Editor’s Note: Last fall, the beloved Cleveland Indians of longtime Catholic Digest columnist Sean Patrick lost the World Series in a heartbreaking seventh game to the Chicago Cubs. It was an improbable matchup for two franchises accustomed to losing and watching other teams compete in the fall classic. The Cubs hadn’t won the World Series since 1908. The last time the Indians were Major League Baseball’s champions was 1948. And Sean Patrick was there.
Cleveland had the reputation of paying a lot of money to get a rising second baseman who was touted to be able to throw three-base outs and then sell the guy because he didn’t use the same shoelaces the team coach liked to see his players wear.
I could remember a score of years in a row when the Tribe was ahead by 40 runs and then an umpire found an antique rule in an obscure rule book that allowed the other team claim a “donation clause,” thus giving the other team several “free shots” at a run.
But if you want to know the truth, when I was 11, I worked a couple of hours after school selling newspapers at a crosstown bus exchange so I could earn $12 to buy a genuine Cleveland Indians jacket and wear it with pride because I was honored to show my attachment to my team.
I religiously saved $2.50 every spring so I could go to Burrows bookstore and wait in line for several hours to buy my annual book of pictures of the Indians and biographies of my heroes and — better yet — wait in another line to have some of the actual players sign their names under their pictures in the book!
Cleveland baseball fans might really be able to claim the title to have invented a sort of inside-out pride in having done something no one else might even take notice in.
Them Indians — they got stuff! You betcha!
I usually got a hand-me-down Indians shirt, but I never complained about it. Each wearer knowingly took good care of his shirt because in our world the hand-me-down would be valuable to the next wearer.
I wore my second-hand shirts with great pride because it marked my own attachment to the team of my choice.
No matter what happens in my life, I can still brag that I was present at three (count ’em on your fingers) World Series games in 1948! That’s when Cleveland won the whole shebang!
My brothers and I rode in style — we rode the freight car ladders when the trains had to slow down passing through the East Cleveland station area. The trains picked up some speed for about five minutes before slowing down again. That left us a good speed to jump off the train and then trot the mile or so over to the stadium where we would cajole one of the ticket men to let us through the gate. We’d hurry in as he turned his head and hummed, pretending we were invisible.
Gosh! What a life, and what memories! Am I still a Cleveland Indians fan? You bet your boots. Any doubts?