If the movie Major League is your only knowledge of the Indians, allow me to fill in the blanks…
The great city of Cleveland, Ohio has been home to baseball for years before the Indians came into town as their first major league team. According to the incredibly lengthy Wikipedia page, citizens got their jollies both playing and watching baseball in the town square as far back as 1857, but it wasn’t until 1901 that the city got it’s first MLB team. The team name also went through several changes (Bluebirds, Bronchos, Napoleons/Naps) before settling as the Indians in 1915, but saw both Cy Young and Shoeless Joe Jackson on their team during their identity crisis. For any new fans, Cy Young has an award named after him for the best pitcher in each league every year, and Shoeless Joe Jackson is who Ray Liotta plays in Field of Dreams. If you haven’t ever seen Field of Dreams, make that your next life priority ASAP.
So, the newly dubbed Indians got their first World Series title in 1920, after competing against the likes of the ‘Black Sox’ (a scandal I’ll cover at a later date.) Unfortunately, the only other one they’d see in their history would be in 1948, and it’s been quite a dry spell ever since. Since that time, though, they’ve seen the likes of Roger Maris, Gaylord Perry – the first Indian to win the afore-mentioned Cy Young award, and Frank Robinson – first African American manager in the MLB, which sets them up right through the 70s. Now, one of my favorite bits of Indians history has little to no baseball relevance, but it’ makes for a great story, nonetheless. For some reason, the Cleveland organization felt it was a good idea to have a 10 cent beer night at the stadium. Beyond that, I’ll leave it to the magnificent Eephus Podcast to fill in the rest – go have a listen!
The era of the Cleveland Indians that I grew up with brought Kenny Lofton, one of the fastest base runners I remember seeing, and, of course, the movie Major League. Beyond Wild Thing and Willie Mays Hayes, however, the most prevalent team topic these days is actually its name and logo. “The Tribe” has, understandably, been under fire for many years for its representation of Native Americans in their mascot, Chief Wahoo, a cartoon with a feathered-band and red skin. Supposedly most fans are attached to this version of their mascot, but there are some who have taken to removing the cartoon from their apparel, known as “de-chiefing”. Even though it’s what I grew up with, I certainly wouldn’t be upset to see it replaced with something that wouldn’t offend an entire race of people.
All that being said, the team has been absolutely CRUSHING it this season, so hopefully there’s room to break up some old history, both in loses and logos.