Today is October 20, 2016. Today is a significant day. Care to guess why? For those of you throwing out that today represents the birthdays for Tom Petty, Bela Lugosi and Snoop Dogg – I applaud your guesses…but no that is not the answer I was searching for at this moment. Today represents that first official full day that the Cleveland Indians are American League Champions (MLB). In the regular season, the Indians won 94 games. That translates to 58.4% of the 161 games they played. If you are like so that doesn’t sound very impressive, well it compares very favorably to the team with the best record in the American League (the Texas Rangers) who won 95 games (58.6%). Just one win separated the two teams and Cleveland could perhaps have matched the 95 win total. There was one game against Detroit (rained out) that was not made up because in the standings due to tie-breaker rules, it did not matter. The Washington Nationals in the National League matched the Rangers with 95 wins and an identical winning percentage. The overall leader in baseball was the Chicago Cubs with 103 wins for a winning percentage of 64.0%. With so many games played over the course of the year…there is not a huge difference in the percentages.
Now in the post season, my Indians (so far) sport the best winning percentage. They have played 8 games with only a single loss for a winning clip of 87.5%. My hope is that in the next round the Indians finish the series with at least a 57.1% winning margin regardless of whether it’s against the Cubs or the Dodgers – who finished with 91 wins and a winning percentage 56.2% in the regular season.
With this magical and incredible run my Indians have put together, I got a bit nostalgic. I have only been to Cleveland once, late in the summer 2002. At the time I was married and we drove up on a Thursday (August 23rd). Man that was the longest drive of my life (at least until the drive home). We passed through Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and finally into Ohio. When I got out of the car as a 30 year old dude, I needed to stand and stretch and massage the ache out of my rear from sitting (on it) for about 11 hours which included fuel and food breaks. The first part of the trip’s destination was Put-In-Bay which is famous for the two mile long party strip for tourists. We caught the ferry to the island and stayed at a bed and breakfast. While at the bed and breakfast that night, I remember having the TV on late. The local news sportscaster was reporting the Indians win and congratulating Josh Bard, a rookie catcher making his major league debut, on his first home run.
In 2002 the Cleveland Indians came out of the chute on fire winning 11 of their first 12 games. On April 14th their would-be 13th game against Kansas City was rained out and it was all downhill from there. The team went on a few extended losing streaks and the season was off the rails by the end of July. So when we rolled into town, the Indians were well back in the standings and attendance was lagging. After a weekend on the ‘island’ looking out at the lake, we headed to downtown Cleveland to check out the sights, do some souvenir shopping and take in a couple of ballgames. I still have a few Put-In-Bay t-shirts plus an Indians sweatshirt, some very well-worn sweat pants, a jacket and some t-shirts from that vacation. No foam finger though.
The last game I saw at Jacobs Field (now known as Progressive Field) saw my Indians defeat the Boston Red Sox 8-7 on Friday, August 31, 2012. Our seats were in right center field. Jim Thome hit his 42nd home run of that season into the section to the right of where we were sitting. That was game 134 of that year and that win brought the Indians record to 59 wins and 75 losses to that point. The next day we began that long drive home which seemed like it took twenty hours instead of the 10-11 it actually took. To this day, it was still one of the most fun vacations I’ve taken. I’ve also been to New York, Las Vegas and North Carolina on vacation but the Cleveland trip is still my favorite. I loved the city and being close to my team even though they weren’t winning much then.
Fast forward 14 years and the Indians are the toast of baseball again after being mostly an afterthought for so long. People are running to Netflix or dusting off their video copies of Major League to watch. Funny thing is that movie is from 1989 but the majority of the team’s success happened five years later and lasted another handful of years. This same time last year my friends Matt and Tony were getting giddy as the Kansas City Royals were marching towards a championship. This year as all the other contenders are eliminated, I have heard more and more from friends that they are pulling for the Indians. A few are being buttheads and rooting for the opposing teams just to be spiteful but I don’t care. Just like all the nay-sayers who dismissed the Indians when the playoffs started, I am getting the last laugh in their faces. (Nanny Nanny Boo Boo!)
Ultimately time will tell if I get to see my team celebrate a World Series championship and the body art that will accompany such a feat. For those who do not know, probably about fifteen years ago I told a friend that I would get a tattoo if the Indians ever won the World Series. Meaning I would get something to signify the event (because I already have two tattoos presently so the Indians tattoo would be a separate deal).
As it seems I’m rambling a bit now, I will step aside and let the moment continue to shine for my Indians. Regardless of how they perform in the World Series, they are still my team and I will be proud of them and all they have done and overcome this season. Baseball is a great sport and I love to see it getting recognized as such. Everyone can return to paying attention to football, hockey and basketball after the next two plus weeks are finished but for now, my Indians are center stage.
Go Tribe! Believeland! Relieveland! Windians!
Have a great week. Peace.
BTW, if Mark Cuban or Bill Gates happens to read this piece and wants to set me up with a ticket or tickets to go to Cleveland to see the games in person, that would be swell!