Tag Archives: Cleveland

Indians fans: It is our lot in life to suffer

This blog has been silent through the September wild card chases, and it took the Indians’ disheartening performance last night to stir me to write again.

Although their pitching ranged from acceptable to excellent, the Indians failed utterly at the plate. I credit a gutty performance by the Rays’ starter for much of that, but the Tribe’s inability to drive in runs was largely their own doing.

The worst was Nick Swisher striking out late in the game with two men on and a great chance to score. Swisher took three vicious, aim-for-Lake-Erie cuts. The first? OK. Why not take a chance. But the second and third roundhouse swings were inexcusable when solid contact putting the ball in play would have brought something good. Every kid in Cleveland who ever played sandlot ball knows that. But Buckeye native Swisher evidently forgot. The Indians’ hopes for a comeback evaporated as he headed back to the bench.

The one-game wild card playoff is just another tease to lure Indians’ fans into another round of false hope. I imagine in a year or two, Major League Baseball will, in an effort to squeeze out even more TV revenue, propose another pre-qualifying round of playoffs, maybe with five-inning games, all to tantalize and taunt Cleveland fans (increasingly few who remain alive or in memory of the last champions from 1948). For 2013, we’re stuck with the memory of watching the Rays — an expansion team that plays in a dome — celebrate at Jacobs Field while our guys sat glumly in the dugout.

Realistically, the Indians were lucky even to get a shot in the post-season, which lasted a measly three-plus hours. During the season, they beat up on the weaklings (many in their own hapless AL Central Division) and struggled against the elite teams, most shamefully against Detroit.

No, this was not a championship-caliber team, and we Tribe fans will endure another gray winter needled by a bitter wind off Lake Erie, waiting for a new season to begin. On this sad, predictable morning, it’s tough to find hope amid the pain.

The death of Art Modell, and a bitter aftertaste in Cleveland

Art Modell died early today, and that will dredge up a lot of memories – the bad far overshadowing the good – in my hometown of Cleveland. The Plain Dealer had it right that Modell was “forever vilified” after moving the Browns to Baltimore.

I had long since left Cleveland when Modell moved the team in 1996, so the experience wasn’t as bitter for me as it was for others. But it still gets under my skin.

I also found it a great irony that Modell moved the franchise to Baltimore, which itself had its primary franchise — the Colts — ripped from the hearts of its fans. One awful move begetting another.

Neither city deserved what happened, and Clevelanders deserve better than what the New Browns have given them. But at least they have a team.

 

 

 

 

Great moments in childhood: My 1966 Rocky Colavito baseball card

On this, the 78th birthday of Rocky Colavito, permit me to reminisce on one of the great events of my childhood.

Like most kids in Cleveland in the late 50s and 1960s, I idolized Rocky Colavito, my favorite Indians player.  I was only 3 when Frank Lane traded him to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn at the beginning of the 1960 season, and I have vague memories of crying at his departure. Those “memories” are more likely an accumulation of hearing my dad and uncles and cousins griping for years about how it was the worst trade in the history of baseball. (To this day, I fervently believe it was the worst trade in the history of the sport, and there’s no dissuading me.)

In any event, Rocky returned to the Tribe a few years later to great joy in Cleveland and in our home on Erieview Road in Cleveland Heights. By this time I was in grade school and a full-fledged baseball fan whose sole goal in life was to play shortstop for the Tribe. I was also an avid baseball card collector.

In those days, Topps — the only maker then — released cards in series. The first series with about 120 cards came out around the time the teams were breaking camp from spring training and heading north. At 9 years old, I couldn’t wait for the new cards to arrive. I remember talking my mom into getting me a box of “wax packs” of cards to mark the start of the year.

In the first pack I opened, there was Sandy Koufax, card No. 100. That was a great start, but I really marked success by the number of Indians I got in each pack.

A few weeks later, we went to visit my maternal grandmother, who lived in a senior citizens’ apartment complex a few suburbs over in Mayfield Heights. (Cleveland, scooped out by a glacier even longer ago than the 1948 World Series championship, is big on “Heights.”) Any trip to a drugstore was a chance to see if I could cadge a few dimes out of Mom to buy a pack or two of cards, and little did I know what wonder awaited.

Turns out that the long-forgotten shop we visited that weekend stocked the Series 2 cards from Topps. And Rocky Colavito – the golden ticket of my fourth-grade dreams — was in Series 2 at No. 150.

I don’t remember the circumstances, but one of the cards I got that day was a Colavito.

This was 1966, so I couldn’t share my joy on Facebook or boast about it on Twitter. The news had to wait until the 10 a.m. recess bell released us from Mrs. Thelma Ward’s class at St. Margaret Mary School in South Euclid. Recess was a time to see who had added what cards, and I had Rocky.

Within a minute or two, while the girls skipped rope or did whatever they did on their half of playground, every boy in the school surrounded me hoping to get a look at the Colavito card.

For a skinny kid with no discernible athletic skills, this was the highlight of my young life. At 4 feet 3 inches tall or thereabouts, I was the big man on campus.

Five decades later, I still remember that cold and overcast spring day clearly, still feeling the crush of the crowd at my shoulders as everyone craned to get a look at “The Rock.”

For all this time, I’ve told the story in the context that getting the Colavito card was extra special because it came the spring that Rocky came back to the Tribe. But I looked it up tonight and that wasn’t the case. Colavito returned to Cleveland the year before, in 1965, when his Topps card had one of those hilarious rubouts of the logo on the cap of his prior team, the Kansas City Athletics. I never got that card. It was No. 380 and probably came out in the summer after school had let out.

That slight adjustment to the story notwithstanding, getting the Colavito card was one of the great moments of my boyhood and remains one of my most cherished memories.

Thanks, Rocky, and happy birthday.

Coming out as a San Francisco Giants fan

With one of my sons and a friend, I went to see the Cleveland Indians play the Giants at AT&T Park in San Francisco yesterday. The nationally televised game was a test of loyalty for me: Would I root for the team of my youth or the team of my recent years.

Honestly, I wasn’t fully sure which way I’d go. I dressed accordingly. I wore my ’48 Indians cap above my Willie Mays jersey, and my Indians socks were concealed under the legs of my jeans.

Watching the Indians take batting practice, I reminisced about all the times I watched them warm up at the old Municipal Stadium. Our seats at AT&T Park were directly behind home plate in the third deck, reminding me of all the games in which my friends and I sat in the stadium’s upper deck from almost exactly the same vantage point.

The teams were introduced, the game began — and then a strange thing happened.

The Indians touched up Giants starter Madison Bumgarner for a couple of early hits, and a cluster of Indians fans a few rows back cheered each time.

That annoyed me.

After nearly 55 of years of watching baseball, I finally, fully crossed over the line. I bleed orange and black. I prefer the Senior Circuit. I loathe the designated hitter.

I still cling to my lifelong hope that the Indians will win a World Series, imagining that I’ll return home for the celebration at Public Square with millions of Indians fans weeping for joy.

I just pray the Indians do that at the expense of any team but the Giants.

NOTE: I’ve now seen the Indians at a pretty good list of stadiums: Municipal Stadium and Jacobs Field in Cleveland, Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park, The Kingdome, Oakland Coliseum and AT&T Park.

Here’s to the Irish, especially the baseball players, on St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patrick’s day, everyone! I was pleased to find that there is an Irish-American Baseball Hall of Fame, thanks to a Google search and the Eddie Kranepool Society Mets blog. The 2011 inductions are on today at Foley’s Pub in New York City.

The Irish and baseball have been joined like a firm grip on a pint of Guinness since the game got started on America’s eastern seaboard in the 19th century.

I’m of Irish descent myself and proud of it.  I grew up in Cleveland Heights, Ohio,  a suburb populated mainly by Catholics (Irish, Italian and Slavic) and Jews.  The typical lineup for the teams I played on looked something like this:

Day, SS

Steinberg, LF

DiGiacamo, 1B

Kowalski, RF

Kennedy, CF

Rabinowitz, C

Jedinek, 3B

Merriman, 2B

Vincenzo, P

Most of those names are made up – I’m going to have to probe the memory banks to recall some of the real lineups – but the tone is right.

With its ethnic and racial diversity, modern baseball is more than ever a game for everyone. May the sun be always on its face.

Bye, Bye, Lebron

Lebron James has bid adieu to Cleveland and the Cavaliers, choosing to take his quest for an NBA championship to Miami and the Heat. The tales in the leading newspapers of the two cities are as expected. There’s joy in Miami, where the Herald’s lead sentence tonight is “Size up the rings.” Meanwhile in Cleveland, The Plain Dealer cries “Heartbreak” on its homepage and on its Cavs section.

As a native Clevelander, I have standing to comment. And I’m not broken up, except perhaps for a transitory feeling of pity for the fans in Cleveland, Akron and elsewhere in Ohio and environs who live and breathe NBA basketball.

I started life as a television-bred New York Knicks fan, as we had no NBA franchise in Cleveland until the Cavaliers joined the league as an expansion team in 1970. Several woeful years begat several more woeful years, with a mediocre or even decent year here and there .

When the Cavs won the lottery for the right to pick Akron-raised James, the franchise suddenly became a blooming powerhouse. The Cavs never quite made it to the championship, and it’s going to be more difficult now, no matter what kind of ridiculous promises owner Dan Gilbert makes.

Cleveland fans, who know and more or less expect and accept heartbreak from their teams, will talk themselves silly about Lebron over the next few days.

My unsolicited advice to them is to mope for a day, maybe two. Then turn the radio on and listen to the Tribe, and maybe start thinking about the Browns’ season ahead. Dream about the championship that some day,  as sure as the cold winter wind blows off Lake Erie, will come to town.

The Rose Bowl – A Midwestern perspective

Woody Hayes

As a child of the Big Ten Conference, I believed the Rose Bowl was a place of magic, enchantment and, inevitably, frustration and resignation.

With piles of snow outside our homes in suburban Cleveland, we’d tune in to the game as the sun was setting in Eastern time. We’d watch in fascination as 100,000 people in T-shirts filled up the stands in Pasadena under a warm California sun. How many families watching the Rose Bowl from frosty towns in Indiana, Iowa and Ohio each New Year’s Day got the spark of inspiration to move to California from the Rose Bowl? Thousands, I suspect.

I can’t recall the first Rose Bowl I watched, but Ohio State’s victory in 1969 is firmly planted in memory. The Buckeyes defeated USC 27-16, and the one and only player I forever associate with that game is OSU quarterback Rex Kern. That’s significant. I’d forgotten that O.J. Simpson played for the Trojans.

That one taste of Buckeye victory was glorious, but through the 1970s and beyond I came to the realization that the Rose Bowl was where either Ohio State or Michigan lost to USC or UCLA. The Big 10 teams, coached respectively by Woody Hayes (above) and Bo Shembechler, were proponents of the running game — three yards and a cloud of dust, as the old saying goes. SC and UCLA had dynamic passing games, and those Pac 10 teams seemed much more exciting and talented by comparison to the stodgy Big 10 squads.

My awe for the Pac 10 carried over for many years after I left Ohio. While living in Omaha, I remember heading to Lincoln for a UCLA-Nebraska game in the mid-80s. My Midwestern psyche expected the Bruins to win, although as I recall the Cornhuskers won that day.

Having lived on the West Coast for most of the past 20 years, I still have not adjusted to being in Pacific Time for the Rose Bowl. It’s too sunny and warm outside for it to be Rose Bowl Day, and I still can’t quite come to grips with the game coming on early in the afternoon instead of in the early evening.

I will be watching today and rooting for the Buckeyes, of course. But if the Oregon Ducks win, I won’t be surprised. And I won’t be able to play in the snow when the game’s over.