Cleveland Indians Information
Contrary to popular belief, the team was not named for 19th century Cleveland player Louis Sockalexis when it assumed its current name in 1915. Rather, when the Naps needed a new name after Napoleon Lajoie was sent 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. 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. The proponents of the name acknowledged that the Cleveland Spiders of the National League had sometimes been informally called the "Indians" during Sockalexis' short career there, a fact which merely reinforced the new name. In any case, the name change was assumed to be temporary, but it stuck. And 34 years later, the Indians went on to defeat those 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 franchise's second of two world titles; the Tribe had also won the 1920 World Series, defeating the Brooklyn Robins 5 games to 2.
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The retirement of Cy Young and the untimely death of Addie Joss was a harbinger of things to come throughout the 1910s in Cleveland. Poor pitching was on tap for several years. Despite the strong hitting of Tris Speaker and Shoeless Joe Jackson, the 'Naps' failed to rise above third place for most of the decade. In 1916, the team hired a new manager, Lee Fohl, and brought in two young pitchers, future Hall of Famer Stan Coveleski and Jim Bagby. Behind their strong arms, the Indians would rise back into contention at the end of the decade.
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The Tribe, as the Indians are affectionately referred to by Clevelanders, were a middling team in the 1930s, finishing third or fourth most years. In 1936, Cleveland introduced a 17-year old with a dominating fastball named Bob Feller. By 1940, Feller, along with Ken Keltner, Mel Harder and Lou Boudreau led the Indians to within one game of the pennant. The team was wracked dissension with some players (including Feller) going so far as to request that owner Alva Bradley fire manager Oscar Vitt. Reporters lampooned them as the Cleveland Crybabies. Feller, who had pitched a no-hitter to open the season and won 27 games, lost the final game of the season to unknown Floyd Giebell of the Detroit Tigers. Giebel never won another major league game.
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With a young team, Cleveland was poised for a solid decade. Unfortunately, the nation entered World War II and Feller went to serve in the Navy. Immediately after the war, Cleveland's most significant achievement was breaking the color barrier in the American League by signing Larry Doby in 1947, eleven weeks after Jackie Robinson signed with the Dodgers. The team was not compititive again until 1948. Veterans Boudreau, Keltner, and Joe Gordon had career offensive seasons, while newcomers Larry Doby and Gene Bearden also had standout seasons. The team went down to the wire with the Boston Red Sox, winning a one-game playoff, the first in American League history, to go to the World Series. In the series, the Tribe defeated the Boston Braves four games to two for their first championship in 28 years.
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In the 1960's, the team also sent Tommy John, Luis Tiant, and Lou Piniella packing, receiving little in return. the The 1970's were little better as the team traded away players Graig Nettles, Chris Chambliss and Buddy Bell. Without any strength in their farm system to nurture, the team fell deeper and deeper into a slump. From 1959 to 1993, the Indians managed one third-place and five fourth-place finishes but spent the rest of the time in the American League cellar. Also, in 1989, the Indians became the central part of the movie Major League, starring Tom Berenger, Charlie Sheen, and Corbin Bernsen.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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During the 2006 offseason the Indians traded the popular Coco Crisp along with David Riske and Josh Bard to the Red Sox for reliever Guillermo Mota, third base prospect Andy Marte, catching prospect Kelly Shoppach, a player to be named later and cash, and Arthur Rhodes to the Phillies for outfielder Jason Michaels. Many fans saw the trade of Crisp for a package of prospects as a rebuilding move. Shapiro defended the move, citing the inclusion of Marte, regarded as one of the game's top prospects, and Mota, whom Shapiro feels can be the Tribe's setup man. The Indians also decided not to keep Kevin Millwood. Despite having a 9-11 record he led the American League with the lowest earned run average at 2.86. The Texas Rangers signed Millwood to a four-year, $48 million deal (with an option for a fifth year). To replace Millwood and Scott Elarton (who signed as a free agent with the Kansas City Royals) Shapiro signed Jason Johnson from the Detroit Tigers and Paul Byrd from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.