Posted on September 11 2019
During the 19th century, professional baseball originated in Cleveland. In 1869, on June 2, it officially started with the Cincinnati Red Stockings playing the Cleveland Forest Citys (no, that is not a misspelling). In 1986, Cleveland was sponsoring an American Association team. But in 1889, the switch was made to the National League. Let's take a further look at some highlights in the history of the Cleveland Indians.
The 1890s Goes From Good to Bad
The Spiders, Cleveland's team in the 1890s, had one of the most notable players in history in Cy Young. Championship games were played in 1896, 1895, and 1892. In 1895 they won the Temple Cup, the championship trophy. But it was a dismal day in history when owner DeHaas Robinson sent Young to another team. Their resulting horrific loss record (134 losses – 20 wins) prevented the Spiders from playing in the National League in 1899.
The 1990s – A New Era
In 1901, on April 24, a team that played in the American League was sponsored by Cleveland. Since that date, Cleveland's team has played in Cleveland under several names – the first of which was The Blues. Immediately however, in 1902, the name was changed to The Broncos. In 1903, the club was renamed The Naps. The name Cleveland Indians happened in the season that took place between 1914 and 1915. Along with this new name came the addition of new talent. In particular, Tris Speaker helped the team, in both 1918 and 1919, finish second in the American League. Against Brooklyn, New York, the World Series was won by Cleveland in the 1920 season. History's first World Series grand slam was hit by Cleveland's Elmer Smith during that game.
But the history-making didn't stop there! The Indians pitcher, Jim Bagby, hit the first ever World Series pitcher’s homerun. Additionally, for the first time (and possibly only time) in World Series history, an entirely unassisted triple play was completed by Bill Wambsganss.
The 20s and 30s
Though no championship was won in the 1920s, the Indians were strong contenders. The team ended up under new ownership who, very quickly, found out how costly it was to operate at the Cleveland Municipal Stadium. They went back to playing almost all their games in League Park between 1934 and 1947 until attendance improved. Night games began being played at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in 1939.
The Fickle 1940s
The Cleveland Indians experienced a rather tumultuous decade in the 40s, particularly during World War II. It was in 1947 that a permanent move was made to the Cleveland Municipal Stadium. The American League's first African-American, Larry Doby, joined the club in 1947. Things started looking up when the Indians, in six games, won the World Series in 1948. The 1950s saw major improvements and some significant wins.
The 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s
These were unfavorable years for the Cleveland Indians. They went through a bunch of owner changes, disturbingly routine player trading, a lack of favorable placement, and more. One bright spot, in 1974, was Frank Robinson who was hired as both a manager and a player. He was major-league baseball's first African-American manager. In 1977, however, he was terminated as his team continued to struggle.
The Move to Jacobs Field
The move to this new ballpark improved things for the Cleveland Indians. The doldrums experienced between the 60s and 90s began to shift when the team cheaply hired young players giving them longer contracts. For the first time since 1954, the American League title was won by the Indians in 1995. Unfortunately, they lost to the Florida Marlins in the World Series in the 1996 season. For the rest of the 90s, however, they remained a contender.
The club performed admirably in the early 2000s as it worked on rebuilding toward another successful run.
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