Thursday, August 3, 2017

How Long It’s Been: The Cleveland Indians Won a World Series

The Yankees visit the Cleveland Indians for the only time this season. The Indians lead the American League Central Division. The Yankees had led the AL Eastern until dropping 2 straight while the Boston Red Sox won to surpass them.

The Indians won the Pennant last season, before losing Game 7 of the World Series to the Chicago Cubs in 10 innings. An extra-inning World Series Game 7 is rare. But the Cubs hadn't won the Pennant since 1945; the Indians, only 2 previous since 1954.

And the Indians haven't won the World Series since October 11, 1948. That's nearly 69 years. How long has that been?

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The Indians have changed ballparks since then, moving from Cleveland Municipal Stadium to Jacobs Field in 1994. The name was changed to Progressive Field in 2008. The team they beat was the Boston Braves. They've not only changed ballparks 4 times since then, they've changed cities twice since then, moving to Milwaukee in 1953 and Atlanta in 1966.

The Indians won the World Series in 6 games. The Braves won Games 1 and 5. Only 1 player from each roster is still alive: Eddie Robinson of the Indians (also the oldest living ex-Yankee) and Clint Conatser of the Braves.

Larry Doby and Satchel Paige, who had both been stars in the Negro Leagues, became the 1st black men to play for an American League team in the World Series, and the 1st black men to play on a World Series winner. Doby became the 1st black man to hit a home run in a World Series game. Doby, Paige, Bob Feller, Indians player-manager Lou Boudreau, Braves manager Billy Southworth and pitcher Warren Spahn played in this Series, and went on to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Fenway Park in Boston and Wrigley Field in Chicago are the only major league ballparks in use then that are still in use now. There was a National League team in Boston, and there were American League teams in Philadelphia, Washington and St. Louis. St. Louis was the Western outpost of the major leagues; it, Cincinnati and Washington were as far south as MLB went.

Milwaukee, Baltimore, Kansas City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Houston, Atlanta, Oakland, Seattle, San Diego, Montreal, Dallas, Toronto, Denver, Miami, Phoenix and Tampa Bay all had minor league teams then. All would get major league teams; except for Montreal, they all still have them.

Briggs Stadium in Detroit -- it became Tiger Stadium in 1961 -- had just become the last ballpark in the AL with lights. Wrigley wouldn't get them for another 40 years. No ballparks had electronic, or even electric, scoreboards. None had artificial turf, or a dome, retractable or otherwise. There were only a few black players; the few Hispanic players were all clearly white; and as for Asian players, well, this was a shade over 3 years past V-J Day, so forget it.

Connie Mack was still managing the Philadelphia Athletics. Hugh Duffy, Cy Young, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker and Fred Merkle were still alive. Babe Ruth had just died, less than 2 months earlier. Walter Johnson, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers, and Mordecai "Three-Finger" Brown had all died within the last 2 years.

The defining players of my childhood? Carl Yastrzemski was 9 years old, Willie Stargell 8, Pete Rose 7; Tom Seaver, Steve Carlton and Rod Carew were 3; Reggie Jackson was 2, Nolan Ryan was 1, Johnny Bench and Carlton Fisk were 10 months, and Mike Schmidt and George Brett hadn't been born yet. Of the managers and head coaches of the 9 New York Tri-State Area sports teams, none had yet been born. Terry Collins of the Mets would be born the following May.

The Indians had interrupted the Yankees' run of World Championships. The defending NFL Champions were the Chicago Cardinals -- now in Arizona, and they haven't won the title since. The defending NBA Champions were the Baltimore Bullets, who would go out of business in 1954, and have no connection to the 1963 version of that team, now known as the Washington Wizards. The holders of the Stanley Cup were the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Heavyweight Champion of the World was Joe Louis.

The Olympics had just been held in Britain, and have been again. They have also since been held in America 5 times; 3 times each in Canada, Italy and Japan; twice each in Norway, Australia, Austria, France and Russia; and once each in Finland, Mexico, Germany, Bosnia, Korea, Spain, Greece, China and Brazil.

Due to World War II, the World Cup had not been held since 1938. It has since been held twice each in Brazil, Germany and Mexico; and once each in America, England, Switzerland, Sweden, Chile, Argentina, Spain, Italy, France, Japan, Korea and South Africa.

There were 48 States in the Union, and 21 Amendments to the Constitution of the United States. There had not been a Civil Rights Act since 1875. Racial segregation was legal in much of the nation, and interracial marriage was illegal in some States. Children in public schools could be forced to recite a Christian (usually Protestant) prayer. There was no Medicare, no Medicaid, no Environmental Protection Agency. Feminism and gay rights? Be serious. More than half of the Justices now on the U.S. Supreme Court, 5 of the 9, had not yet been born.

The President of the United States was Harry Truman, about to win a full term of his own, what amounted to a 2nd term. Former President Herbert Hoover and Grace Coolidge, the widow of Calvin Coolidge, were still alive. Edith Roosevelt, widow of Theodore, had died 11 days earlier.

Dwight D. Eisenhower had just become President -- of Columbia University. John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were about to be elected to their 2nd terms in the U.S. House of Representatives; Gerald Ford, to his 1st. Lyndon Johnson had just just been promoted from the House to the Senate in a very sketchy special election. Jimmy Carter was serving aboard a submarine in the U.S. Navy. Ronald Reagan was acting, and was being divorced by his 1st wife, actress Jane Wyman. George H.W. Bush was getting started in the oil industry. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Donald Trump were all 2 years old -- and Trump hasn't gotten any more mature. Barack Obama wasn't born yet.

The Governor of Ohio, the Indians' home State, was Thomas J. Herbert, although he was about to be defeated for re-election by Frank Lausche. The Mayor of Cleveland was Thomas A. Burke. Current Governor John Kasich had not yet been born, and current Mayor Frank G. Jackson was 2 years old.

The Mayor of the City of New York was William O'Dwyer. The Governor of the State of New York, and the Republican Party's nominee for President was Thomas E. Dewey, about to be stunned by Truman. The Governor of New Jersey was Alfred E. Driscoll, and he was working on getting the New Jersey Turnpike approved. Aside from the Pennsylvania Turnpike, there weren't really superhighways in America.

There were still living veterans of the American Civil War (on both sides), the Indian Wars, the Franco-Prussian War, the Zulu War and the Northwest Rebellion. The American and British governing bodies of the Society of Friends (a.k.a. the Quakers) were the holders of the Nobel Peace Prize. No Prize would be awarded in 1948, as the Norwegian Nobel Committee released an official statement saying, "There was no suitable living candidate," and the Prize cannot be awarded posthumously. This was widely taken to be a tribute to Mohandas Gandhi, who had been assassinated the preceding January 30. So why didn't they give it to Gandhi while he was alive?

The Pope was Pius XII. The current Pope, Francis, then Jorge Mario Bergoglio, was 11 years old. The Prime Minister of Canada was William Lyon Mackenzie King, although he was about to retire and hand the government over to Louis St. Laurent; and of Britain, Clement Attlee. The monarch of both nations was King George VI, but his battle with lung cancer meant that he had already begun to turn some duties over to his 22-year-old daughter and heir apparent, Princess Elizabeth. There have since been 13 Presidents, 2 British monarchs, and 7 Popes.

Arsenal were the holders of England's Football League title, and Manchester United of its FA Cup. In the season that was now underway, Portsmouth would win the League, and Wolverhampton Wanderers the Cup. There was, as yet, no European Cup, nor even the Latin Cup, and the other tournament considered a predecessor to the European Cup (now the UEFA Champions League), the Mitropa Cup, had not yet been reestablished in the postwar era.

Publishing their 1st novels in 1948 were Truman Capote with Other Voices, Other Rooms, and Norman Mailer with The Naked and the Dead. Gore Vidal published The City and the Pillar, one of the earliest American novels to treat a gay protagonist without condemnation, although he is hardly a sympathetic character.

Agatha Christie published The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories, Georgette Heyer The Foundling, Alan Paton Cry, the Beloved Country, Irwin Shaw The Young Lions, Evelyn Waugh The Loved One. In non-fiction, Dumas Malone published Jefferson and His Time, Richard Hofstadter The American Political Tradition, and Thomas Merton The Seven Storey Mountain.

J.R.R. Tolkien had published The Hobbit, but not yet any of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. C.S. Lewis had published books, but none of the Chronicles of Narnia books were yet among them. Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg had yet to be published. George R.R. Martin had just been born, and Stephen King was a year old.

Major films of the Autumn of 1948 included the Laurence Olivier version of Hamlet, the Orson Welles version of Macbeth, the Ingrid Bergman version of Joan of Arc, the Gene Kelly and Lana Turner version of The Three Musketeers, the John Wayne Western Red River, the Robert Mitchum Western Blood On the Moon, the musical Isn't It Romantic, the musical Road House (definitely not the Patrick Swayze film, and Ida Lupino sings "One for My Baby"), the murder mystery Rope (Alfred Hitchock's 1st color film), the murder mystery Sorry, Wrong Number, Johnny Belinda, June Bride, The Night Has a Thousand Eyes, The Red Shoes, and the James Cagney adaptation of William Saroyan's play The Time of Your Life.

Gene Roddenberry had just resigned as a pilot for Pan Am, so he could write full-time for the new medium of television. It wasn't working out, so he soon joined the Los Angeles Police Department, which would give him several good ideas -- but not the one for which he would become known. George Lucas was 4 years old, Stephen Spielberg 2.

Kirk Alyn of Wharton, Morris County, New Jersey had just become the 1st live-action Superman, in a film serial earlier in the year. Robert Lowery was filming the serial Batman and Robin. Ian Fleming was working for The Sunday Times, and had not yet published any books, let alone those about James Bond.

It was the dawn of network television. CBS became a national TV network, and New York's Channel 11, WPIX, and Chicago's Channel 9, WGN, debuted that year. So did Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theater, Candid Camera, and Toast of the Town, the CBS variety show that everyone quickly began calling by the name of its host. In 1955, CBS would give in to this, and officially rename it The Ed Sullivan Show. Robert Kardashian Sr. was 4 years old, and neither Bruce Jenner nor Kris Jenner had yet been born.

The Number 1 song in America was "A Tree in the Meadow" by Margaret Whiting. Al Jolson, who'd been a star for over 30 years, was voted Most Popular Male Vocalist in Variety -- and you thought the Grammys were behind the times. Columbia Records introduced the long-playing (LP) record, which revolved at 33 1/3rd revolutions per minute. This would be used for albums. Also developed that year was the 45 RPM single. Both would supplant the standard 78 RPM over the next 10 years. Patti Page became the 1st singer to use multi-track overdubbing. Perry Como prepared his 1st televised Christmas special.

Frank Sinatra was one of the biggest stars in both music and film, still in his initial run of success. But Elvis Presley was 13 years old, John Lennon and Ringo Starr 8, Bob Dylan 7, Paul McCartney 6, George Harrison 5, David Bowie and Elton John 1, and Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna and Bono had not yet been born.


Inflation was such that what $1.00 bought then, $10.04 would buy now. A U.S. postage stamp cost 3 cents, and the fare on the New York Subway had just gone up from 5 to 10 cents. Boston's had already been 10 cents, but an "exit fare" was added, leading to a song whose best-known version would be done in 1959 by the Kingston Trio: "M.T.A." In 1953, New York would solve the problem of how to collect both a nickel and a dime without building turnstiles to accommodate both, by inventing the subway token.

The average price of a gallon of gas was 22 cents, a cup of coffee 27 cents, a fast food meal (cheeseburger, fries and shake) 55 cents, a movie ticket 34 cents, a new car $1,250, and a new house $7,700. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed that day at 182.41.

The tallest building in the world was the Empire State Building. The majority of American homes now had telephones, but hardly any had television sets. Computers were in their infancy. Alan Turing was still alive, but Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Tim Berners-Lee weren't born yet. Antibiotics were now being used, but the polio vaccine was still a few years away. Space travel? That was the stuff of movies.

In the Autumn of 1948, the Berlin Airlift was flying in supplies past a Soviet blockade, turning the Cold War from a winning issue for the Republicans into a winning issue for the Democrats. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, a.k.a. North Korea, was proclaimed. Israel, India and Pakistan were also new nations. An earthquake killed over 100,000 people in Soviet Turkmenistan and Iran.

Brandeis University was founded in the suburbs of Boston, and the University of the Andes was founded in Bogota, Colombia. In neighboring Venezuela, a military coup overthrew President Romulo Gallegos. Whittaker Chambers accused Alger Hiss of spying for the Soviet Union. Hiss denied it under oath, and sued Chambers for slander. Chambers produced evidence, and, with the statute of limitation for espionage past, Hiss was indicted for perjury. Chambers produced "The Pumpkin Papers" 15 days after the Presidential election. Had he done so before, it would have swung the election from Truman to Dewey.

Edvard Benes, and Baseball Hall-of-Famer Hack Wilson, and 1900s pitcher Al "The Curveless Wonder" Orth died. Gerry Adams, Avery Brooks, and Mickey Rivers were born.

October 11, 1948. The Cleveland Indians won the World Series. They had a good team and should have been contenders for a long time to come. And they were: After a down year in 1949, they averaged 93 wins a year over the next few years, winning the Pennant in 1954, and coming close to it in 1950, '51, '52, '55 and '59.

Then they didn't so much as get into a Pennant race again until 1994, didn't win another Pennant until 1995, and they have never won another World Series. They came within 2 games in 1995, and within 1 run in 1997 and 2016.

Can they do it this time? They may have to go through the Yankees to do it -- not just this weekend, but in the postseason. We shall see.

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