The Cleveland Indians are arguably baseball’s most exciting and interesting team. Before you go assuming that we were swallowed up by our own bias, hear us out. Even before the first professional baseball teams were established, Cleveland was a baseball town. Back in 1857, Cleveland baseball games would take over the city’s many public squares on a daily basis. Nothing could stop them–not even the city authorities who sought an ordinance forbidding the sporting spectacle.
The Indians may have been on the wrong side of baseball’s greatest catch (thanks, Willie) but in Hollywood, they were a sight to behold (thanks, Charlie). And in reality, they always have been. Even in their down days, Cleveland fans show up to cheer and raise a beer for their teams.
Before the Rustlers, Lake Shores, Bluebirds, Naps, or Indians were ever a thing, the Forest City Baseball club ruled Cleveland. The team was one of a few teams to go professional following the success of the Cincinnati Red Stockings. The team would fold in 1872, but the Indians history had just begun.
The Strange Beginnings for Cleveland Baseball
For starters, the team jumped between interstate rivals without few ever knowing it. Did you know that the Indians franchise originated in Michigan, not Ohio? They were founded in Grand Rapids as the “Rustlers,” a minor league team competing in the Western League, and would move south to Cleveland for the 1900 season.
Did you know that they once went by Cleveland Lake Shores and changed their name three times between 1900 and 1902? Three times! Team owners even considered moving the team to Cincinnati or Pittsburgh. Just the thought of either relocation makes our Cleveland stomachs a bit weak. Thanks to a cross-league dispute, the team landed Nap Lajoie, a top National League player, and the fans started packing the stands to show Cleveland’s true colors.
Speaking of ol’ Nappy, just how good was this second baseman? Cleveland named the team after him. In 1903, the team conducted a write-in contest to rename the Bluebirds. The “Naps” won handily. The name was, of course, chosen in honor of star player and 1903 AL Batting Champion, Nap LaJoie. It stuck all the way until 1915. To this day, the Cleveland Naps are the only Major League Baseball team to have ever been named after a current player.
An Original Winner
The Cleveland Indians were one of eight original American League franchises. The squad would go on to change names twice before becoming the Indians we know and love today. In all, the team has been taking the field for 118 seasons.
– Six American League Championships
– Two World Series Wins
– 14 playoff appearances
– 10 division titles
– 111 wins in 1954
– A 33-year slump with only one 3rd place finish (1960-93)
– 6 names and 3 ballparks
– 6 consecutive 3MM attendance seasons (1996-2001)
– 455 consecutive sellout games (Between June 12, 1995 and April 4, 2001)
Memorable Firsts in Indians History
In 1920, playing in their 20th season, the Indians defeated the Brooklyn Robins 5-2 to win the World Series, stealing four consecutive games from their foes after falling behind 2 games to 1. Game 5, hosted by the Indians, went straight into the history books. Among records was Elmer Smith’s grand slam, the first 4-run homer in a World Series. Jim Bagby then became the first pitcher to hit a series home run. And, as many baseball historians will retell, Bill Wambsganns delivered on the first and only unassisted triple play in World Series history.
Streakers and Barrier Breakers
In 2017, the Indians experienced a hot streak unlike any other team in baseball history, tallying 22 wins in a row, the longest winning streak with no ties in Major League Baseball history. That streak featured 4 double-digit wins and a combined score of 14-36 over the 22-game winning spree. In 1947, just months after Jackie Robinson’s debut, Cleveland signed Larry Doby. The seven-time all-star endured great hardship as the first black player in the American League.
* 1948: Negro League pitching legend Satchel Paige became the oldest rookie in MLB history when he was drafted by the Indians. He made his debut in 1948 at the age of 42
* 1975: Frank Robinson became the first black manager in MLB history when he served as a player/manager for the Indians
The Battle of Ohio
Nevermind the rivalry with Detroit. We’ll save that for another day. This is about the Battle of (and for) Ohio. The winner takes all. And a massive trophy for winning the most games in each season’s head-to-head matchup. Every year, the team from the South, the Cincinnati Reds, battle it out with the Tribe, with winner taking all the bragging rights, from Toledo to Portsmouth, and the Lake of Erie to the River of Ohio. The team owns an all-time 60-49 lead against the Reds in the series.
The Greatest Team
The 1948 Cleveland Indians fielded six future Hall of Famers, including three pitchers: Bob Feller, Satchel Paige, and Bob Lemon. Outfielder Larry Doby, infielder Joe Gordon, and player-manager Lou Boudreau also made the hall. Boudreau was named 1948 American League MVP. The Indians beat out the Boston Braves in 6 games to earn their second and last World Series Championship.
A Great Partnership
Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park has been named “A Proud Entertainment Partner of the Cleveland Indians”.
This new partnership will provide added value to all of its guests. Once-in-a-lifetime activities with the Indians partnership include:
– Private “VIP Experiences” at Progressive Field on game days including the opportunity to steal second base during a game
– Viewing the game from the Press Box and watching batting practice
– Attending a private brunch with Indians’ alumni at Kosar’s Wood-Fired Grill
– Unique property promotions and giveaways, Rock Star Rewards club loyalty benefits, and many more remarkable events at the Hard Rock Rocksino
A Strong Run, A Bright Future
The Cleveland Indians have made the playoffs in 4 of the past 6 seasons, including a near-win at the classic but devastating 2016 World Series. Manager Terry Francona, a two-time World Series winning manager, has won two AL Manager of the Year Awards. Francona will continue to lead the Indians in 2018.
And despite having the longest championship slump in North America, the Indians are primed for a big run in 2019. Legendary baseball writer Peter Gammons even called them the best-ran organization in professional sports. Led by ace Corey Kluber and star shortstop Francisco Lindor, there’s no telling where this team could go!