Cleveland Indians

From BR Bullpen

The Cleveland Indians[edit]

Cleveland Indians 2014.jpg

One of the American League's original teams, the Cleveland Indians had a history of intermittent success and long periods of ineptitude. The team won their first World Series in 1920, then didn't make the Fall Classic again for 28 years. The 1948 season is the most fondly remembered by Indians fans, as the team won the American League's first ever tiebreaking playoff game (against the Boston Red Sox) and took the World Series in six games from the Boston Braves. They won the pennant again in 1954 with a then AL-record 111 wins, but were swept in the World Series by the New York Giants.

There followed a period of horrible doldrums. Team management traded slugger Rocky Colavito for Harvey Kuenn before the 1960 season. Colavito had led the league in home runs in 1959, Kuenn in batting average. Kuenn had a decent season in 1960, but missed 28 games and was traded after the season ended. Colavito went on to be a star with other teams, playing in the All-Star Game in four of the next five years. Only six times between 1960 and 1993 did the team have a winning record; only once in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s did they finish as high as third (Of the 24 teams in existence when the leagues went to divisional play in 1969, only the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers franchise went longer before making postseason play).

The mascot Slider

Over time, Municipal Stadium was allowed to deteriorate and there were rumors that the team would be moved to another city. These rumors served as inspiration for the hit movie Major League, released in 1989. However, new ownership sparked a revival of interest, and the team moved into new Jacobs Field in 1994. Though the 1994 season was unfinished because of the MLB labor dispute, in 1995 the Indians won the AL Central Division title, and won it again in five of the next six seasons. They won the AL pennant in 1995 and 1997, but lost the World Series in both years. The loss was particularly excruciating in 1997, as closer Jose Mesa blew a late lead in the deciding 7th game of the Series against the Florida Marlins. The team's hitting stars were Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Jim Thome and Omar Vizquel, while the top pitchers were Charles Nagy and Bartolo Colon.

The Indians continued to be competitive for the remainder of the 1990s, then fell back a notch in the 2000s. However, in 2007, they came within one game of returning to the World Series, before losing the ALCS to the Boston Red Sox after taking a 3 games to 1 lead. The team's stars during the 2000s were pitchers CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee, who won back-to-back Cy Young Awards and C Victor Martinez. They were all gone via trade as the team headed into the 2010s.

The Indians came back to prominence in 2016, when they beat out the defending World Series champions Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers for a division title. They then won the ALDS and ALCS in impressive fashion to meet the Chicago Cubs in a much-anticipated World Series matchup of two teams seeking to overcome extremely long championship droughts. The Series once again went down to the wire, the Indians only bowing down in extra innings in Game 7. They repeated as AL Central champions in 2017, when they set an American League record with 22 consecutive wins in August and September. However, this time they were stunned by a young New York Yankees team in the Division Series, losing in five games. The team's major stars those years were SS Francisco Lindor, SP Corey Kluber, and RPs Cody Allen and Andrew Miller, under the leadership of manager Terry Francona.

Chief Wahoo, the Indians' controversial mascot which was abandoned in 2019

The team adopted the name "Indians" in 1915, after having been known informally in its first seasons as the Blues, Brocos, and then the "Naps", after team captain Napoleon Lajoie, one the biggest stars of the early years of the American League. There is a story going around that the name Indians is in honor of Lou Sockalexis, who was one of the first Native American players in the majors when he appeared with the Cleveland Spiders in the 1890s. While it is true that the Spiders were sometimes called the Indians in 1897, the nickname was considered derisive and was accompanied by other imagery derogatory to Native Americans, such as "scalping" opponents and so on. So it is hard to see the team settling on the name in 1915 as something positive. However, the name did not attract significant controversy until the end of the 20th century, when the Indians' appearance in two World Series in 1995 and 1997 brought national attention, and criticism of the name and especially of the team's mascot, Chief Wahoo, a caricature of a smiling Native American figure. Still, not much changed, as the team continued to use both its name and mascot. In 2014, a Native American activist sued the team for $9 billion, a number "representing nearly 100 years of racism and profiteering since the team adopted its current name in 1915." The lawsuit came on the heels of a strong campaign to see the Washington Redskins of the National Football League change their name.

The controversy was fueled by the Indians' appearance in the 2016 World Series, and Commissioner Rob Manfred asked the team to phase out the mascot. CEO Paul Dolan acceded to the demand by announcing in January of 2018 that the mascot would no longer be used on uniforms or at the ballpark starting in 2019, although some merchandise sporting the effigy would still be sold locally. But calls to change the team's name persisted, and in July 2020, with the nation in a deep reflection about racism in the wake of the death of George Floyd, the team announced that it was considering other possible names. With the debate over the team's name now unavoidable, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown suggested they use the name "Buckeyes", in tribute to their home state and to the Negro Leagues team that used the name. On December 13th, after the Redskins had acceded to pressure and become the "Washington Football Team", the New York Times reported that the team had decided to drop the "Indians" part of its name, although it was not clear if the change would come into effect immediately or after the 2021 season, and what the new name would be. On July 23, 2021, the team announced that it would be known as the Cleveland Guardians beginning in 2022, the official name change taking place on November 19th.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Ted Berg: "Neither Chief Wahoo nor the Indians' nickname honor the Penobscot man that inspired them", "For the Win!", USA Today Sports, February 1, 2018. [1]
  • Chris Bumbaca: "Cleveland's baseball team will be looking for a new nickname. Here are 10 suggestions.", USA Today, December 14, 2020. [2]
  • Anthony Castrovince: "Cleveland Indians to change team name",, December 14, 2020. [3]
  • Carroll Conklin: Indians Pride: The Story of the Cleveland Indians in the 1960s, Bright Stone Press, Lewis Center, OH, 2016. ISBN 978-1537269047
  • Shawn Eckhart: The Cleveland Indians, 1946-1960, CreateSpace, 2018. ISBN 978-1718622777
  • Jace Evans: "Cleveland baseball team will drop 'Indians' nickname", USA Today, December 13, 2020. [4]
  • Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company (March 1993)
  • Jonathan Knight: Classic Tribe: The 50 Greatest Games in Cleveland Indians History, Kent State University Press, Kent, OH, 2009.
  • Franklin Lewis: The Cleveland Indians, Kent State University Press, Kent, OH, 2006 (first published in 1949). ISBN 0-87338-885-2
  • Stephanie M. Liscio: Integrating Cleveland Baseball: Media Activism, the Integration of the Indians and the Demise of the Negro League Buckeyes, McFarland, Cleveland, OH, 2010.
  • Scott Longert: The Best They Could Be: How the Cleveland Indians became the Kings of Baseball, 1916-1920, Potomac Books, Dulles, VA, 2013. ISBN 978-1612344935
  • Scott H. Longert: No Money, No Beer, No Pennants: The Cleveland Indians and Baseball in the Great Depression, Ohio University Press, Athens, OH, 2016. ISBN 978-0-8214-2243-4
  • Scott H. Longert: Bad Boys, Bad Times: The Cleveland Indians and Baseball in the Prewar Years, 1937–1941, Ohio University Press, Athens, OH, 2019. ISBN 978-0-8214-2379-0
  • Scott H. Longert: Victory on Two Fronts: The Cleveland Indians and Baseball through the World War II Era, Ohio University Press, Athens, OH, 2022. ISBN 978-0-8214-2471-1
  • Bob Nightengale: "MLB gets Cleveland to drop Chief Wahoo, now can it get the Indians to change nicknames?", USA Today Sports, January 29, 2018. [5]
  • James E. Odenkirk: "A Bitter Rivalry recalled: The Cleveland Indians and the New York Yankees, 1947-1956", in The National Pastime, SABR, Volume 28 (2008), pp. 78-86.
  • James E. Odenkirk: Of Tribes of Tribulations: The Early Decades of the Cleveland Indians, McFarland, Jefferson, NC, 2015. ISBN 978-0-7864-7983-2
  • George Christian Pappas: A Tribe Reborn: How the Cleveland Indians of the '90s Went from Cellar Dwellers to Playoff Contenders, Sports Publishing LLC, New York, NY, 2014. ISBN 978-1613216378
  • Terry Pluto: The Curse of Rocky Colavito: A loving look at a thirty-year slump, Fireside Books, Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1995.
  • Terry Pluto: Dealing: The Cleveland Indians' New Ballgame, Gray & Company, Publishers, Cleveland, OH, 2007.
  • Tim Schad: "Indians to remove Chief Wahoo logo from uniforms in 2019", USA Today Sports, January 29, 2018. [6]
  • Russell Schneider : The Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia, Temple University Press, Philadelphia, PA, 1996. ISBN 978-1-56639-405-5
  • Russell Schneider: Whatever Happened to Super Joe?: Catching Up with 45 Good Old Guys from the Bad Old Days of the Cleveland Indians, Gray & Company, Publishers, Cleveland, OH, 2007.
  • Russell Schneider: Cleveland Indians Legends, Black Squirrel Books, Kent State University Press, Kent, OH, 2013. ISBN 978-1-60635-178-9