THE CLEVELAND INDIANS
Major League Baseball
(1915 - Present)
1861 - 1865 - The American Civil War causes the rapid spread of a new game called "Base Ball." The sport takes hold all over the country as players of all ages form teams and begin playing for city-wide bragging rights.
1865 - An amateur baseball club based in Cleveland, Ohio is formed. Their official team name is "Forest City."
October 20, 1865 - One of the first organized, intercity sporting events in Cleveland history takes place. The Oberlin Penfields visit Forest City and play seven innings before the game is called due to lack of sunlight. Oberlin takes home the victory, 67-28.
1869 - Forest City begins fully compensating its players, becoming the first professional sports team in Cleveland.
June 2, 1969 - Professional sports, a staple of modern day Northeast Ohio, is played in the region for the first time. Cleveland's very first professional game pits Forest City against the visiting Cincinnati Red Stockings. Cincinnati escapes with the victory, 25-6.
1871 - The first professional sports league in North America is formed. Forest City will play in the inaugural season of the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players. This new league also marks the beginning of Major League Baseball.
May 4, 1871 - The very first Major League game is played between Cleveland and the Fort Wayne Kekiongas. The game contains few runs, hits and errors, impressive for the time. One newspaper calls it, "The finest game on record in this country." Forest City is heavily favored but loses 2-0. They would fold two seasons later.
1879 - A new team, also called Forest City, begins play in the newly formed National League. This team is sometimes known as the Cleveland Blues.
June 12, 1880 - Cleveland falls to the Worcester Ruby Legs, 1-0, as Worcester pitcher Lee Richmond tosses the very first "Perfect Game" in Major League history. This feat, considered the most difficult in all of sports, will be accomplished just 22 more times over the next 130+ years.
1882 - The NL begins requiring distinct colors for each team. Cleveland begins wearing blue uniforms and officially becomes the Cleveland Blues for this reason. They play three seasons as the Blues before merging with (and playing as) the St. Louis Maroons in the Union Association.
1887 - The Cleveland Spiders begin play in the American Association, a rival league to the NL. The AA becomes known as "The Beer and Whiskey League" as alcohol is served during games.
1889 - The Spiders move to the National League.
1890 - Cleveland has two professional sports teams for the first time: The Spiders of the NL and the Infants of the Players National League of Professional Base Ball Clubs. The Infants fold along with the PNL after one season.
August 6, 1890 - Spiders pitcher Denton True "Cy" Young plays the first big league game of his career. His three-hit shutout earns him the first of his MLB record 511 wins.
1894 - The Grand Rapids Rustlers begin playing baseball in Michigan as a part of the Western League. This marks the beginning of a franchise that will play in Cleveland for over a century.
1895 - Cy Young leads the Spiders to the National League championship series against the Baltimore Orioles. The Spiders win the Temple Cup, 4 games to 1, bringing the first professional sports championship to Cleveland, Ohio.
1899 - The Spiders post the worst record in baseball history, going 20-134 (.130). This will be their last season.
1900 - The Rustlers move from Grand Rapids to Cleveland. They play as the Lake Shores in a new minor league called the American League.
1901 - The AL declares itself a major league and the Lake Shores will be a charter franchise but will play as the Bluebirds. Today, the franchise points to this season as its establishment.
1902 - Players on the Bluebirds, thinking the name unfit for a baseball team, attempt to get the name changed to the Broncos. The unofficial name does not catch on.
1903 - The National and American Leagues recognize each other as equal "Major Leagues" and a championship series is to be played between their best clubs. The Boston Americans (AL) defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates (NL), 5 games to 3, to win the first modern World Series.
Also 1903 - After a newspaper write-in contest, the Cleveland Blues are renamed the Naps after their star player, captain and future manager, Napoleon "Nap" Lajoie.
October 2, 1908 - Naps pitcher Addie Joss tosses the 4th perfect game in MLB history, defeating the Chicago White Sox 1-0.
1912 - The Naps are renamed the Molly McGuires.
1913 - A 2nd baseball team comes to town as a member of the short lived Federal League. The Cleveland Green Sox will play for only one season.
1915 - The McGuires are renamed though it's not exactly clear how. The Cleveland Indians play their first season. A blue "C" will be used as their first logo. Years later, a story will spread that the team was named to honor a recently deceased Louis Sockalexis. A Spiders outfielder, Sockalexis was likley the first Native American to play in the Majors. This story however, is not true.
August 16, 1920 - While playing the Yankees on the road, a pitch strikes Indians shortstop Ray Chapman in the head. He is rushed to a New York City hospital and dies 12 hours later. He remains the only MLB player to die from an injury sustained on the field. His death would lead to many MLB rule changes including the use of batting helmets. Chapman played for the Naps/ McGuires/Indians for the entirety of his shortened career.
October 10, 1920 - In the top of the 5th inning in Game 5, Indians second baseman and Cleveland native Bill Wambsganss catches a well hit line drive, steps on second base and tags a nearby runner for the only unassisted triple play in World Series history. Clevelanders attending this wild game at Dunn Field also see the first World Series grand slam and the first World Series home run hit by a pitcher. These three extraordinary plays help the Indians win 8-1 and give Cleveland the series lead.
October 12, 1920 - The Cleveland Indians defeat the Brooklyn Robins, 5 games to 2, to bring the first World Series (and first recognized "major sports championship") to Cleveland, Ohio.
1947 - The Indians break the American League color barrier by signing African American center fielder Larry Doby.
October 3, 1948 - The Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox finish the 1948 season with the exact same record of 96-58.
October 4, 1948 - For the first time in Major League history, a one-game-playoff is required to determine 1st place in a regular season tie. Cleveland defeats the Red Sox, 8-3, winning the AL pennant and ending any hope for an all-Boston World Series. This is but one item on a similar timeline concerning Boston's "Curse of the Bambino" which lasted 86 years.
October 11, 1948 - The Indians defeat the Boston Braves, 4 games to 2, to win their 2nd World Series.
1948 - The greatest year in Cleveland sports history is played as three championship teams call the forest city home.
Cleveland Barons - 1948 Calder Cup Champions (April 11, 1948)
Cleveland Indians - 1948 World Series Champions (October 11, 1948)
Cleveland Browns - 1948 AAFC Champions (December 19, 1948)
September 29, 1954 - "THE CATCH" - Following a franchise best 111-43 season, the Indians play Game 1 of the World Series against the New York Giants. During the 8th inning, Giants superstar Willie Mays chases down and catches Vic Wertz's deep drive into center field, keeping the go-ahead run at second base. The over-the-shoulder running grab is considered one of the greatest defensive plays in the history of baseball and the greatest of May's career. The Giants would go on to sweep the Indians and win the title.
1954-95 - The Indians fail to reach the world series for 41 straight seasons while making notoriously bad trades. Frank "Trader" Lane, a GM of the Indians, manages to trade away an entire roster in under two years. Many blame this and other Indians mishaps on "The Curse of Rocky Colavito" which began when Lane traded Colavito, the home run champion and star player to the rival Tigers in 1959.
1960-93 - The Indians spend 33 consecutive seasons finishing 11 or more games out of 1st place.
June 4, 1974 - After a bench clearing brawl against the Texas Rangers six days earlier, the Rangers and Indians travel to Cleveland for another matchup. Leading up to the game, a reporter asks Rangers manager Billy Martin if he is worried about playing in Cleveland so soon after the heated brawl. He replies, "They won't have enough fans there to worry about." In response to this, Municipal Stadium holds one of their popular promotions for the June 4th game. Ten Cent Beer Night, as it would come to be known, draws over 25,000 Indians fans. The infamous night begins with a baseball game and ends with a riot. From the very first pitch, drunk fans run out to the diamond to flash, moon, etc... while the two teams play a very exciting game. Then, in the 9th inning, with the game tied 5-5, a Cleveland fan hops the barrier and tries to steal a Texas outfielder's hat. The player kicks the fan and all hell breaks loose. Fans storm the field and the entire Rangers squad meets them with bats. Indians players and coaches come to the Rangers aid, swinging bats at their own fans, and keep the chaos to a minimum. In the end, Cleveland forfeits to Texas and nine people are arrested. Municipal Stadium would hold another Ten Cent Beer Night a month later.
October 9, 1974 - The Indians break another color barrier as GM Phil Seghi introduces the first African-American manager in MLB history, Frank Robinson. Robinson serves as player/manager of the Indians for two seasons and exclusively manager for one. He would go on to manage other Major League clubs for 30 years. Beginning his playing career in 1956 and retiring from managing in 2006, Robinson’s historic life in Major League baseball spans five decades.
March 22, 1993 - A boat carrying Indians pitchers Steve Olin, Bob Ojeda and Tim Crews crashes into a pier killing Olin and Crews and basically removing Ojeda from the Indians lineup.
1995 - The Indians reach the World Series for the first time since "The Catch" but fall to the more experienced Atlanta Braves in 6 games.
October 26, 1997 - "THE HIT" - It's the script all young Indians fans recited while playing in the backyard, "World Series, Game 7, bottom of the 9th, up by 1. You take the mound to close out the game and bring Cleveland its first World Series in 49 years." This is exactly what happened to Jose Mesa against the Florida Marlins in '97, but the game didn't turn out the way it did in the backyard. Mesa blows the save and allows the Marlins to tie and ultimately win the series in the 11th inning.
June 12, 1995 - April 4, 2001 - The Indians sell-out Jacobs Field for a Major League record 445 consecutive home games. During this streak (since surpassed by the Boston Red Sox and San Francisco Giants), the Indians become the first baseball team to sell-out an entire season of 162 games, achieving this five times during the streak. A new stadium, a departed football team, a booming economy, two World Series appearances and an exciting Indians roster contribute to the record setting attendance. Shortly following the end of the streak, the Indians organization retires jersey #455 in honor of the estimate 19,324,248 fans who caught “Indian Fever” during this historic run.
August 5, 2001 - In the bottom of the 7th, in what may be the most exciting game in Indians history, the city of Cleveland finds its Tribe down an insurmountable 14-2. As a handful of fans begin to evacuate Jacobs Field, the comeback begins. A 3-run 7th, a 4-run 8th and a 5-run 9th, take the game to extra innings. Then, in the bottom of the 11th, a broken bat single from Jolbert Cabrera and the subsequent final run from Kenny Lofton, finishes off the 12-run deficit to defeat the Seattle Mariners, 15-14. As usual, the emotion following the momentous comeback is put best by the voice of the Indians, Tom Hamilton, "The Indians, dead and buried, down twelve in the 7th, have completed the miracle. We said in the 9th, it may take divine intervention, there'll be a lot of people wondering."
2007 - Despite being up 3 games to 1 against the Boston Red Socks in the ALCS, the Indians are outscored 30-5 in the final three games and are knocked out of the playoffs.
June 19 - July 1, 2016 - Following the Cavaliers championship victory that ended Cleveland's 52-year "curse," the Indians win 12 straight games to finish out a 14-game winning streak, a then-franchise record.
October 6, 2016 - The Indians and Red Sox face off in the 2016 ALDS for what would be their 6th post-season meeting (counting the one-game playoff of 1948). Cleveland's Game 1 victory is their first post-season win in almost a decade. The Indians would go on to sweep Boston in three.
October 22, 2016 - The Chicago Cubs defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in six games to punch their ticket to the World Series for the first time since 1945 and a chance to win their first World Series since 1908. This 108-year drought is the longest of its kind for a single franchise in any North American sport, however, in order to make history, the Cubs will have to go through the Cleveland Indians and their own 67-year title drought. With these teams holding the two longest title droughts in baseball, and two of the three longest title droughts in any North American sport, it is certain that one city's pain will end in what could be the greatest World Series of all time.
November 2, 2016 - Just days after the Indians held a 3 games to 1 lead over the Cubs, the two teams meet in Cleveland for Game 7 of the World Series. The 37th Game 7 in World Series history is also the Indians first since their heartbreaking loss in 1997. In the bottom of the 8th, the Cubs hold a 6-3 lead with two outs. Cleveland 3rd baseman, Jose Ramirez, hoping to start a rally, hits to short but beats the throw for a base hit. Cubs Manager Joe Maddon then elects to bring in his closer, Aroldis Chapman. Chapman had been lights out against the Tribe in the first six games but uncharacteristically gives up a double to outfielder Brandon Guyer, scoring Ramirez. With a two-run deficit, Indians outfielder Rajai Davis comes up to bat. With a 2-2 count, Rajai belts one into left field, just clearing the wall for a game-tying homer. After another inning of play, the game heads to extras and after a short rain delay, fans return to their seats to watch the Cubs score two runs in the top of the 10th and the Indians send three up and three down in the bottom.
November 3, 2016 - Just after midnight, the Chicago Cubs 108-year drought comes to an end. The windy city erupts, fathers and grandfathers cry as Clevelanders look on for a reminder of their NBA championship just five months prior. Game 7 of the 2016 World Series becomes an instant classic, some calling it the greatest of all time. The Cleveland Indians now own the longest World Series drought and the 2nd longest title drought in all of North American sports.
August 24 - September 15, 2017 - The defending American League Champion Cleveland Indians win 22 consecutive games. It is the longest win streak in modern MLB history and 2nd longest all-time (the 1916 New York Giants won 26 consecutive games though there is debate over it's validity as their streak may or may not have included a tie). Over the course of the historic streak, the Tribe outscore opponents 140-36.
MLB Seasons: 117
World Series Appearances: 6
World Series Wins: 2
Current Drought: 69 years
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