VOL. 131 | NO. 211 | Friday, October 21, 2016
The Press Box
Cleveland Indians, ‘Major League’ Come to World Series
By Don Wade
The Chicago Cubs have the charm and the brand. Lovable losers. The Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.
And they are fighting 108 years of history. The Goat Curse. The Gatorade on Leon Durham’s glove. Steve Bartman.
Millions even know of their larger-than-life broadcaster Harry Caray, no matter that he has not been among the living for more than 18 years.
They are the predominate narrative of this postseason, so much so that some St. Louis Cardinals fans are pulling for them while others, the true and the bitter, hate them all the more.
But as I write this before Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, it is not even certain the Cubs will reach the World Series – a place they have not visited since 1945. The series is tied 2-2 and any path to the pennant means confronting Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw once as a starter and perhaps again as a late-inning savior.
What is certain is that the Cleveland Indians will be waiting for the National League champions. The Indians were last in the World Series 19 years ago, where they lost to the Atlanta Braves.
They have not won a World Series since 1948. Even their fabulous 1954 team, which won 111 games in a then-154-game season, could not win the World Series.
So Cleveland has waited a long time. And, yes, fans there can warm themselves with the Cavaliers’ NBA title. And, yes, even LeBron James has come to Progressive Field wearing an Indians jersey and is trying to keep the karma going.
But even with that, Cleveland – not Chicago – would be the second city in a Cubs-Indians World Series.
The Cubs’ manager, Joe Maddon, probably has more national name recognition than anyone in the Indians’ lineup. And certainly Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo do.
Ever heard of Carlos Santana (no, not “Black Magic Woman” Santana), but the designated hitter/first baseman who slugged 34 home runs this season? How about the first baseman/designated Mike Napoli, another 34-home run guy?
Or outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall (all right, no one’s heard of Lonnie Chisenhall), but what about these lights-out relief pitchers, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen?
Probably, you’re more familiar with Aroldis Chapman, who like Miller was acquired from the Yankees, but makes more of an impression for the effortless way he throws the ball 103 miles per hour for the Cubbies.
Truth is, our national view of the Cleveland Indians has nothing to do with this current team or even the best Tribe teams in franchise history. Sure, names such as Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez and Sandy Alomar may ring that 1995 bell.
But the Indians are mostly the 1989 movie “Major League.” They are broadcaster Bob Uecker (employed by the Milwaukee Brewers in real life) as the drunken Harry Doyle intoning, “Just a little bit outside” when Charlie Sheen character Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn throws another errant pitch.
The fictional manager, Lou Brown, is easier to see in our mind’s eye than Terry Francona, who still seems like he should be in the dugout at the Fenway Park wearing a Boston Red Sox uniform.
This season Indians outfielder Rajai Davis stole 43 bags, but it’s Wesley Snipes’ Willie Mays Hayes we see tearing up the base paths, if also sliding a bit short of second base. We remember the fictional catcher Jake Taylor seeking one final moment in the sun and the superstitious Pedro Cerrano and his curveball-fearing bats.
Writer/director David S. Ward grew up in Ohio and developed the film, in part, to exorcise his personal baseball demons.
“I started to feel like the only way I would see the Indians win anything is if I made a movie where they did,” he said in a 2014 interview with Yahoo! Sports. “I realized it would have to be a comedy because nobody would take this seriously.”
And now for the second time since the movie was made, the Indians have a chance to win the World Series. Perhaps against the more long-suffering Cubs. Even Harry Doyle knows that’s life imitating art.