Cleveland closed the 2013 season with 10 straight wins to beat out the Rangers for the second wild card, then lost the one-game playoff to Tampa Bay. Last year, the Tribe stood just three games out of first place on Sept. 11 and held slight wild card hopes going into the final week.
My Akron buddies and I would have loved to have Indians teams like that to root for as we began to play Little League around 1960, as many of us began college 10 years or so later and as we went through our 20s and 30s and hit our 40s.
I was 7 when my Dad brought me to an Indians doubleheader against Chicago that drew nearly 67,000 fans to the lakefront on Aug. 30, 1959. The White Sox won both games, capping a four-game series sweep that put them 5 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland. The Indians didn’t seriously threaten Chicago the rest of the way, finishing second, five games back.
The outcome was disappointing, but there was no hint of the wasteland that was to become Indians baseball. Controversial general manager Frank Lane broke up the ’59 team with some dubious trades, including the one that sent popular outfielder and American League home run leader Rocky Colavito to the Tigers a few days prior to the 1960 season opener.
That helped account for the mediocrity of the next few seasons, but the next 34? No. It was one bad team after another so-so team, and so on, for one lousy season and reason after another.
For those shrugging off the current Indians, following are the high points for the Cleveland teams from 1960 through 1993. For some context: The American League expanded from eight to 10 teams in 1961. It was win the league or nothing to get to the World Series until the leagues were divided into divisions and playoff series were begun in 1969.
The Indians played in the six-team AL East from 1969-76, until the division grew to seven teams in 1977. In 1994, the American and National leagues were each divided into three divisions; the Indians made part of the five-team AL Central. Remember, that was also the first year that baseball included a wild card team in its playoff format. The leagues went to two wild card teams each in 2012.
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