, although he became the iconic play-by-play voice of the team for many years after that. In spring training of 1993, 2 players, Ken Olin and Tim Crews, were killed in a boat crash, with Bob Ojeda seriously injured also. When Bill Veeck owned the team, he hired a clown known as “The Clown Prince Of Baseball”, Max Patkin, to coach third base as a promotional stunt.

Baseball clown Max Patkin

 

And, in one of baseball’s most forgettable evenings, the team hosted Ten Cent Beer Night at Municipal Stadium, with the game ending in a Tribe forfeit to the Texas Rangers as drunken fans stormed the field and caused a riot.

Riots on “Ten Cent Beer Night”

 

Cleveland has had a terrible reputation for trading away players who were stars or would become stars, with the dubious list including Roger Maris, Norm Cash, Rocky Colavito, Sam McDowell, Tommy John, Tommy Agee, Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss, Dennis Eckersley, Joe Carter, C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee and most recently Francisco Lindor. The franchise rebounded somewhat in the 1990s and fielded respectable teams, including a pair that reached the World Series, in 1995 and 1997, only to lose both times. Those clubs had star power, with names like Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Sandy Alomar Jr., Carlos Baerga, Kenny Lofton, Eddie Murray, Dennis Martinez and Orel Hershiser. Perhaps the most odious of seasons for the Tribe came in 2016, when they reached the Series only to blow a 3-1 edge in games to the formerly lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs, and lose in 7 games.

Will the Guardians start a new chapter in 2022 and give the fans a team worth cheering for? Despite a not-so-special year in 2021, they do boast a promising core of players going forward. We’ll examine what the future looks like for them in an upcoming post. For now, it’s time to say a fond farewell to the Cleveland Indians, as they make their way to the Happy Hunting Grounds of baseball history. Also, GO GUARDIANS!

 

 

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