The team I was going to talk about this week is going to be held off until next week or the week after so for now I give you the Cleveland Indians.
Major League Baseball, American League, Central Division
Stadium: Progressive Field
World Series Championships: 1920, 1948
American League Pennants: 1920, 1948, 1954, 1995, 1997
Division Titles: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2007
Commonly called “The Tribe,” the Cleveland Indians are one of the original American League baseball teams, founded in 1900 as the Cleveland Blues. Cleveland has had the same baseball team ever since its inception in 1900 leading to a large and vast history for the single team. Before 1900, professional Cleveland baseball took the form of the Cleveland Forest Citys in 1869 and joined the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players in 1871, the nation’s first professional baseball league. The Forest Citys played horribly and were soon supplanted by the Cleveland Blues in 1879 when they joined the National League. Professional baseball was absent from Cleveland for two years until the Cleveland Spiders, right, joined the American Association in 1887. With the American Association crumbling, the Spiders jumped ship to the National League and enjoyed success there. However, the Spiders’ owner also bought the St. Louis Cardinals and was soon shipping Cleveland players to St. Louis. Eventually the Spiders were disbanded after the 1899 season. But Cleveland would have a new team the following year.
In 1900, the minor league Western League changed its named to the American League and moved its Grand Rapids ball team to Cleveland, becoming the Cleveland Blues. The next year, the American League angered the National League by becoming a major league. The Blues were one of the founding members.
In 1902, the Blues changed its name to the Bronchos and played under that name until 1904. For the 1905 season, the Bronchos became the Naps, named after their new star player Napolean Lajoie, left. When Lajoie was shipped off to the Philadelphia Athletics (now Oakland Athletics) in 1914, the organization decided it was time for a new name. The name “Indians” was chosen in response to the Boston Braves (now Atlanta Braves) who were known as the Miracle Braves at that time.
The Indians won their first World Series in 1920 by defeating the Brooklyn Robins (now the Los Angeles Dodgers) five games to two. After that win, the Indians would become a mediocre team until 1936, where a 17-year-old pitcher named Bob Feller picked the Indians’ fortunes up and created a good team again.
However, it wasn’t long until the team fell apart again and a change in ownership and manager also signaled a change in venues as the Indians permanently moved to Cleveland Municipal Stadium from League Park in 1947 (the Indians had played weekend games in Municipal Stadium starting in 1932).
In 1948, the Indians were forced to play a one-game playoff with the Boston Red Sox for the American League championship. The Indians won and faced the Boston Braves, the team the Indians were named after, for the World Series. The Indians won in six games but the Indians have not win another World Series since then despite going to the Series in 1954, 1995, and 1997.
Then the Indians hit a low point in their history. From 1959 to 1993 the team could only manage one third-place finish and five fourth-place finish. All the other times they finished at the bottom of the standings. It was so bad that in 1966, the team was rumored to be relocated due to poor attendance but it never happened as the team was sold off once again. 1974 saw the infamous Ten Cent Beer Night, bloodied fan on left, in which fans rioted and forced Cleveland to forfeit the game to the Texas Rangers.
The film Major League came out in 1989, during the Indians’ slumping years, which showcased the Indians as a hopeless team that went from worst to first. In 1993, the last year of the slump, the Indians suffered a tragedy during Spring Training in which a boat carrying pitchers Steve Olin, Tim Crews, and Bob Ojeda crashed and killed Olin and Crews. Ojeda was seriously injured, did not play that season, and retired the next year.
The opening of the new Jacobs Field in 1994 was a sign of the new and improved Indians. They were only one game out of first place when the infamous baseball strike ocurred to wipe out the rest of the 1994 season. The next season, the first one after the strike, the Indians finished with a 100-44 record and won the first ever divisional title under the new MLB divisional system. The Indians lost the World Series in six games to the Atlanta Braves. In 1997, the Indians went to the World Series again but were defeated by the Florida Marlins.
In 2007, the Indians were one game away from advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1997. Despite being up three games to one against the Boston Red Sox, the Red Sox won the next three games and went on to win the World Series.
The Cleveland Indians was consumed by corporate sponsorship in 2008 and Jacobs Field was renamed to Progressive Field. The fans still refer to the stadium as “The Jake.”
Currently the Indians are in second place in the American
League Central with a 12-14 record, three games behind the Chicago White Sox.
In the past decade, the Indians have been criticized for the use of the name “Indians” and their mascot Chief Wahoo, featured in the Indians’ primary logo. With a history deeply rooted in the Indians name and Chief Wahoo, it is unlikely the Cleveland team will change its name in the near future.
Famous players who played for Cleveland: Cy Young, "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, Tris Speaker, Satchel Paige, Tommy John, Dennis Eckersley, Frank Robinson, Kenny Lofton, Eddie Murray, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and Roberto Alomar
Historical Fact: The Indians signed the American League’s first black player, Larry Doby, left, 11 weeks after Jackie Robinson signed with the National League Brooklyn Dodgers (now Los Angeles Dodgers). In 1948, Satchel Paige became the Major League’s oldest rookie and the first ever black pitcher. Then the Indians made records again in 1975 with the hiring of Frank Robinson as the Major’s first black manager.
~ Chris, guest blogger