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Baseball’s playoffs have begun, minus Cleveland of course

former Cleveland Indians

The glory days.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Another Major League Baseball regular season is over. The playoffs have begun.

My favorite team won’t be playing in the postseason again this year, despite the extended playoff schedule. The Cleveland Indians have packed it in once again. Even the most casual baseball fan knows it’s not the first time.

The Indians have been in this position for most of their existence. The Cleveland club has only won the World Series twice. They came close in 1997. But 18 years later, it’s still too painful to recall.

Yes, I am a diehard Cleveland Indians fan, though I do wish they would change their mascot. We have the Cincinnati Reds. How about the Cleveland Blues? That name would appropriately represent the feelings of Cleveland’s fans this time every year.

Terry Francona, Rocky Colavito

Terry Francona and Rocky Colavito.

I would love to see the Indians win the World Series just once. To be fair, I was alive the last time the Indians won it all. Not that I remember it. I was a year old.

Like most other kids, I collected baseball cards growing up. In those days, we had to buy them one pack at a time and hope the flattened stick of bubblegum wasn’t too stale. I spent a lot of nickels saving those cards.

I wish I still had them. The cards accidentally got pitched while I attended college.

My favorite Cleveland Indians were Rocky Colavito, Minnie Minoso, Herb Score, Bubba Phillips, and of course Lou Klimchock. He led the Indians in hitting in 1969 with a whopping .287 average.

I’d stay up late at night listening to Jimmy Dudley call the games on the radio. For some strange reason, he always seemed more excited at the beginning of the season than at the end. I think I know why.

I remember going to a doubleheader game on Father’s Day against the dreaded and perennial powerhouse New York Yankees. The Indians had won the first two games of the series. We sat out in the left field stands in old Municipal Stadium. A standing room only crowd packed the cavernous place.

Hall of Famers like Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and the late Yogi Berra filled the Yankee roster. Cleveland won both games and swept the series. Our spirits were high.

baseball fan, Cleveland Indians

Typical fan?

It seemed like every year the Tribe played their hearts out and built hope against hope that this might finally be the year. But once the Fourth of July rolled around, the Tribe did their annual swan song. By season’s end, the Yankees were the American League champions. The Indians? Well, take a guess.

Keep in mind those were the days when the team that won the pennant in each league went to the World Series. It was all or nothing. It’s been zip for Cleveland for too long.

Hopes rose again when Cleveland built a new stadium, affectionately called The Jake, now corporately named Progressive Field. Unfortunately, the Tribe still hasn’t made much progress toward winning it all.

The Indians have gone to the playoffs a few times in the last two decades. But some of those winning teams were filled with shining stars bloated with egos and steroids. No names mentioned, however.

Since that era, the season has usually ended right on schedule for the Tribe. When that happens, just like this year, all faithful Cleveland Indians fans know what to say.

“Wait until next year!” We always do.

Slider, grandsons

Better than a World Series win.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2015

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For this baseball lover, it’s wait until next year again

Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians,

Michael Brantley strokes his 200th hit of the 2014 season. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I’ve loved baseball since I was a kid. That’s a long time, never mind how long.

Baseball was in my DNA. I suppose my father’s love of the game, and that of my grandfather highly influenced me. Dad played baseball in high school. Grandpa Merle played in high school, college, and in summer leagues.

My big brother played sandlot baseball, too. Of course, I wanted to be just like him.

Rocky Colavito, Cleveland Indians, Bruce Stambaugh

Indians great Rocky Colavito threw out the first pitch of the August 10th game last year. © Bruce Stambaugh

Keep in mind that I grew up in the post World War II decade when the top two teams in the American League were the dreaded New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians. Yes, the Indians had consistently winning teams with memorable players like Rocky Colavito, Herb Score, Bob Feller, Minnie Minoso and so many more.

Youth was my golden era for baseball. I was young, innocent, impressionable, enthusiastic, looking for any diversion from either work or school. Baseball was it.

I started playing baseball when I was seven. The coaches put me at second base for very practical reasons. I was small and it was the shortest throw to first base.

As I grew, I played every position on the field. Catcher was my favorite. I could see the entire game unfold before me. Plus, it was the shortest walk to the bench after the inning was over.

Indians fans, Cleveland Indians, Bruce Stambaugh

Indians fans will travel the extra mile to support their team. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

Did I mention that I wasn’t a very good player? Still, baseball was the sports marrow in my bones. Still is.

When I wasn’t playing, I listened to games. I was in my glory when transistor radios came out. I could listen to the Indians late at night, when we were supposed to be sleeping. And I listened to them when grandpa took us fishing. I liked that kind of leisurely multitasking.

I enjoyed how Jimmy Dudley, then the Indians play-by-play announcer, called the game. He drew me in like I was really there, and several fish happily escaped my baseball daydreaming.

I always wanted to play third base for Cleveland. Ken Keltner, Al Rosen, and Bubba Phillips were my heroes. Max Alvis not so much. My all-time favorite Indian, Lou Klimchock, also played third on occasion, but his main position was second. Mostly, I just liked his name.

I knew baseball statistics. I collected baseball cards. I even chewed that stiff, hard, usually stale, flat piece of bubblegum inside every pack of Topps cards.

Michael Brantley, Cleveland Indians, Bruce Stambaugh

Michael Brantley and Tampa Bay’s James Loney both smiled broadly after Brantley’s 200th hit this year. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014

I collected hundreds of baseball cards, and a few cavities. My dentist took care of them, and my mother the cards.

I watched what few games were broadcast on television, at first in black and white, and only later in color. Mostly I relied on the alluring voice of Dudley to keep me informed of every pitch.

Our family attended a game or two each year. They were too expensive and too far away. Expressways hadn’t been invented yet.

As I grew from adolescence into adulthood, I continued my love affair with the Indians. I tried to pass that on to my own children, but times have changed, and so have they, for the better of course.

My wife also knows the game well. We attend a few games each year. We hope against hope that the Indians will someday win the World Series.

With the San Francisco Giants recently winning the game’s championship, Major League Baseball is over for 2014. Like any good Cleveland Indians fan will tell you, there’s always next year.

fireworks, baseball, Progressive Field, Cleveland Indians

Someday fireworks will explode in celebration of an Indians World Series championship. Someday, maybe next year. © Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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