Maybe I should be sitting behind a curtain with my voice distorted to say this: My attraction to baseball came late in life.
Despite growing up watching Johnny Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez and the Reds at Crosley Field as a Dayton native, I never acquired a real taste for the grand old game and the Indians until I’d lived in Northeast Ohio for years.
I thank a longtime bud and colleague, the late Steve Brown, for instilling in me a love of green cathedrals, on-base percentages and pitch counts. A true student of the game, Steve’s following the Tribe’s quest for glory from the best seats in the house.
And he knew baseball curses better than most.
Like the one that says Boston blames the Bambino.
In Cleveland we blame … well … umm … Rocky Colavito?
We didn’t always have this persecution complex, you know.
This sports-crazed town (despite all the groaning and moaning) does have a few championships to bask in the glow of, even if it feels like they all came when Tiberius ruled Rome.
As any Clevelander can tell you, even those who are clueless about “Web Gems,” the Indians did win the World Series in 1948 in a six-game triumph over the old Boston Braves (they also topped the Brooklyn Robins in the 1920 World Series). And the Tribe does have three American League titles and five division crowns to its credit.
And the Browns, who are giving us some hope in this ’07 campaign, grabbed the NFL championship in that monumental 1964 title game with the Baltimore Colts played in the bitter cold of a wind-swept Municipal Stadium (geez, even this doesn’t compare to the “frozen tundra” of Lambeau Field).
Smelly and cavernous as it was, Municipal Stadium did have lots of character, even if sinks and trash cans were used as urinals by bleary-eyed fans at halftime of the “Red Right 88” 1981 AFC playoff loss to Oakland, or the “Drive” that cost the Browns the AFC title to the Broncos in 1986.
Despite conventional wisdom that tells us Cleveland is a football town first, last and always, that 1964 crown was the last for any of our teams.
Yeah, we came close in ’95 and ’97. The Indians gave everybody ulcers and sleepless nights before losing to the Braves (two stops removed from Boston) in ’95 before doing the same thing two years later when they lost to the Florida Marlins in seven games, who then underwent a fire sale the next year.
Even when it comes to failure, it seems Cleveland can’t get a break. Heck, Boston’s curse even sounds sexier! George Herman “Babe” Ruth is one of the gods of baseball — period.
By comparison, we’ve got the curse of Rocky Colavito, who hit .303 with 41 homers and 113 RBIs in ’58, the year his stunning trade to Detroit left Clevelanders with that deer-in-the-headlights look.
Adored and talented, Colavito was voted the most memorable personality in Indians history in 1976. But when Tribe GM Frank Lane dealt him to Detroit for batting champion Harvey Kuenn, it triggered years of defeatism on the part of Cleveland faithful.
But wait a minute. What’s that unfamiliar breeze? The winds of change.
This is Cleveland after all.
Now that the Tribe has helped send the Yankees packing with that ALDS win, we’re going to stow the Zanac and the psychiatrist’s couch.
We’re talkin’ C.C., Fausto, Grady and Pronk.
We’re talkin’ a team that got hot in August and stayed that way.
In any event, we’ve still got the Cubbies beat. Chicago hasn’t won a World Series since 1908.
But … regardless of what happens during this battle of baseball titans, there is no crying in baseball.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7139 or firstname.lastname@example.org.