Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

The 1949 Indians had an on-field 'funeral' to mark the death of their reign as champions

Baseball's ultimate showman, Bill Veeck was responsible for many of the 20th century's wackiest and most infamous promotions, from the dwarf pinch hitter to the exploding scoreboard to Disco Demolition Night.

His promotional shtick was well in place when he owned the Indians in the late 1940's, although the product on the field was usually more than successful enough to draw fans. In fact, the Tribe defeated the Boston Braves to win the '48 World Series behind the leadership of MVP player-manager Lou Boudreau.

'49 wasn't quite as kind -- the team won 89 games but finished in third place, out of the postseason. On the day they were mathematically eliminated from the pennant race, the team found a distinctly Veeckian way to mark the "death" of their repeat title hopes.

As the owner himself explained in his autobiography, Veeck as in Wreck:

"To the accompaniment of a funeral dirge, the flag was lowered and folded sadly into a pine coffin. The pallbearers, who included Boudreau, the coaches and the rest of the front-office executive staff, slid the coffin into the hearse. I climbed back onto the driver's seat, took the reins and drove slowly around the field, dabbing at my eyes with a well-soaked handkerchief. As we passed the Cleveland dugout, the players joined the procession. We made our mournful way around the field, all o fus, and back to the flagpole in center field where a grave had been carefully prepared."

Video of the event was uploaded to YouTube a few weeks ago within a newsreel that also documents the story of a Cleveland fan who sat atop a pole for 117 days trying to inspire the team. Yes, things were weird at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in 1949.