During the first 23 years of my life, the Cleveland Indians never finished higher than fourth in their division. Think about that for a second. … I'll wait.They played 3,647 games between 1971 and 1993, and not once did my team finish first, second or even third. Sure, there were
During the first 23 years of my life, the Cleveland Indians never finished higher than fourth in their division. Think about that for a second. … I'll wait.
They played 3,647 games between 1971 and 1993, and not once did my team finish first, second or even third. Sure, there were some cool moments. Andre Thornton hit for the cycle in 1978. Len Barker was perfect on the mound three years later. Weird Al Yankovic look-alike Ernie Camacho even led the team in saves one season. But that was pretty much it.
I know there are several other teams that contended this season and have fans literally starving for a trophy. There's the obvious wait on the North Side of Chicago that has been in the works for more than a century. Three of this season's American League contenders had not won a World Series in all their years of existence: the Rangers (55 years), Astros (54) and Mariners (39). Fans of the Orioles, Tigers and Mets have all waited 30-plus years since their guys last hoisted a trophy.
But I'm Cleveland guy, so that's where I've most felt the agony. There were so few fans at some Indians home games during the 1980s that we could actually hold conversations with the left fielder. One time, Joe Carter sneezed. I said, "Bless you." He turned around and said, "Thanks." No joke.
And then, in 1994, everything changed. Jacobs Field opened, and the club boasted off-the-charts talent: Lofton, Baerga, Belle, Thome, Ramirez, Vizquel, Alomar. The joint was jumping every night! Forget about exchanging good tidings with the left fielder -- it was so loud you had to scream just to talk to the person next to you.
A year later, we were in the World Series! First time in 41 years. Appointment baseball viewing in October? That's something new. Sure, we came up short against the Braves, but you could feel we were onto something. For seven straight years, the Jake was sold out every night, 42,000 strong. Finally, it was cool to be the Cleveland Indians.
But still, no titles.
Oh, we came close. In '97, we were underdogs to the Marlins, only to force a Game 7. It was 2-1 Tribe in the eighth when my wife announced, "I've got to teach in the morning. I'm going to bed."
"Whoa, hold on lady. You're gonna screw up the mojo. We are six outs from winning the whole thing! Call for a sub tomorrow; the kids won't care." Michele went to bed, and you know the rest. Mesa blew the save. Renteria got the hit in extras. Counsell touched the dish. And the championship celebration had to wait another year.
Problem is, I've been on hold with the World Series operator ever since. Some Indians fans have waited since 1948.
But you know what? I've got hope. LeBron and the Cavs brought home the hardware this summer, something my city hadn't seen since 1964. You could say Cleveland's on a winning streak. Kipper, Nap, Frankie and, oh, that bullpen. And if anyone can make it happen sometime soon, it's Tito. Hey, he snapped an 86-year drought in Boston, so 68 years is a breeze, right? The Red Sox of 2004 are the ultimate example of the adage that great things come to those who wait.
We are Believeland! We want to party at Napoli's one of these Novembers. And when we're on the cusp of winning, I'll just remind my wife not to go to bed early this time around.
This article appears in the MLB Official League Championship Series Program. To purchase a copy, visit mlbshop.com.
Chris Rose is the co-host of "Intentional Talk" on MLB Network. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisRose.