I was born in Cleveland, and I've lived on and off in the Forest City my whole life. The Cleveland Indians are my sporting passion, even though rooting for the Indians has been akin to walking on glass for the better part of my lifetime.
My first memories of the Tribe is rooted with the likes of Charlie Spikes, "Thunder" Thornton, Duane Kuiper, Rick Manning and the great Buddy Bell. My Tribe loyalties were tested when he was dealt to the Rangers for Toby Harrah (Part 1 of why I despise the Rangers, and no offense Toby, but you were always the junk to me as well).
I looked to the sky's for Super Joe, fell asleep watching Mike Hargrove between swings, chanted JJJUUUULLLLIIIOOO with the other hundred or so fans at the game, nearly won 20 with Blyleven, nearly went .500 in 1986 before losing 100 in 1987 (I loathe you SI). I counted to 30 with Joe Carter the same year I tried to equate Oddibe (young again) McDowell and Jerry Brown into a Franco (Part 2 of my hate for the Rangers, and I didn't feel so young). I waited for Swindell to be Clemens, and Candiotti to be Niekro (they weren't, but fought the good fight anyways). I said goodbye to Joe Carter, and hello to Sandy and Carlos. I witnessed a Belle toll, ate some cheese with Sorrento, waited for Mark Lewis and stole some bases with Lofton. I said goodbye to Tim Crews, Steve Olin and Municipal Stadium, and hello to Jacobs Field, Omar Vizquel (bye El Gato), Eddie Murray, Dennis Martinez, Jack Morris and Orel Hershiser.
Ahhh, the magic of 1995, with a team that won 100 games out of 144. The incredible series with the Seattle Mariners, and it's true, "Long haired freaky people need NOT apply" Big Unit. Nagy and Ogea and Black and Mesa anchored the staff that was never quite good enough to go the distance. I said goodbye to Lofton and hello to Halle, and...oh yeah, David Justice and Marquis Grisson. Matt Williams brought his prodigious swing to Cleveland, moving a guy named Thome to first base. This came after the Belle ditched the only city that loved him, and to make it worse, to the hated White Sox.
Oh, the improbable run in 1997, that saw the Indians come less than an inning away from the promised land...
It's been a blur since then. Lofton returned and left and returned and left and...you get the picture. Robbie Alomar made a visit, but lost the joy of playing. Manny had long since emerged as an offensive juggernaut, batting .333 with 44 dingers and 165 RBI. Then he left the reservation for the big green monster in Boston, leaving a city convinced their time would never come.
Williams left for family, and brought us Fryman. Jaret Wright fizzled after 1995, but Colon didn't. Eric Plunk somehow managed to always make the club. Giles made his mark and Burba started a revolution.
2001 was the last hurrah, with Grover Gone, and Charlie saying hello. Marty Cardova, Ellis Burks and JuanGone made brief and spectacular visits to Cleveland. Some kid named Sabathia made his debut.
The past eight years have been a roller coaster ride, with goodbyes to Colon and Thome, and hellos to Coco and Peralta and Sizemore and Davis and VMart and Hafner and Blake and Westbrook. Wickman made my hair fall out, and Tadano made me laugh and cringe a bit. I've waited for the Atom, and some kid named Marte. I've fluttered with Byrd, and still wonder how a guy I can throw harder than won as much as he did, and took steroids. Does that mean his pitches would have gone backwards without it?
2007 brought the Indians to the cusp, when Cy you CC and out of nowhere Carmona disappeared, and the Red Sox hit everything. There was Manny, beating the Tribe. I'm sure there's irony there, but even thinking about it makes my head hurt.
Post 2007 has been nothing but agony. Wedge went from Manager of the Year, to looking for a job in 2009. Cy Young CC is the ace for the Yankees, and Cy Young Lee is pitching for the Phillies. They may both be pitching against each other in the World Series. Yeah, I'm sure there is irony there as well.
The Indians are currently manager-less, and devoid of any veteran leadership. I'm left to wonder if we're about to embark on another run in the Curse of Rocky era, or whether or not I'm standing at the beginning of another 90's era.
I'm not sure what is worse, the teams that were second division losers, or the Indians that were a breath away to that elusive title. Perhaps they are all the same...
Now my Tribe passion has gone from a Shoreman to a Buckeye to a married Ohioan with two kids...
and yes...I've passed the obsession on to my hapless children.
What have I done.