Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Around the Horn: Cleveland Indians

My "Around the Horn" series returns (finally) and this time I'm heading up to the shores of Lake Erie and exploring one of my team collections ... the Cleveland Indians!

The Indians have been around since the founding of the American League in 1901 and had many different names in their formative years until settling on "Indians" in 1915.

League Park
Photo: wikipedia.org
The team played in League Park (aka Dunn Field) from 1901-1932 and a lighter schedule of games from 1934-1946 when they split home games at both League Park and Cleveland Stadium. League Park also hosted the two predecessors to the Indians, the Cleveland Spiders of the National League and the Cleveland Lake Shores of the Western League.

These Conlon cards represent players from the early years of the Tribe. I love the Colon cards because not only are the usual players featured but you also get forgotten players of the era like Neal Ball, Sarge Connally, and Ab Wright. The Neal Ball card I'm particularly fond of as it just shows how primitive major league baseball was back then. The outfield wall is littered with advertising and beyond that there are houses in the background. As for Ball himself, he was a journeyman infielder who played 7 seasons with Cleveland, New York, and Boston. The back of the card tells how he turned an unassisted triple play on July 19, 1909. 

Cleveland Stadium
Photo: wikipedia.org
The Indians abandoned League Park for good after 1946 and moved into the massive Cleveland Stadium on the shores of Lake Erie. During their time there, the Tribe had some pretty lean years but it hosted two World Series (1948 and 1954) and the All-Star Game four times (1935, 1954, 1963, and 1981).

My actual Indians card collection begins with this 1957 Topps Don Mossi. It's the oldest Indians card I have in my collection. 

Jumping ahead to the 1970s now and some of my favorite Indians cards from the 70s, including two players who played for both the Reds and the Indians, Vada Pinson and Buddy Bell. The most interesting thing here is the Ken Aspromonte manager card, not because of the manager himself, but because of the coaches, especially the pitching coach, Warren Spahn. I find it terribly hard to imagine Warren Spahn in an Indians uniform.

The 1980s were pretty thin on good teams for the majority of the 1980s and had only two winning seasons (1981 and 1986) but still never rose above 5th place during the decade. They had some good players though like Len Barker, who threw a perfect game in 1981, Toby Harrah, Andre Thornton, and Brook Jacoby. Speaking of Jacoby, checkout the dark blue uniform top on him. I don't remember that uniform at all.

To anyone else, this would be just another 1989 Topps card. However, to me, it's one of the most interesting cards of the set. The Indians drafted Mark Lewis out of high school in 1988 and it was out of Hamilton High School, which is only about 15 minutes from me. While I never went to school there, I hung out with a bunch out people there years ago and got to know the area quite well. Hamilton itself is quite the neat little city with a really awesome downtown area and a branch campus of Miami University. The neat thing about this card is that I know exactly where those baseball fields are where that picture was taken and it's of a local guy proudly representing Hamilton on a Topps baseball card. As for his career, he carved out a nice 11-year career as a journeyman infielder with two different stops in Cincinnati.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that the Indians gained prominence being featured in the movie "Major League" which was released in 1989. When I first saw it, I didn't think much of it but over time it's definitely grown on me and is one of my favorite baseball movies now. It spawned a successful 1994 sequel "Major League II" and a third, not so successful entry "Major League: Back to the Minors" in 1998 which bombed at the box office.

Progressive Field (aka Jacobs Field)
Photo: wikipedia.org
The Indians began the 90s the same way they ended the 80s, near the bottom of the standings. However, Mike Hargrove took over as manager in 1992 and the team moved out of tired old Cleveland Stadium after the 1993 season and into shiny new Progressive Field (formerly Jacobs Field) and had brand new uniforms to match. I've seen a couple games at the stadium and it's a wonderful place to see a ballgame.

The Indians dominated the American League pretty much from 1994 to 2001 with players like Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Roberto Alomar, Manny Ramirez, and Kenny Lofton mixed along side older stars like Bip Roberts, Eddie Murray, Dennis Martinez, and Orel Hershiser.  The early 90s weren't without some interesting players too like Keith Hernandez, Eddie Taubensee, and Jeff Shaw, both of who were part of some of the better Reds teams of the 90s as well. I've still yet to figure out where that Kenny Lofton card in the first photo came from. If I had to guess, it was probably from a giveaway to commemorate the final season of Cleveland Stadium.

Here's a bunch of IP autographs I've acquired through various trades. I've mentioned this in a previous post but my favorite of the batch has got to be Dave Burba, with Charles Nagy a close second.

These cards from the 2000s are just awesome. I never bough any Upper Deck Sweet Spot as my collecting had pretty much fizzled out by then but it's nice to have them now.

I don't even remember Doc Gooden's stint in Cleveland but he pitched there in 1998 and 1999 amassing an 11-10 record and a 4.92 ERA over 45 starts in those two seasons.

Some modern cards now celebrating the rich past of the team from early stars like Nap Lajoie to more modern stars like Jay Bruce who spent the the latter part of the 2017 season with the Indians to help them in the playoffs.

I've talked a lot about the team itself but haven't really talked about my player collections. There are really only a handful of Indians players I focus on with Jim Thome being at the top.

Of course, I can't talk about the Indians and not mention Dennis Eckersley. I picked up that 1976 Topps card for five bucks at the flea market probably about five or six years ago.

Bert Blyleven is another pitcher from the Indians I tend to collect. Not so much a lot of his other stuff but definitely his Indians cards for sure.

I can't talk about the current Indians without talking about one of their top players, Francisco Lindor. These are my five favorite Lindor cards I have. 

I wanted to close this out with this card, my absolute favorite card I have in my Indians collection. I acquired this card in a trade with P-Town Tom and it's absolutely stunning. As a matter of fact, it's one card I actually keep in a penny sleeve and top loaded because I like it so much and I don't want anything to ruin it. 

So there it is, a look at some of the Indians cards in my collection. I know this was rather lengthy but I dug through two binders worth of Indians cards, hence the length. The next installment should be a bit shorter. Speaking of which ...

On deck for the next entry ... the Seattle Mariners


  1. My first ever MLB game was at the old Cleveland Stadium. Always had a soft spot for the Indians because of it.

  2. Great post about the Indians! As an Indians fan/team collector, it is great to read about the team and cards of the team.

  3. Great post. It made me think about the first Indians I was excited to pull back in the day. It took a few minutes... but Joe Charboneau came to me.