Another Indian Season is over again, and I found myself...
...sitting on my deck pondering my baseball history...thinking back on all the years I've been an Indians fan. I remember one of my first baseball memories, listening to a game on the radio, and Boog Powell launching a home run. Good ole' Boog...and it's funny...not many people even KNOW he spent 2 years in Cleveland.
I remember an autograph signing a year later, with my 2 favorite Indians, at the local Fisher Big Wheel. My Dad worked that day, and my Mom didn't want to go, so I did what any five year old kid would do...I rode my Big Wheel down the main drag with my Indians gear on, and got Charlie Spikes and Buddy Bell's signature on it all. It was also the first day I was pulled over by the police. Yeah, I actually had a cop pull me over on Electric Boulevard. Apparently, my Mom was getting worried.
I remember my first game...against the dreaded Yankees. I don't remember much about the game...but I sure do remember that old cliched story...where you walk through the concourse...and out into the stands for the first time. And if you've never had the opportunity to walk through Municipal Stadium...well...it was big...HUGE...and especially to a 5 year old kid. I remember Catfish Hunter, my Dad's favorite player (along with Thurman Munson--who signed a ball for "me" that day that my Dad still has) started the game for the Yanks. I remember watching Mickey Rivers in the outfield shagging flies...and telling my Dad he walked funny (he did...kind of like a duck). And I remember the game going WAY into extra innings. The Tribe gave up a bunch of runs in the ninth...and the game went 15 or 16, with the Yankees dropping 5 or 6 in the last extra frame to blow out the Indians. I also remember there couldn't have been more that 5,000 people there. We bought 1.00 bleacher seats...and said in the front row on the third base side.
That same year...we went to all the Yankee games during the fourth of July weekend. Yeah, Cleveland lost all three games we saw. I remember bits of the game. Catfish Hunter won a game, and I remember Lou Pinella hit a dinger. I know that funny walkin' Mickey Rivers hit a home run at some point, because I remember making fun of the way he ran around the bases. I remember George Hendrick hitting a few dingers, and I even want to say he hit three in three games. I remember the Saturday and Sunday game had more people in on place than I had ever seen. The place seated 60-some thousand for baseball (it varied...and I know...at one point...it could seat over 75,000...and the seats were full. What a site. It was sad in many ways though, as most people were there rooting for the Yankees. I truly think I was in the minority as an Indians fan. What I remember most though is watching Duane Kuiper and Buddy Bell guard the third base side, and thinking they were probably the two greatest players to ever lace up the spikes.
I remember Thunder Thornton...one year..I remember him having nearly 30 home runs, and that put him up with Aaron to me. I remember Eck and Manning...although I was to young to follow who was cheating on who. I remember a deal for a guy named Charboneau...with the Phillies...because of the name, and because it was in the same article as the "Bell traded to the Rangers for Harrah article" that damn near made me hate baseball. I also distinctly recall that article ripping on Charboneau. I remember Bobby Bonds and the Veryzer/Kuiper tandem at short and 2nd. I remember booing Toby Harrah...and it would last for years, like it was his fault.
I remember convincing myself Charboneau was EVEN BETTER than Buddy Bell...and he did everything he could do to make me a firm believer...having a rookie year to remember. I remember Ron Hassey hitting .300, and Barker nearly winning 20 games, BEFORE the perfect game. I remember wondering if Ron Pruitt was perhaps related to Mike and Greg (who HAD TO BE brothers...JUST HAD TO BE). I remember Len Barker DURING the Perfect game, the All-Star game in Cleveland, Bo Diaz and Von Hayes, who was going to be OUR Lou Gehrig (okay, maybe not).
I remember thinking in my soul of all souls, that Chris Bando was going to be a bigger superstar than his dad Sal, and I remember JoeyC shredding his knee. I remember Miguel Dilone stealing a ton of bases, and Bert Blyleven being a guy "stuck" with the Indians. I remember Rick Sutcliffe and John Denny, and for whatever reason, not liking Denny all that much, but thinking Sutcliffe would win the Cy Young down the way. I remember getting some dude named Whitson for Duane Kuiper, and again...believing that I would stop watching the game forever. I remember Bo Diaz getting dealt...and the Indians getting a bunch of crap players, while in the same deal, the Phillies got Diaz and the Cardinals got Lonnie Smith, who both helped their teams to World Series victories. I remember Veryzer getting dealt the same year as Kuiper, and convinced myself that the Indians management had chosen me for their scorn. Little did I know...it was ALL of us.
I remember getting Bake McBride, who had won a series with the Phillies, and thinking that he would surely be the answer. I remember thinking, "boy do we have a bunch of Phillies on our team" after they dealt Von Hayes for half their team and still thinking they got jobbed. I loved Manny Trillo though, and they also got George Vukovich and Julio Franco in the same deal. I think it was 1983, or 82. Julio's still playing, which makes me want to run out on my deck and yell JJJUUUUULLLLIIIIIIOOOOOOO!!!!!...which I did about 1,000 times once my Dad hooked us up with season tickets.
I remember trading Rick Manning in a deal that got us Gorman Thomas and some guy named Camacho...and later dealing Len Barker for Brett Butler and Brook Jacoby. I remember loving that team, even though they were as bad as the rest. I remember a deal somewhere close to those to I think Seattle, that brought us a guy named Bernazard, and some other guys named Carter and Hall, when they dealt Rick Sutcliffe to the Cubs...where he led the Cubs to the playoffs after going something like 16-1. I want to say he won the Cy Young that year.
I remember thinking that the Butler, Franco, Carter, Thornton, Jacoby, Tabler, Hall, Bernazard and Allanson was the greatest potential line-up in baseball. I even get a bit excited about it right now. I remember that line-up winning 85 games, and thinking one more year. I remember Pat Tabler destroying pitchers with the bases loaded, and remember Joe Carter being a dinger and a SB short of 30-30...that's right...29-29 one year. I remember that team being really fast...and really good. I remember Phil Neikro and winning 11 games on that 85 win team, that was anchored by the "Candi-man." I remember a 21 year old phenom named Greg Swindell, who was every bit as good as that Clemens kid...because they went to the same school.
I remember the Indians signing an old Steve Carlton, but thinking, hmmm, Neikro and Carlton on the same team the year after 85 wins can only be a good thing. I remember Sports illustrated putting them on the cover as the winners of the World Series. I remember one of the most disappointing seasons I've ever witnessed, aside from Joe Carter's 30-30 run that year, but of course, also the discussion that Carter was being wasted on this team.
What do I remember the most? Being an Indians fan...and knowing we'd get that damned World Series Trophy some day...