Thursday, October 20, 2016

How Long It's Been: The Cleveland Indians Won the Pennant

Last night, the Cleveland Indians clinched the American League Pennant, by beating the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-0 at the Rogers Centre (formerly the SkyDome), winning the American League Championship Series 4 games to 1.

They had previously won the AL Pennant in 1920, 1948, 1954, 1995 and 1997. But they've only won 2 World Series, in 1920 and 1948. Winning 2 World Series and 5 Pennants in your 1st 115 years of play is not good: A Pennant every 23 years. Now, it's 6 Pennants in 116 years: A Pennant every 19 years.

We do not yet know who they will play in the World Series. Last night, the Chicago Cubs won Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, tying it up, 2-2. So it will be at least Saturday, the day of Game 6, before we know the Tribe's opponent.

If it's the Dodgers, it'll be one of the longest-ever waits for a Series rematch: 1920. And that was when the Dodgers were in Brooklyn. They've previously both made the Playoffs in 1995 and 1996. If it's the Cubs, it'll be one of the longest-ever waits for a 1st-time Series matchup. They've previously both made the Playoffs in 1998 and 2007, but the Cubs haven't won a Pennant since 1945, the Indians only 2 between 1954 and 2016.

The last time the Indians won a Pennant was on October 15, 1997, beating the Baltimore Orioles 1-0 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The O's wasted a magnificent effort by Mike Mussina, as the Indians scored the game's only run on Tony Fernandez's home run in the top of the 12th to win‚ 1-0. Mussina hurled 8 shutout innings and allowed just 1 hit‚ while walking 2 and striking out 10. Charles Nagy dids not give up a run in 7 1/3 innings for the Indians‚ while surrendering 9 hits‚ as the O's left 14 batters on base.

The pitcher who gave up the Pennant-winning homer to Fernandez? Armando Benitez. It is not the last time he will mess up a postseason game, but it is the last time he will do so for the Orioles. The O’s now had a 4-6 record in postseason games played at Camden Yards. Having finally gotten back to the postseason in 2012, but crashed out in the 2012 ALDS and the 2014 ALCS, that record now stands at 6-8, including 1-7 in ALCS games.

October 15, 1997. That's 19 years and 5 days. How long has it been?

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Their manager was Mike Hargrove. They had some interesting players on their roster, including several with former or future New York baseball connections: Bartolo Colon, Chad Curtis, Julio Franco, Jason Jacome, David Justice, Jack McDowell, Kevin Mitchell, Eric Plunk, Richie Sexson, David Weathers, Enrique Wilson, Jaret Wright. And the aforementioned Tony Fernandez, who played for several teams and did well for all of them -- except the Yankees and the Mets. He wasn't much good for either of them, although he did hit for the cycle with the Yankees in 1995, and, for a long time, was the last Yankee to have done that. (Now, it's Melky Cabrera, in 2009.)

Other names of interest: Sandy Alomar Jr., Pat Borders, Sean Casey, Brian Giles, Marquis Grissom, Orel Hershiser, Jose Mesa, Charles Nagy, Manny Ramirez, Bip Roberts, Kevin Seitzer, Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel and Matt Williams. The biggest name on their roster? Michael Jackson. That's unquestionably the biggest name, although the pitcher called himself Mike Jackson.

The only one still active? Bartolo Colon. Despite being fat. Must be the steroids. Although neither he nor Manny were then suspected. Indeed, at the time, instead of having his later-famous dreadlocks, Manny was bald. He's the only guy who took steroids and his hair went from bald to really long.

In 1997, the Boston Red Sox had not won the World Series in 79 years. The Chicago White Sox, 80 years. The San Francisco Giants, 43 years (and they were still in New York at the time). The Florida (now Miami) Marlins and Arizona Diamondbacks had never won a World Series. The Marlins, Houston Astros, Colorado Rockies, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers had never won a Pennant. The D-backs and Rays had not even begun play yet. All have now done so.

The Milwaukee Brewers were still in the AL, and the Houston Astros were still in the National League. Of the 28 teams playing that season, 15 have since opened a new ballpark, including the Detroit Tigers, who were then still playing in a stadium built in 1912. Of the 9 teams playing major league sports in the New York Tri-State Area, all but the Knicks and Rangers have moved to a new building, and their building has since been seriously renovated.

The Montreal Expos had not yet moved to Washington, D.C. The Houston Oilers were playing their one and only season in Memphis, as the Tennessee Titans, and would move to Nashville the next season, and wouldn't become the Tennessee Titans until they opened a new stadium the year after that. Also in Cleveland, the Browns were in the 2nd year of a 3-year hiatus because of the Baltimore Ravens move.

The Seattle SuperSonics hadn't yet become the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Vancouver Grizzlies had not yet moved to Memphis. The Charlotte Hornets hadn't yet become the New Orleans Hornets or the New Orleans Pelicans, and the Charlotte Bobcats had neither been founded or changed their name to the new Charlotte Hornets. The Hartford Whalers were about to debut as the Carolina Hurricanes. The Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild had not yet begun play. Neither had the Atlanta Thrashers, who have since become the new Winnipeg Jets.

The defending World Champions in sports were the Yankees in baseball, the Green Bay Packers in football, the Chicago Bulls in basketball, and the Detroit Red Wings in hockey. The Heavyweight Championship of the World was split between Evander Holyfield (WBA), Lennox Lewis (WBC), Michael Moorer (IBF) and Henry Akinwade (WBO). Most people considered either Holyfield or Lewis to be "the real champ."

Baseball legends Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Bob Feller and Warren Spahn were still alive. Of the defining baseball players of my childhood, all were now retired, and, except for the banned Pete Rose, pretty much all of them were in the Hall of Fame, or would be in the next couple of years.

Derek Jeter was 23 years old, and in his 2nd full major league season. Jimmy Rollins was about to turn 19, Adrian Beltre was 18, Robinson Cano and David Wright were about to turn 15, Miguel Cabrera and Joey Votto were 14, Matt Kemp was 13, current Oriole star Adam Jones was 12, Yoenis Cespeds was about to turn 12, Felix Hernandez was 11, Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw were 9, Masahiro Tanaka was about to turn 9, Giancarlo Stanton was about to turn 8, Mike Trout was 6, and Bryce Harper was about to turn 5.

Of the current New York Tri-State Area coaches, Terry Collins was the manager of the team then known as the Anaheim Angels, Alain Vigneault had just become head coach of the Montreal Canadiens, Jack Capuano had just become head coach of the minor-league Knoxville Cherokees, Todd Bowles was defensive coordinator at Morehouse College, Ben McAdoo was the offensive coordinator at a Pennsylvania high school, Joe Girardi was the starting catcher for the Yankees, Jeff Hornacek was in between back-to-back NBA Finals playing for the Utah Jazz, Kenny Atkinson was playing pro basketball in Italy, and John Hynes was playing minor-league hockey,

The Olympic Games have since been held in America, Canada, Britain, Russia, China, Australia, Greece and Italy. The World Cup has since been held in France, Korea, Germany and South Africa. Both have since been held in Japan and Brazil.

The President of the United States was Bill Clinton, nobody was publicly suggesting that his wife Hillary should run for any office, and Monica Lewinsky could walk into just about any building in the country, introduce herself, and no one there would recognize her name. Come to think of it, so could any Kardashian except Robert Sr., who was still alive.

Gerald and Betty Ford, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and Lady Bird Johnson were still alive. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, and George and Barbara Bush, were, and still are. George W. Bush was preparing to run for re-election as Governor of Texas. Barack Obama was in his 1st year in public office, the Illinois State Senate. Joe Biden was in his 25th year as a U.S. Senator from Delaware. Donald Trump was still married to Wife II, his only wife who wasn't an immigrant, Marla Maples.

The Governor of New York was George Pataki, gearing up for a 2nd run at the office he'd won from Mario Cuomo. Mario's son, Andrew Cuomo, was Clinton's Secretary of Housing & Urban Development, and he'd hired Bill de Blasio, now Mayor of New York, as his regional director. The Mayor of New York then, about to be elected to a 2nd term, was Rudy Giuliani. The Governor of New Jersey was Christine Todd Whitman. Chris Christie had just been defeated in a primary for re-election as a Freeholder for Morris County; at age 35, his political career seemed to be over.

In the State and City where the Indians were playing, the Governor of Ohio was George Voinovich, a former Mayor of Cleveland, who died 4 months ago after a long and distinguished career that also included the U.S. Senate. Current Governor John Kasich was a Congressman. The Mayor of Cleveland was Michael R. White, now runs a farm in Newcomerstown, Ohio, hometown of Cleveland pitching legend Cy Young.

The Nobel Peace Prize was about to be awarded to Jody Williams, for her work to ban landmines. The Pope was John Paul II. The Prime Minister of Canada was Jean Chretien. The Prime Minister of Britain, in his 1st 5 months on the job, was Tony Blair. The head of state of both nations was Queen Elizabeth II, still dealing with the public-relations fallout from the death of Princess Diana. England's Premier League had been won the preceding May by Manchester United, and its FA Cup by West London club Chelsea, only the 5th major trophy in their 92-year history. (They have since won 14 in 18 years.)

Major novels of 1997 including J.K. Rowling's 1st Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (released as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in the U.S.), Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain, Don DeLillo's Underworld, Mordecai Richler's Barney's Version, and Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City, the basis for the TV series. Non-fiction books of the year included Mitch Albom's Tuesdays With Morrie, Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, Jean-Dominique Bauby's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm.

Only the 1st novel had been published in both the Harry Potter and the A Song of Ice and Fire series. Pierce Brosnan was still doing right by James Bond's brand, but George Clooney and Joel Schumacher had almost destroyed Batman's.

Major films of the fall of 1997 included L.A. Confidential, Soul Food, Kiss the Girls (the first of James Patterson's Alex Cross novels to be made into a film), Seven Years In Tibet, I Know What You Did Last Summer and Gattaca. The new 1997-98 television season saw the debuts of Ally McBeal, Dharma & Greg, and Bear in the Big Blue House.

On the very night that the Indians won the Pennant, Michael Jackson completed his HIStory world tour. Janet Jackson had released The Velvet Rope. Bob Dylan had recently released his album Time Out of Mind, and played a concert in Bologna, Italy, as a Catholic youth rally, headlined not by Dylan but by Pope John Paul II. Within days, Bill Berry would leave R.E.M., ending the group's original lineup. The Bouncing Souls, who made their name in the Rutgers music scene in New Brunswick, New Jersey, released their self-titled debut album. The Number 1 song in America was Elton John's rewrite of "Candle In the Wind" for Princess Diana.

Kim Kardashian was about to turn 17. Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Hayden Christensen, Jessica Alba, Natalie Portman, Chris Evans and Beyonce were 16. Britney Spears, Prince William (who had just lost his mother), Kate Middleton, Hayley Atwell and Kirsten Dunst were 15. Matt Smith and Anne Hathaway wer 14. Khloe Kardashian and Prince Harry were 13. Lady Gaga was 11, Drake and Emilia Clarke were about to turn 11. Kit Harington was 10. Kevin Jonas and Rihanna were 9. Daniel Radcliffe and Joe Jonas were 8. Emma Watson was 7. Sarah Hyland was 6. Louis Tomlinson, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas were 5. Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Zayn Malik, Ariana Grande, Lyam Payne and Niall Horan were 4. Harry Styles and Justin Bieber were 3. Kendall Jenner was about to turn 2. Maisie Williams was 6 months old, Kyle Jenner 2 months. Ariel Winter, Rico Rodriguez and Nolan Gould weren't born yet.

A first-class stamp cost 32 cents, and the fare on the New York Subway was $1.50. The average price of a gallon of gas was $1.29, a cup of coffee $1.38, a McDonald's Big Mac, fries and shake $5.50, a movie ticket $4.43, a new car $19,214, a new house $125,000. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was 8,058.97.

Mobile telephones were still roughly the size of the communicators on the original Star Trek series. There was America Online and Netscape, but, as yet, less than half of all Americans were Internet users. There was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Pinterest, no Vine.

In the early autumn of 1997, Wales voted for "devolution" in the United Kingdom, and both they and Scotland formed their own parliaments, to give themselves some autonomy. (Shades of what's going on with Scotland now.) An Islamic-terror massacre in Algeria killed 53 people, and a plane crash in Indonesia killed 235.

Red Skelton, and Roy Lichtenstein, and baseball legend Johnny Vander Meer died. Actress Bella Thorne, and drummer Alex Wolff, and figure skater Leah Keiser were born.

October 15, 1997. The Cleveland Indians won the American League Pennant.

Now, 19 years later, they have done it again. Will they have better luck in the World Series this time? Stay tuned.

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