While they may be one of the lowly Major League Baseball teams without any significant recent success, the Cleveland Indians have experienced the ultimate glory within the sport and have won several World Series championships during their historic and proud duration of existence. As early as the 1850’s, baseball was being played in Cleveland’s public squares. Crowds of people were enthralled with the game and there was even a political attempt to ban the occasions, though such heinous acts were eventually quelled. Several attempts at building a professional franchise in the city were tried throughout the 19th century, but they all inevitably failed.
The club that would eventually come to be known as the Indians actually began as The Grand Rapids Rustlers of Michigan. The team moved to Cleveland in 1900 and became the Cleveland Lake Shores. During the first few years the name would change quite frequently before settling on the Indians in 1915. The early years were tough for the team and they struggled mightily, though several players of note did spend time with the team, including Cy Young and Shoeless Joe Jackson.
In 1920, the Cleveland Indians amassed a talented squad and earned their first championship. Inspired by the tragic death of shortstop Ray Chapman, who is the only MLB player to die from baseball after getting hit in the head by a pitch, the Indians surged past the Chicago White Sox after 8 of their key players were suspended in the “Black Sox” scandal. Heading to the World Series, the Indians faced the Brooklyn Robins and won the title, 5 games to 2. Key players that year included Tris Speaker, Jim Bagby, Steve O’Neill, and Stan Coveleski.
The team would struggle for the next several decades before achieving another World Series run in 1948. Led by Hall of Fame players like Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Bob Feller, Satchel Paige, Bob Lemon, and Joe Gordon, the Indians defeated the Boston Braves and brought glory back to the city. This period was of special significance to the issues of racial equality, and the Indians were among the first teams to invite Negro League stars to join, which included both Paige and Doby. Both players were key to the team’s success!
The Cleveland Indians then again went into hibernation until the 90s when they erected Jacobs Field (now Progressive Field). Around this time they also assembled one of baseball’s most talented teams, including Sandy Alomar Jr., Jim Thome, Kenny Lofton, Orel Hershiser, and Manny Ramirez. In both 1995 and 1997, the Indians won the American League pennant, though both teams lost in the World Series.
Their woes have continued into the new millennium though a revamped team featuring C.C. Sabathia and Travis Hafner did help the Indians reach the playoffs in 2007, where they fell short of the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS.
Nevertheless, as a team that has to compete within constricted financial means, the going has always been tough for the Cleveland Indians. But with a strong farm system and smart trading moves, the club has often defied the skeptics and produced quality, winning seasons. Perhaps with young stars like Justin Masterson and a top manager in Terry Francona, the latest edition of the Indians can bring a World Series title back to Cleveland!
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