Cleveland Indians

Wed, 22 Oct 2008 22:54

The History of the Cleveland Indians

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The Cleveland Indians are a professional baseball team currently based in Cleveland, Ohio. They play in Major League Baseball under the Central Division of the American League.

Cleveland Forest Citys

It was during the 1869 season that open professional baseball started in Cleveland. The leading Cleveland baseball club was termed the Forest City, which is a nickname of the city itself. They are also called the Forest Citys, in the same way that the team from Chicago is also called The Chicagos. In 1871, the Forest Citys became a member of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players, which is the first professional league.

Emergence of the National League

In 1876, the National League took the place of the National Association as the major professional league. Cleveland wasn't one of the charter members, but in 1879 the league was already looking for new teams. The Cleveland Blues played for six seasons before its three best players were signed into other teams.

Cleveland had no major league baseball, but only for two seasons. In 1887, Cleveland joined the American Association and then became part of the National League in 1889. Cleveland took on the name Spiders and slowly became a powerful team in the league.

1901-1946: Early to middle history of the Cleveland franchise

When the American League declared itself as a major league, the Cleveland franchise was among its eight charter members. The new team was owned by Jack Kilfoyl and Charles Somers. The team originally had the nickname "Bluebirds," but the players didn't like it. Writers shortened the nickname to "Blues", but the players didn't like this name as well. They wanted to name themselves "Bronchos," but this nickname just didn't catch on.

When the team began to unravel during 1909, Kilfoyl sold his share to Somers. In 1915, Somers asked the help of local newspapers to come up with a new name for the franchise, and the name "Indians" was then suggested.

In 1916, though, Somers no longer wanted to own the franchise, and he sold it to a syndicate headed by James C. "Jack" Dunn. The Indians' new manager, Lee Fohl, acquired two minor league pitchers, Jim Bagby and Stan Coveleski, and got center fielder Tris Speaker by trading.

In 1920, the Cleveland Indians won their first World Series, defeating the Brooklyn Robins. But the Indians wouldn't reach that kind of win again for 28 years. By the 1930s, the Indians were simply a middling team, often placing third or fourth most years. By 1941, the Indians had a new manager, Roger Peckinpaugh.

1947-1959: New owner

In 1946, Bill Veeck founded an investment group that bought the Cleveland Indians from its previous owners. Under the leadership of Veeck, Cleveland got to break the color barrier in the American League by getting Larry Doby to be a member of the team. Doby is a former player for the Newark Eagles of the Negro League. In 1948, the Indians were again in need of another pitcher. Veeck signed in Satchel Paige from the Negro League.

In 1949, Veeck's first wife, who had 50% stake in Veeck's share of the team, divorced him. Since most of Veeck's money is tied up in the team, he was forced to sell the Indians to a syndicated headed by Ellis Ryan. Ryan had to sell the team to Myron Wilson in 1953, and in 1956 the team switched to a different owner again, this time to William Daley. Despite the many turnovers in ownership, though, the team still played well, continuing to contend throughout the early 1950s. The 1954 was the best season for the team, when they won 111 games and participated in the World Series, playing against the New York Giants. Although the Indians lost, playing in the World Series still counts as a remarkable achievement for the team.

1960-1993: A multitude of changes

Between 1960 and 1993, the Cleveland Indians only had one third place and five fourth place finishes. The Indians hired Frank Lane as their general manager in 1957. One of the early trades Lane did was to get rid of Roger Maris and send him to Kansas City. After that, Lane acquired Norm Cash but then traded him again before he even got to play for the Indians. In 1960, Lane traded right fielder Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers for Harvey Kuenn. After the trade, Colavito was able to make over 30 home runs four times, while Kuenn only played one season for the Cleveland Indians before being traded for Willie Kirkland and Johnny Antonelli.

Lane also traded managers in 1960, getting Jimmy Dykes and giving Joe Gordon to the Tigers. Although Lane left the Cleveland Indians in 1961, the trades continued. Tommy John was traded in 1965, and Tommy Agee was also let go to get Colavito back. Lou Piniella, who was the 1969 Rookie of the Year, and Luis Tiant, who played in two All-Star games after leaving, both left the Indians. The 1970s also had the Indians trading away future star players, including Buddy Bell, Chris Chambliss, Dennis Eckersley, and Graig Nettles.

The constant changes in ownership didn't help the team. In 1963, Daley sold the Indians to a group headed by Gabe Paul. After just three years, Paul sold the team to Vernon Stouffer. Because of financial setbacks, Stouffer sold the Indians in 1972 to a group led by Nick Mileti, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Five years later, Mileti's group also sold the Indians to a syndicate led by Steve O'Neill. When O'Neill passed away in 1983, the Indians were on the market once more but didn't get an owner until 1986, when Richard and David Jacobs purchased the team. The Indians started the 1986 season with many wins, only to end up losing 101 games afterward and finishing with the worst record in baseball.

When John Hart became the general manager of the team, he made some moves that finally brought some success to the Indians. The Indians were even named by Baseball America as "Organization of the Year" because their improving system. By 1993, the team had some new talented players, all of whom were ready to lead the team to wins. The struggles of the team over the 30-year period were showcased in the film Major League, which was shown in 1989.

1994-2000: Better days

By the year 1994, the team's fortune was turning around. The Indians began playing in Jacobs Field and were only one game behind the Chicago White Sox, the division-leading team, when a players strike happened and wiped out the rest of the season. In 1995, the Indians got an amazing 100-44 record and won their first divisional title. In 1996, tickets for Indians home games became sold out after just 10 minutes of going on sale. The 1997 season had the Indians starting out slow but then finishing with an 86-75 record. It was also during this season that they go their third consecutive American League Central Division title. By 2000, the Indians had already built a reputation of being a solid team. It was also during year 2000 that Larry Dolan bought the team from Richard Jacobs for a whopping $320 million.

2001-Present: Under Shapiro's management

In 2001, John Hart resigned from being the general manager of the Indians and Mark Shapiro, his assistant, took over the position. Shapiro began rebuilding the team by dealing aging veterans for younger players. He traded Roberto Alomar for Matt Lawton, Alex Escobar, and Billy Traber. When the Indians weren't able to contend in mid-2002, Shapiro fired Charlie Manuel, the manager. Although the Indians were still far out of contention during 2002 and 2003, they did get a 22-0 victory over the New York Yankees.

In 2006, the Indians made some changes to their roster, although they retained their nucleus of young talents. The team was able to have a solid offensive season. The team hit a combined 14 grand slams, tying the record with the one set in 2000 by the Oakland A's. Despite the solid offensive performance, though, the Indians only finished fourth because of 23 blown saves.

In 2007, Shapiro got help for the bullpen and outfield, getting Aaron Fultz and Joe Borowski for the Indians bullpen. The Indians improved and even placed second in the All-Star break. The team also got a 96-66 record, winning them their 7th Central Division title in just 13 years. Even though they lost to the Boston Red Sox and weren't able to make it to the 2007 World Series, the team's players still took home quite a number of awards.