The Cleveland Indians Cap

Cleveland Cap

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.

Terry Francona

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

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.

Cleveland, Ohio St. Patrick's Day Parade Slider and Hot Dog Dancing

Slider is the Handsome Fellow on the Right

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.

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The Retro Blue Jays Cap

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Since I was young, my father worked for a toy company based in Toronto, Canada. For most of my life, my father would spend at least one week in his company headquarters, and often times would go to Blue Jays games with his friends who had season tickets. My father has on more than one occasion said that he has adopted the Jays as his second favorite team. His coworker and her family come down just about every summer and spend a few days, and baseball is always the topic of conversation; they may be the only people in Canada who just don’t care about hockey.

I have only been in Canada once when I was about eleven, and had the pleasure of staying at the Renaissance Hotel, which is unique in the fact that it is literally attached to the Rogers Centre, the home of the Blue Jays. We were one of the lucky ones whose room’s window looked out onto the field. Imagine as a little kid, looking out the window and seeing a baseball diamond right outside. I was literally in awe, and it is something I will never forget.

The night we got there the Blue Jays got to play the Oakland Athletics. I really don’t remember too much of the game except sitting in one of the two giant lounge chair feeling like I was on top of the world. I was looking out my window to see professional baseball. Admittedly I wasn’t as big a sports fan then as I am today, but it was something that I absolutely loved. We even had the TV on in the background to hear the play-by-play. To this day it remains one of my favorite sports related memories.

Rogers Centre

This is the view from one of the hotel rooms looking out onto the field

In our second day in Canada, my family went to visit the Centreville Amusement Park, which is actually a small island that you have to take a ferry to just outside of Toronto. There was all the stuff you’d expect from an amusement park: a ferris wheel, bumper cars, and a huge tent where you can spend extravagant amounts of money for a hot dog. As we were leaving the island, there was someone handing out free stuff to everyone boarding the ferry. Just as any little kid would, I ran over there as fast as I could eager to take whatever they were giving out. Turns out, it was Blue Jays/Yankees tickets for their game that weekend. Yes, they were literally giving away tickets to a Yankees game. That should be enough to explain how little people appreciate the sport of baseball north of the border. Sadly, we were headed back to the states and I was unable to attend that game.

No matter how hard I try, I simply cannot remember the year that all of this took place. I know at this point Roy Halladay was their star player and had already won his first Cy Young award. My best guess is 2006, which places me around age 11. I still have those Blue Jays/Yankees unused ticket stubs somewhere which would have the date, but I don’t think it would be worth the effort.

Exploring the city was one of the greatest things I had ever seen. If you have never been to Toronto, it’s simply a much cleaner and friendlier New York City. One of the two things that I vividly remember was that they had entirely different candy; the standout in my mind was the Aero bar. To the best of my knowledge, it was simply a chocolate bar that had air whipped in it leaving small holes throughout it. Imported from England, they were unavailable for purchase in the US at the time, but to a young version of myself, it was the greatest thing ever. I even made my mom get some to eat on the plane ride home. The other part of Toronto that stood out to me was how clean the Subways were. If you have ever taken the subway in New York, these look the a crystal palace. They are absolutely pristine. I have always wanted to go back there, since now that I am older and would likely appreciate it even more.

As I said in one of my previous posts, this hat was a birthday gift to me from my college suite-mate Sean and his girlfriend Jenna. In general, I am a huge fan of any two-tone cap, but they had no idea of that at the time. Jenna picked the hat solely based on looks, knowing nothing about the team or logo, and I couldn’t be happier with the choice she made. The Blue Jays have had a bunch of very unique looks over the years, but in my opinion this is easily the finest.

First used as part of a team makeover in 1997, the cap coincided with the arrival of free agent Roger Clemens, arguably the best pitcher in team history. In his first of his two seasons with the team, he had one of the best seasons in MLB history. Pitching the triple crown, Clemens finished with a 2.05 ERA, a career high 292 strikeouts and 15 straight wins, shattering Blue Jays team records in the process. While he was accused of PED use later in his career, the general consensus is that during this season it was all natural. That type of season is hard to replicate for even the best pitchers; the only pitchers to do it up to that point were Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove and Lefty Gomez. The very next season Roger Clemens did the same thing, pitching the Triple Crown once again. While he will always be remembered for his seasons with Red Sox and Yankees, some of the best years of his career came with their division rival. He would never again pitch for the Triple Crown.

Sadly, some error in someone’s judgement 5 years later lead to this hat being replaced in favor of the unpopular “Blue Jay on PEDs” doing its best Barry Bonds impression. Sadly, I cannot find a picture I am licensed to used, go just head over to this link to see what I mean. It proved so unpopular they retired it the very next season, replacing red with silver on their color palette and going for an entirely new look. When you have a logo so bad it gets Canadians to care about baseball you know you did something horrifically wrong.

I don’t want to leave out the people who made this article possible: Sean and Jenna. I cannot thank you both enough for the generosity you have shown me in the very short time we have known each other, and I want you to know how much I love this hat. Jenna, you made a great choice.