by Terry Pluto
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Why would anyone be an Indians fan? There are no rational reasons. In my case, I blame my father. He grew up in Cleveland watching the Indians, loving the Indians. But those Indians were Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, Larry Doby, and Lou Boudreau. Those Indians happen to be Hall of Famers.
Now there's a frightening thought.
It's time for a little history -- Cleveland Indians baseball history.
» Fact Number One: The Indians last won the American League pennant in 1954.
» Fact Number Two: I was born in 1955, and I was born a baseball fan in Cleveland.
» Fact Number Three: The average age of the typical Clevelander is thirty-three. That means more than half of the city can't remember when they last had a decent baseball team because more than half of the people weren't born. This generation has married, had children, divorced, buried their parents, remarried, and had more children. They've learned nearly everything you can learn about life except what it's like to live with a winning baseball team.
» Fact Number Four: Being born a year after the last Indians pennant and being only four years old the last time they were in contention, I can honestly say this much: Boy, have the Indians been in a long slump.
The first baseball player's name I learned was Rocky Colavito. He was everything a ballplayer should be; dark, handsome eyes, and a raw-boned build -- and he hit home runs at a remarkable rate. Best of all, he had a nickname. Baseball fans love nicknames, especially when they fit. In 1959 he led the American League with 42 homers. He drove in 111 runs, and no player signed more autographs.
Colavito was the Rock...the Rock of the franchise.
"Don't knock the Rock," my father would say.
"Don't knock the Rock" probably were not the first words I said, but they are the first I remember.
The Indians didn't knock the Rock, they just traded him. The date was April 17, 1960. It was the day Cleveland baseball died, or at least went into a deep, dark, seemingless endless coma.
Since trading Colavito, the closest the Indians have been to first place at season's end was eleven games out, except in the strike-marred year of 1981. In the last thirty-four years, they have finished no higher than third -- and that was just once, in 1968.
But from 1947 to 1959 they finished above .500 every year but one. In those thirteen years, they won two pennants and finished in the top three spots nine times. Hey, they were a damn good team.
Copyright © 1994 by Terry Pluto. Excerpted with permission.