Tonight I came home, opened my computer, and got right back to work. Lots to do. Fortunately, I had a lovely sight to keep me company -- the Cleveland Indians winning Game 4 of the ALCS. I was close to having an even lovelier sight to view tonight, as I actually had tickets to the game. But duty (aka work) called, so I handed over my tickets to my Uncle Jim. He lives in DC, but he was planning on making the round trip to and from Cleveland just for the game. I hope he did in fact make it because the game was SO AWESOME!!!! My eyes were brimming with tears as the game reached the top of the ninth.
Now that my work is done for the evening, it's time to wax poetic. The Cleveland Indians are my first sports love. I grew up going to games at the old stadium in the 1980s when it was just me, my family, and a smattering of fans. Back then I thought that it was normal for a foul ball to land in the middle of rows and rows of empty seats. My dad and my uncles would race off to grab it, and they were pretty fast, so I also thought that it was a pretty typical day at the ballpark to leave with a foul ball. Ah, the good old days.
By the 1990s, I had a better understanding of the game and by 1995 I was in jaw-dropping awe of the Tribe shortstop who could catch line drives with his bare hand. My love for Omar has never faded, even though he's now a Giant. (Thank god he's never been a Yankee.)
In 1995, the Indians were on a roll and landed in the playoffs. My then-boyfriend was a Red Sox fan. When the Indians knocked the Sox out of the playoffs and headed to the Series, my boyfriend became a Braves fan just to cheer against the Indians. I'm not sure he realized how bad an idea that was. I was livid for weeks. Probably also due in part to the Indians' loss.
The Indians had another shot in 1997 against the Marlins. Game 7 was on a Sunday night but my improv comedy group did a show every Sunday night at 11pm. I had to show up for pre-show warmups at 10pm so I reluctantly wandered out of my sorority house late in the game. (Somehow, I'd managed to turn a handful of my sisters into not just baseball fans, but Indians fans, so it was pretty awesome that they kept watching the game when I left.) I doubt I was very funny in my show. As soon as it was over, I asked everyone I knew in the audience if they'd caught the end of the game. Wrong crowd.
I raced back home, knowing the game was over and praying for the best. I ran into my friend Kwesi and asked him about the game. "Go FLOR-I-DA!!!!!" he yelled. I'd forgotten he was from Florida. Maybe that's why we're not in touch any more. I walked into my sorority house to see my sister Cara with tears in her eyes. She and some of the other girls jumped up to comfort me. Pretty adorable. But I was crushed.
By 1999, I knew everything about every player for the Indians. I could also make a relatively decent argument why Omar Vizquel was more valuable than Derek Jeter. (I admit, part of that argument has faded over time. Grrr.) I could tell you the order and batting averages of the entire starting line up. I proudly wore my Tribe gear to Yankees stadium when Cleveland was in town. My then-boyfriend Mark was a Yankees fan. (Mark, do you like "then-boyfriend" better? :) Mark was also Jewish. So we decided that if we ever got married, I'd be okay raising the kids Jewish as long as they were Indians fans. They could not be Yankees fans. Anything but that.
Well, also that fall, I started working at McKins-y in NYC. As luck would have it, I got sent to Cleveland just as the playoffs kicked off. Somehow we scored tickets to the game, where I embarrassed my co-worker with my "Omar for MVP" sign. We were only 20 rows back a little past third base. During warmups, Omar and Kenny Lofton were in the outfield, so I raced down to the front of my section to wave my sign. There I stood, Vizquel jersey on my back, Vizquel sign waving overhead. Lofton and Omar walked back towards the dugout when Lofton spotted me. He nudged Omar and pointed to me sign. Omar looked at me, half smiled, and nodded. Right at me. Yup, Omar knows me. The Indians won that night. A Colon vs. Martinez pitching duel ending 2-1. I was ecstatic. The Tribe took game 2. And then... they imploded. They scored more than 15 runs over the next three games, but Boston scored about 40. Seriously. I cried as I watched the last game from a television in one of the lobbies at work.
Management started chipping away at the team. The Indians flirted with glory again in 2001, but faded in the ALDS against the Mariners. They've been "re-building", sans Omar, ever since.
Is it too much to dare to hope for a Cleveland Indians World Series championship in the same year as an Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl victory? Probably. But please let it happen anyway. Forty-nine years is too long to wait for this! I can't believe the Tribe is this close but work will prevent me from going to the Series. But I will be there every second in spirit. The Tribe keeps breaking my heart, but I know it's not their fault. Thank god the real fans have shown up for the playoffs... unlike the fans from August!