Change the Indians' Name All You Want -- You Can’t Have My Memories

If only my mother hadn’t thrown out all of my Cleveland Indians stuff, I could possibly become rich from memorabilia sales by this time next year when My Team will have become the Cleveland Guardians.

After more than a year’s pondering, the Cleveland organization announced the new name Friday to assuage outrage expressed in the media over the Indians’ name as racially insensitive. The new name, the team’s fourth but first in 106 years, will take the field next season.

This team name-changing business is, of course, rampant silliness, like so much of PCness. One actor has even apologized for affecting the accent of an immigrant from India on The Simpsons.

In my youth, I thought a pro sports team named for a brave warrior people was an honor. It never occurred to me the Giants name made fun of tall people. Or the Dodgers avoided the draft or overdue bills. Or the Reds were communists. Everyone hated the Yankees, of course. So, we shipped Cleveland’s George Steinbrenner there to screw them up.

There was a time many years ago when pretty much every piece of clothing I wore had something to do with My Indians. Caps there were several. T-shirts, too. I had an actual home uniform outfit. I had a cool jacket with a large Chief Wahoo head on the chest. That was in my spring and fall wardrobe.

I wore an Indians cap probably every moment of every non-winter day, save for dinner time. I’d also wear it to bed, having realized after one night-game win that brought good luck for the team. My Mother said I’d go bald like the team announcer Jimmy Dudley, who wore a fedora even on the nightly news. We had a TV by then.

No hoodies in those days, but if the Indians had one, I’d have worn it onto school bus No. 2 every morning.

And Johnny Morris, the driver, would have shared with me news of the previous night’s game. Which, honestly, I already knew because my radio cord was long enough to reach under the covers to hear late innings after my official bedtime.

My Dad took me to countless games in the old Municipal Stadium. My best friend Dan and his Dad were often there, too. Mom would flag down the Greyhound bus and give me a quarter for the 30-mile trip to the Cleveland terminal where Dad waited still in business attire.

Usually, we sat along the third-base line as foul balls often flew up there. And because that was sure to happen someday, I wore my baseball glove the entire game — except for hot dog time.

Which, of course, was when a foul finally came my way. It landed under an empty seat just down the row. I was reaching, within inches of owning the precious relic, when a man knocked me down to get it. But my hot dog was safe.

I was five when the Indians won the 1948 World Series. It was a very exciting time and newspaper stories filled pages of my Indians scrapbook.

Actually, there were numerous Indians scrapbooks over the years. Each article was carefully clipped from the Cleveland Press and glued next to yesterday’s.

I even went to see the Indians play in other cities. In Boston, we wended our way through rows of seats all the way out to right field. There, just below us, Satchel Paige was warming up. He came over to meet me. I told Dad I would never forget that.

Probably the most exciting moment in my life ’til that time came in the fall of 1954. My father walked in the door from work one night absolutely beaming. He pulled from his shirt pocket an envelope containing two tickets – wait for it — to a World Series game in Cleveland.

Immediately, we began guessing who would pitch – Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, Mike Garcia, with Ray Narleski in relief.

I was so very excited I got to lead off Show & Tell the next day at school.

Unfortunately, however, our tickets were for Game 5. The Indians proceeded to lose four straight to the N.Y. Giants.

Years later at a charity event, I happened to interview Al Lopez, the Indians coach that year. “Coach,” I demanded, “What the hell happened in the ’54 Series?”

“We ran into a batting slump,” he shrugged.

“A batting slump?!” I yelled. “A batting slump? For FOUR games in a World Series! When we had tickets to Game 5!!?”

Actually, I didn’t say any of that to his face. I said it after the interview to the mirror in the men’s room.

Anyway, 1954 was pretty much the end of my Indians adoration. If they made the playoffs over the years, I cheered for them casually and have been disappointed every time.

So, maybe the new Guardians name will improve the Indians’ playoff fortunes. It can’t do any worse. They say the name comes from statues on some Cleveland bridge I never heard of. Who cares?

I remember Indians ownership from days when the unpredictable showman Bill Veeck was there. Now, those were exciting. Oh, look! That was the last time the Indians were World Champions.

I get the new name was a business decision by careful management protecting its investments in a fearful age when PC and Woke erupt all over like acne. The Indians didn’t want to lose either of their Cherokee fans.

Team management seems to have been conscientious in reaching out to the community and I notice the new team logo keeps the same look and colors of the old one. That’s swell.

I wish them and their overpaid players all the best. I hope fans eventually get over their resistance or distaste for the new name. And I hope new generations of kids Copy & Paste online stories about their favorite Guardians.

I also hope today’s Dads and Moms go to games with their youngsters wearing a fielder’s mitt in case any fouls come their way. It makes for wondrous memories.

I should add that many years after my Dad and I sat above third base, a friend took me on a summer tour inside the old Municipal Stadium before they tore it down. We visited the actual locker room where Rocky Colavito, Jim Hegan, Roger Maris, and Ken Keltner suited up for games. They had a tub of bubble gum there free for anyone. My young son got to run the old bases for himself.

We left the field by a gate near the Visitor’s dugout along third base. As we climbed the ancient cement steps, I happened to look down. Saw something under a seat. I reached down. And sure enough, it was a scuffed-up baseball from a batting practice foul, no doubt.

I tossed it to my son. He caught it.

And no one knocked him down.


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