1901-1959: Early to middle history of the franchiseEdit
Contrary to popular belief, the team was not named for Louis Sockalexis when it assumed its current name in 1915. Rather, when the Naps needed a new name after Napoleon Lajoie was given to the Philadelphia Athletics after the end of the 1914 season Charles Somers, the team owner, asked the local newspapers to come up with a new name for the team. The name, "Indians," was reversion to a name of an earlier National League club of the same name; the change was meant to be temporary. They chose "Indians" as a play on the name of the 1914 Boston Braves, who were known as the "Miracle Boston Braves" after going from last place on July 4 to a sweep in the World Series. 34 years later, the Indians went on to defeat these same Braves, 4 games to 2, in the 1948 World Series -- after winning a one game playoff against Boston's other team, the Red Sox. The victory over the Braves was the franchises second of two world titles; the Tribe had also won the 1920 World Series, defeating the Brooklyn Robins 5 games to 2.(Pluto, 1999)
The Tribe, as the Indians are affectionately referred to by Clevelanders, fielded a competitive team through the late 1940s and early 1950s, featuring pitching stars Bob Feller, Early Wynn, Bob Lemon, and Mike Garcia (also known as the Big Four). They broke the color barrier in the American League by signing Larry Doby in 1947, eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson signed with the Dodgers. They appeared in the World Series in 1948 and 1954 (when they won 111 games in a 154-game season), and were in regular contention for the pennant with the dominant New York Yankees.
1960s thru the early 1990s: The curse of Rocky ColavitoEdit
A 30+ year slump began for the Indians with the club's most infamous trade; which involved slugging right fielder, and huge fan favorite, Rocky Colavito. Just before opening day in 1960 Colavito was traded to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. The Akron Beacon Journal's beat reporter for the Tribe, Terry Pluto, has documented the decades of woe that seemed to follow the trade, in his book The Curse of Rocky Colavito. Pluto takes an in-depth look at this particular era, in which the franchise perennially played an almost comically bad brand of baseball. Pluto has written other books on the Indians, most notably, Our Tribe : A Baseball Memoir.
Frank 'Trader' Lane was the main culprit in the construction of what became a running joke in baseball for three decades. His poor trades left the team with little in assets, and the legacy snowballed. Without any strength in their farm system to nurture, the team fell deeper and deeper into a slump, which discounting a few moments of false hope, continued until the Tribe's inaugural season at Jacobs Field in 1994.
1994 and beyond: A new beginning Edit
Indians General Manager John Hart and team owner Dick Jacobs finally found the light at the end of the tunnel. In what seems to have been a case of life imitating art, the 1994 Cleveland Indians re-discovered their winning ways of the 1940s and 1950s; The 1989 motion picture Major League featured the Indians as a worst-to-first story: the 1993 Indians ended their era at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, 76-86, which was last in the American League East Division. The team opened the 1994 season with a new stadium, Jacobs Field, and with it came the success and the spirits of their movie counterparts. The 1994 MLB Season ended prematurely, with a Players Union strike; on the day the strike began, the Indians were one game behind the Chicago White Sox -- their newly-formed AL Central rivals-- with 49 left to be played.
The strike, which extended into the 1995 season, hardly dampened the teams newly found success. Without losing a step, the 1995 Indians went 100-44 in a shortened season. The team went on to defeat the Boston Red Sox in the Divisional Series; and the Seattle Mariners in the ALCS, reaching the World Series for their first time since 1954. Although the Tribe went on to lose to the World Series four games to two against the Atlanta Braves, 1995 was still a remarkable year for the Indians; besides winning 100 games, they also led Major League Baseball in batting average and led the American League in team ERA.
The Tribe took the AL Central Crown again in 1996, but lost to the Baltimore Orioles (three games to one) in the Divisional Series. In 1997 the Tribe started lukewarm, but finished the regular season hot. Taking their third consecutive AL Central title, the Tribe shocked the baseball world by beating the heavily-favored New York Yankees in the Divisional Series (3-2). After getting payback for 1996 against the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS, the Tribe went on to finish a bittersweet season against the Florida Marlins. In a dramatic series, which featured (among other oddities) one of the coldest games in World Series history, Indians fans were reminded that the Curse of Rocky Colavito was not, in fact, dead: with the Indians in the lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning of game seven, the Marlins managed to tie the game. Relief Pitcher Jose Mesa, who is largely blamed by Tribe fans for the loss, gave up the run. The Marlins went on to clinch the title in the bottom of the eleventh, with Edgar Renteria driving the game winning RBI just past the glove of leaping Indians second baseman Tony Fernandez. In his 2002 autobiography, Indians shortstop Omar Vizquel directly blamed Mesa for the loss.
In 1998, the Indians fell short of returning to the World Series for a third time in four seasons, being beaten by the New York Yankees in the ALCS. In 1999, the Divisional Series was the stage for one of the biggest collapses in MLB postseason history; the Indians, who were in command with a two games to none lead going into game three, gave up three consecutive games to the Boston Red Sox. The debacle cost Indians manager Mike Hargrove his job.
In 2000, the Indians got off to a mediocre start, going 44-42 at the break. They soon caught fire and went 46-30 the rest of the way to finish 90-72. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough as they ended up five games behind the Chicago White Sox in the Central division and missed the wild card by one game to the Seattle Mariners. In 2000, Larry Dolan bought the Indians for $323 million from Richard Jacobs, who, along with his late brother David, had paid $35 million for the club in 1986.
2001 saw a return to prominence for the Indians. After losing Manny Ramirez and Sandy Alomar Jr. to free agency, the Tribe signed former-MVP Juan Gonzalez, who arguably had one his best years in 2001, and reclaimed the Central division with a 91-71 record. One of the highlights of the season was a game televised nationally on ESPN on August 5th, where the Indians erased a 12-run deficit to the Mariners and won the game in extra innings, now known as the Impossible Return. The playoff run was short lived, however, as they were eliminated in the first round by the juggernaut Mariners.
In the 2001 offseason, GM John Hart resigned and his assistant Mark Shapiro took the reins. Shapiro decided that the Indians team was aging, and needed to be rebuilt with young minor-league talent. This sent Cleveland fans in an uproar, as Shapiro traded fan favorite pitching ace Bartolo Colon for then-unknowns Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, and Grady Sizemore, and the Indians struggled through 2002 and 2003, posting losing records both years.
In 2004, the young talent finally started to hit its stride, and the Indians were a terrific offensive team. Unfortunately, the bullpen was a major Achilles heel. They blew more than 20 saves that year, and the Indians finished with an 80-82 record.
In early 2005, the offense was anemic, and couldn't score runs like the year before. However, the offense soon picked up, and the Indians began a 9-game winning streak in mid-June, going over .500 for good. After a brief July slump, the Indians caught fire in August, and they cut a 15.5 game deficit in the Central Division to the White Sox down to 1.5 games. However, the season came to a heartbreaking end as the Indians went on to lose six of their last seven games, five of them by one run, and missed the playoffs by only two games.
- The Indians' non-competitiveness during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s became a subject for humor. A standard joke of the time had a judge asking a child in a parental custody battle which parent he preferred to live with. The child says neither one, they both beat me — the judge then asks who does he want to live with and the answer is "the Cleveland Indians, they don't beat anybody."
- Richie Scheinblum, an outfielder who played with the Indians from 1965 to 1969, joked, "Maybe we should change our name to the Cleveland Utility Company. All we have are utility players," meaning players who were kept on the roster because they played several positions, but none of them particularly well.
- On June 4, 1974 the Indians hosted "Ten Cent Beer Night", but had to forfeit the game to the Texas Rangers due to drunken and unruly fans.
- In 1981, Lon Simmons, then broadcasting for the Oakland Athletics, told his listeners, "The A's leave after this game for Cleveland. It was only by a 13 to 12 vote that they decided to go." The suggestion was that, despite being in a pennant race that would eventually see them win their division, the A's would rather forfeit all the games in the series than actually go to Cleveland; not that they were afraid of the Indians, then having a typically terrible season, but that the city would be terribly unpleasant.
- That same season, Graig Nettles, a New York Yankees third baseman who had begun his career with the Indians, took the intercom of the team's charter flight, and said, "We will soon be landing in Cleveland. Please set your watches back 42 minutes."
- The Indians were the subject of a 1989 movie, Major League, which starred Charlie Sheen and Tom Berenger. Sequels followed in 1994 and 1998.
- The team's most notable fan, comedian Drew Carey, poked fun at the rest of baseball while he promoted his new sitcom The Drew Carey Show in 1995. In the promos, he often uttered the now-famous line:
- Finally, it's your team that sucks!
- Founded: 1893, as the Grand Rapids, Michigan, franchise in the minor Western League. Moved to Cleveland in 1900 after the National League had vacated the city following the 1899 season, and when the Western League was renamed the American League. The American became a major league in 1901. Cleveland is thus a charter member of the American League.
- Formerly known as: the Cleveland Blues (1901), Broncos/Bronchos (1902) and Naps (1903-1914). They were called the Blues because they wore blue uniforms. When reporters referred to them as the "Bluebirds", which the players hated, the players chose the name Broncos or Bronchos. The name was changed to the Naps when Napoleon Lajoie was the team's star player.
- Uniform colors: Navy blue and red with silver trim
- Logo design: "Chief Wahoo" (a smiling Indian caricature) and a cursive capital "I"
- Mascot: Slider
- Playoff appearances (9): 1920, 1948, 1954, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2007
- 3 Earl Averill, OF, 1929-39
- 5 Lou Boudreau, SS, 1938-50; manager, 1942-50
- 14 Larry Doby, OF, 1947-55 & 1958
- 18 Mel Harder, P, 1928-47
- 19 Bob Feller, P, 1936-56
- 21 Bob Lemon, P, 1946-58
- 455 Cleveland Fans, for number of consecutive sellouts at Jacobs Field, 1994-2001
#12|USA|LF Ben Francisco #38|VEN|RF Franklin Gutierrez #24|USA|CF Grady Sizemore
#2|DOM|SS Jhonny Peralta #13|VEN|2B Asdrubal Cabrera #7|USA|2B Jamey Carroll #1|USA|3B Casey Blake #15|DOM|3B Andy Marte #25|USA|1B Ryan Garko #23|USA|1B Michael Aubrey #48|USA|DH Travis Hafner
#41|VEN|C Victor Martinez #10|USA|C Kelly Shoppach
#52|USA|P C.C. Sabathia #31|USA|P Cliff Lee #37|USA|P Jake Westbrook #32|USA|P Aaron Laffey #36|USA|P Paul Byrd #63|VEN|P Rafael Betancourt #53|DOM|P Rafael Perez #30|JPN|P Masa Kobayashi #39|USA|P Scott Elarton #47|USA|P Joe Borowski #49|VEN|P Edward Mujica
#55|DOM|P Fausto Carmona
Minor league affiliationsEdit
- AAA: Columbus Clippers, International League
- AA: Akron Aeros, Eastern League
- Advanced A: Kinston Indians, Carolina League
- A: Lake County Captains, South Atlantic League
- Short A: Mahoning Valley Scrappers, New York-Penn League
- Rookie: Burlington Indians, Appalachian League
- Rookie: VSL Indians, Venezuelan Summer League
- List of the Top 100 Greatest Indians Roster
- Indians award winners and league leaders
- Indians statistical records and milestone achievements
- Indians players of note
- Indians broadcasters and media
- Indians managers and ownership
- Pluto, Terry (1999). Our Tribe: A Baseball Memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-84505-9
- Cleveland Indians. Indians History Overview: The early years. http://cleveland.indians.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/cle/history/cle_history_overview.jsp. Retrieved Sep 2, 2004.