Category Archives: cleveland indians

Ballparks for the Cleveland Indians.

Jacobs Field

jacobs1

Sarah Cox. Used by permission.

Jacobs Field, Cleveland, OH

Number of games:  2
First game:  October 13, 2001 (Game 3, ALDS:  Indians 17, Mariners 2)
Most recent game:  October 14, 2001 (Game 4, ALDS:  Mariners 6, Indians 2)

Jacobs Field changed its name to Progressive Field for the 2008 season.

First, the stadium.  Just gorgeous! Right up there at the very top of the list with Camden Yards and Coors Field.  I love the way that the outer concourses look out at the city.  This isn’t true in Baltimore or Colorado or even San Francisco, and only true part of the way around the stadium in Seattle.  I love the big scoreboard (and the fact that it says “Indians” on it instead of showing the awful visage of Chief Wahoo).  I love the sense of tradition the team has (even if it’s mostly a tradition of bad baseball).  On its own, Jacobs Field is worth a trip to Cleveland.  In fact, Jacobs Field and baseball are the only reasons I went to Cleveland in October 2001.

I had only been dating Sarah for about two months.  Sarah remains the only woman I have ever dated whose passion for baseball exceeds mine, and that’s a bit scary.  We were an item during the amazing 2001 Seattle Mariners season, and had worked our way up to our trip to Safeco Field by first seeing a single-A game and then a triple-A game.  Clearly, we had earned a trip to the playoffs.  When we struck out on Safeco Field tickets and found them too expensive on Ebay, we took what I thought would be a whimsical, one-in-a-million look at how expensive they would be in Cleveland.  They were surprisingly reasonable.  The next thing I know, we were cashing in some frequent flyer miles, getting great (post-September 11) deals on hotels, and heading out to see two playoff games.

See that score for the first game?  Can you imagine taking a day off and flying 2,500 miles to see that?  It was astonishing.  My college buddies Alison (a lifelong Tribe fan) and Joe drove up to see it with us and to show us a good time in the Land of Cleve.  Two images I won’t soon forget from that first game:

–A problem with standing ovations.  We spent more or less the entire game standing up to see over cheering Tribe fans, then sitting down to put entries in our scorebook while everyone else stayed standing and cheering.  I hope people didn’t feel that I was participating in the standing O–I just needed to see.

–A wild, wild walk back to the hotel.  After the 17-2 Tribe win, I found myself a part of the only massive sports celebration I’ve ever experienced.  People were honking their horns, screaming, and dancing for the entire eight blocks back to the hotel.  It was bizarre.  One driver was angry because so many pedestrians were walking in front of him, and he couldn’t get into the intersection to get home.  So he honked his horn repeatedly, but passing fans thought he was just celebrating like everyone else.  This made for a funny scene:  an angry driver gesticulating at pedestrians who would turn to him and respond with a joyous dance.  I called friends and family from the celebration.  It is a very, very strange sensation being the only person with nothing to celebrate in the midst of passionate partying.  I suppose this is what it feels like to be a Chinese person or a devout orthodox Jew on New Year’s Eve.

The Tribe fans’ celebration was premature, of course…the Mariners won games 4 and 5 to take the series. Game 4 was obviously quite a different experience from Game 3.  We actually sat next to a Mariners fan from Buffalo (how the heck does that happen?).  And we got to enjoy the Terrace Club.  We got to the ballpark over two hours early to get a table and partake of the very nice food at the Terrace Club before the game.  We got a table.  It turned out to be a fantastic idea on our part, as about a half hour after we arrived, it started to rain.  I mean, really rain.  The flag was both sopping wet and straight-out stiff.  A boy near me got scared enough to call his mom and ask if there was a tornado warning.  Everybody in the stadium with a Terrace Club Pass decided to head into the club to seek refuge from the storm.  It was to the point where people were sitting on the floor everywhere with their froofy dinners and their linen napkins.  And Sarah and I had a table!  We kept it.  We ordered our perfect sandwiches.  We had dessert.  We had more drinks.  We had appetizers.  We had even more drinks.  We watched football.  We stayed dry!  We looked down with pity on the Clevelanders huddling in their ponchos, staving off pneumonia, while we debated the merits of the key lime pie or the five-layer chocolate cake, pita chips and warm spinach-and-artichoke dip.  It’s not that I felt I was better than the folks down there…I just pitied them.

And speaking of pity, I’m developing a theory that Clevelanders want it.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I like Cleveland.  I have a lot of good memories of Cleveland during my college days.  The people of Cleveland were absolutely wonderful to Sarah and I during our trip.  I was expecting some hostility, but got none (perhaps in part because I was with Alison).  But after Game 4, Sarah and I walked past a remote broadcast from a local sports-talk guy.  He was saying that the series wasn’t over, and that the Tribe could still win Game 5 back in Seattle.  He said something like:  “Did you expect this to be easy?  What city do you live in?  Is it ever easy for us?”  The self-pity felt strange to me, maybe because I’m from the pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps West.  Clevelanders, help me out with this theory.  Am I accurate?  Is there self-pity and self-loathing associated with living in what seems to be a fine city?  You’re good people with a great stadium.  Is this about 25-years-obsolete river-on-fire jokes?  Is it about John Elway or Jose Mesa?  What’s the deal?

Again–awesome playoff games at a fantastic ballpark.  I can’t help but think of Municipal Stadium and what a big step forward this is.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Games 3 and 4 of the ALDS (which the Mariners won in game 5 back in Seattle).  The first game’s offensive explosion (and to this Mariner fan, it most certainly was offensive) by the Indians surely merited several spots in the playoff record book.  Second game:  one of my favorite ballplayers of all time, Edgar Martinez, hits the longest homer of his career:  458 feet off the walkway above the home run porch in left field.

(Written October 2001.)

Cleveland Municipal Stadium

Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Cleveland, OH

Number of Games:  1
First and Last Game: June 24, 1993 (Brewers 5, Indians 3)

Municipal Stadium was vacated by the Indians in 1994 and demolished in 1996.

Out of principle, I feel like I need to put a domed stadium at the bottom of my rankings list, but this cavernous, horrible, termite-infested abomination tempts me to rank it even below the Kingdome, Metrodome, and Astrodome.  Even on the fourth day of summer, it felt cold and grey and miserable, and with 13,225 elbowing their way into a stadium that seats nearly 80,000, it also felt lonely.  My visit was during the Tribe’s last year in this place, which, not surprisingly, coincided with their last year of 40 years of doormathood.  My scorecard has the names of the people who would turn it around (the batting order begins with Lofton, Kirby, Baerga, and Belle.)  But June of 1993 was still a sorry time for the Indians, and I got to see a little chunk of that.

I was with the largest entourage to accompany me to any game on the Erotic Love and Baseball Stadium Tour.  Shelly and her friend Jane accompanied me and my good friend Chris (who would later join me in Milwaukee County Stadium, making Chris and Shelly the only people to join me in two cities on the ELABST).  There were plenty of good seats to be had (imagine!), so I was excited to wander into our spots about even with first base (with plenty of empty wooden bleachers all around us).  Just as I’m settling into starting my scorecard, I hear an inimitable voice behind me:

“What’s a guy wearing a Colorado Rockies cap doing here?

And I’ll be damned, it was Perry, my favorite college professor, one of those larger-than-life figures that college students are terrified by, but whom I had grown to know well as my honors advisor.  He told me that he goes to one game in Cleveland every year, and as this would be the only game I would ever see in Municipal Stadium, the odds of us meeting by happenstance were awfully remote.  Of course, I didn’t want to disappoint the tough English professor by stammering and stumbling through an answer, so I held up my scorebook and showed him the games I’d seen, the cities I’d been to, the places I was about to go.  It was completely unexpected, and therefore surreal in the way seeing anyone or anything out of an accustomed context is bizarre.  He and his wife invited me to their place for grilled steaks whenever I could make it the two hours down, and sure enough, I was hanging out by the grill with the two of them a few days later.  Perry and I remain in cordial and sporadic touch to this day, and I’m not sure we would were it not for the coincidental meeting to see the bottom two teams in the AL East slug it out at Municipal Stadium.

I’m convinced that it wasn’t just the teams or the game that were awful, it was the atmosphere.  It was so bad that, although the game didn’t even last two and a half hours, it felt interminable.  Shelly, who had enjoyed the game at Veterans Stadium so much, joined Jane in cheering every out–because each out brought us closer to leaving.  (Shelly and Jane spent a good deal of time mulling over Shelly’s dad’s massive collection of historic baseball hats to find the perfect fashion statement.  Too bad, this being Municipal Stadium, that nobody was there to see it.)  The Indians’ ballpark staff tried to make the best of it:  when the Indians were rallying, a figure would appear on the

scoreboard grabbing an empty wooden seat on either side of him and repeatedly opening and shutting it, encouraging the fans to do the same.  It made quite a racket…way more than the 13,225 fans could do.  The message:  “Hey, we may be so bad and have such a lousy stadium that we can’t get people to come to our games, but unlike your popular teams in nice stadiums, we can use our empty seats to make noise.”  I found it pathetic.

One other scoreboard gaffe involved the Indians’ shortstop, Felix Fermin.  The following informational graphic appeared on the scoreboard during one of his at-bats:  “Felix already has more at-bats than he had last season, and has almost as many hits.”  Surely it would have been more effective simply to tell the home crowd:  “Felix isn’t hitting as well as he did last season.”  Why didn’t somebody catch that?  I know I did.

The fans of Clevleand deserve the beautiful Jacobs Field.  One of the reasons it is so popular, I am sure, is because the fans were freed from this decaying piece of garbage called Municipal Stadium.  I hope that the real fans–season-ticket holders who huddled under blankets, protecting themselves from Lake Erie, night after night, year after year, seeing so many terrible teams–remain in the front few rows at the Jake, finally getting the pleasure they’ve earned.

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Robin Yount hits a home run.

Ricky Bones combines with two relievers on a three-hitter.

(Written August 2001.)