Generally, when I have a soft spot for a team throughout any sport, it’s because of a of a specific memory I have of the team from my childhood; the Cleveland Indians are the rare exception. My love of the Indians is new-found, beginning in the 2013 season with the hiring of former Phillies and Red Sox manager Terry Francona and the signing of free agent outfielder Nick Swisher.
While he will always be remembered for the two World Series he brought to Boston, breaking the Curse of the Bambino, Francona was the manager of my beloved Philadelphia Phillies between 1997 and 2000. While I personally do not remember him managing, as his last season with the team ended before I was five, my father and uncles all speak of him very fondly, even if his best record with the club was only 77–85. Sadly, Philadelphia didn’t weep too much for his firing, as they hired fan favorite player-turned-manager Larry Bowa.
I will never forget the day my cousin Rocco from Arizona called me up all excited. He was in charge of hosting a very large golf tournament that was going to be held in Tuscon, and somehow during the preparation stage he ran into the one and only Terry Francona, recently fired from the Red Sox. Despite living in Arizona, Rocco is thankfully a diehard Phillies fan, and was beyond excited when he ran into him. Now this is someone who is generally as cool, calm and collected as they come. I had never before gotten an actual phone call from him before, but he felt it was worth it. You could hear the excitement in his voice, and its something I will never forget. When a manager is loved by a fan after mediocre seasons more than a decade afterwards from someone who is as big a fan as Rocco, it truly means something. Somehow he was able to convince Francona to come to attend his tournament, and was able to reminisce on old time Phillies memories. Man am I jealous.
Nick Swisher was and always will be one of my all-time favorite players. I have often said that the Chicago White Sox are my second favorite team due to the amazing childhood memory I have of attending the 2003 All-Star game hosted at US Cellular Field. Swisher was traded from the Oakland Athletics to the White Sox for Ryan Sweeney, Gio Gonzalez and Fautino de los Santos. At the time it was part of a larger rebuilding effort by the A’s, and Swisher was on the bubble between fan favorite and super star at the time. He was unimpressive during his season with the White Sox, batting a career low .219 and hit a very pedestrian 24 home runs. Even when he was part of the 2009 Yankees team that beat my beloved Phillies during the World Series, I could not bring myself to root against him personally. I honestly don’t know the answer as to exactly why I like the guy as much as I do; he is as someone I will always go out of my way to support no matter what team he is one.
Chief Wahoo is one of my favorite logos throughout sports, but it sadly appears as if the Indians have finally accomplished their task of entirely phasing him out due to the cultural insensitivity of his representation of Native Americans. If I asked you to name, or even just visualize, the Indians’ mascot chances are you would think of some form of a Native American resembling Chief Wahoo; sadly, you’d be wrong. The correct answer is Slider, a “fuchsia” colored creature thing who has absolutely nothing to do with the team’s overall name and theme. Former Cleveland Cy-Young winner Cliff Lee perhaps said it best: “I mean, Slider’s like a giant walrus that’s suffering from the Resident Evil virus.” I couldn’t agree with you more Cliff. How Slider is in the mascot hall of fame with such timeless characters like the Phillie Phanatic and Mr. Met is beyond me.
I can’t tell you specifically why I love the Chief Wahoo logo. Maybe its the broad smile that adorns his face, lighting up the day for the Cleveland faithful. Something about it just resonates with me, and to me is one of the classic logos in all of baseball; one that is instantly recognizable with the team. I understand what a lot of people absolutely hate it, and a significantly smaller amount find it offensive. Personally I think killing him off as part of the franchise is more offensive than allowing a classic MLB logo to stay. Sadly I am not the one making decisions.
All of these factors together give me a soft spot for the Indians. Just to be 100% clear, I am a Phillies fan and only a Phillies fan, but I support many other teams as well. I just happen to support the Indians more than most. When they made the postseason their first season under Francona, I was beyond excited. Even though they were eliminated in the one game wildcard round, it showed what a turn around this team could make and a glimpse of their future potential.
While most caps I buy have an uninteresting story about how they were purchased (with the notable exception of my New Era Cap), I vividly remember when this one was purchased. Being part of a large Italian family, we often get together with grandparents and numerous cousins at Italian restaurants to celebrate even the smallest of events. I cannot remember specifically what event we were celebrating, but we decided to try Maggiano’s Little Italy restaurant at the Cherry Hill Mall for what I believe was the first time. As grandparents do, my grandmother gave each of us some spending money, for which I was very thankful for. After dinner, my cousin James and I spent it almost immediately at the LIDS in the mall. I remember James picked up a diamond era with the Cincinnati Reds’ Running man on it. I came very close to buying my first Kansas City Royals cap, but ultimately decided on the Indians Cap due to solely on the fact that there were no stitching errors. While most are unnoticeable to a vast majority of the population, me and my obsessive-compulsive self can’t in good consciousness wear a cap with such errors. In a way, I am glad that fate ended up forcing my hand to get the Indians cap as it allows me to show off my pride in Nick Swisher, Terry Francona and the entire Indians organization.