Cleveland Indians

02 14, 2019

5 fascinating facts about League Park

By |2019-02-14T06:00:58-05:00February 14, 2019|


Ken Krsolovic and Bryan Fritz talk about the legendary League Park in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Mentor Public Library.

Local authors and sports fans Ken Krsolovic and Bryan Fritz visited us earlier this week to talk about League Park – the legendary home of the Cleveland Indians for decades.

Here are five fascinating facts that we learned from listening to Krsolovic and Fritz.

1. One of the best pitchers the game has ever seen pitched for the Cleveland Spiders on League Park’s first Opening Day in 1891 – none other than Cy Young.

He’d pitch several more opening day games there before his retirement (and he’d win all but one of them.)

The authors brought artifacts with them, including a piece of League Park's Great Wall.

The authors brought artifacts with them, including a piece of League Park’s Great Wall.

2. Nap Lajoie was such a big star that when he came to Cleveland they renamed the team for him. However, when he joined the Cleveland Bronchos in 1902, he was in the midst of a legal kerfuffle with his previous team, the Phillies.

Due to an existing contract with the Phillies, a judge declared that Lajoie could only play baseball for them. However, an enterprising lawyer discovered that the injunction could only be enforced in Pennsylvania.

Consequently, when the Bronchos/Naps played the Athletics in 1902 and most of 1903, Lajoie would visit Atlantic City, instead. Peace wasn’t made between the National and American Leagues until 1903 with an agreement that also created the World Series.

3. League Park was initially constructed entirely of wood. But, by 1909, wood was no good.

More modern stadiums were made of steel and concrete. They could fit more seats, which meant more fans and more money.

For its upgrade, the Cleveland team relied on the legendary Osborn Engineering firm, which also designed Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park and Comiskey Park.

Most importantly, Osborn was then and still is headquartered in Cleveland.HB4116

4. League Park was the site of the Cleveland Indians first World Series victory in 1920. The Indians beat the Brooklyn Robins 5-2, which looks like a typo unless you know that from 1919 to 1921 the World Series was best of nine.

While the Indians won, no Robin had a worse series than Cleveland native Rube Marquard. Not only did his team lose, but he was convicted of ticket scalping (his punishment: $1 fine and $2.80 in court costs) and his wife divorced him the same week.

Marquard got something like the last laugh, seeing as he’s since been inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame.

5. League Park was also the scene of Joe DiMaggio’s 56th and final game in his legendary hitting streak.

The streak ended July 17, 1941 against the Indians in Cleveland Stadium. (The Indians would play weekday or afternoon games in League Park, which they owned. But they’d play weekend games, especially against more popular opponents, at the larger Cleveland Stadium.)

For more fun stories from League Park history, read Krsolovic and Fritz’s League Park: Historic Home of Cleveland Baseball, 1891-1946. You can borrow one of our copies

04 12, 2018

Bad Boys & Bad Times: Cleveland Indians from 1937-1942

By |2018-04-12T06:00:33-04:00April 12, 2018|

BobFellerSigCleveland Indians historian Scott Longert visited us earlier this week to talk about the Tribe from 1937 to 1942.

We can’t share every glorious anecdote. After all, that’s what his next book is for. But we can give you five fun facts from Longert’s Tribe talk.

1. The snake-bit 1937 Cleveland Indians

The 1937 Indians had a murderer’s row for a starting rotation: all-star Johnny Allen; Mel Harder who won more than 200 games in his career; and a promising young guy named Bob Feller. You may have heard of him.

But that rotation was never quite as good on the field as it was on paper, mostly due to injuries.

Feller managed to dislocated his ulna while throwing a curveball during his first start of the season. It hindered him for two full months.

Meanwhile, Allen suffered from appendicitis and missed several starts. Ultimately, he managed to put together a remarkable season, going 15-1. That “-1” is an interesting story too.

2. Allen’s temper

Johnny Allen was 15-0 going into his final start of the 1937 season. He pitched a marvel of a game too and might have won if not for a muffed defensive play by third basemen Odell Hale.

Allen took umbrage to Hale’s error and tried to fight him after the game. Twice.

After the second fracas, manager Steve O’Neill forced Allen to sit next to him on the train ride home. And he managed to sooth his frazzled ace, in part by offering him $25 in gas money.

3. Rolling with Rollie Hemsley

Rollie Hemsley was a great catcher — a 5-time all-star and World Series champion.

He was also a notorious alcoholic for the first decade or so of his career.

Before he joined the Indians in 1938, he was repeatedly kicked off teams or traded for his behavior while drinking.

One time, he picked a fight with three sailors who were on shore leave. And when police tried to break it up, he punched an officer and ripped off his badge.

Of course, he faced a battery of criminal charges, but the only one that made him mad was driving without a license. He had a license, he argued. He just lost it during the fight.

Hemsley’s story has a happy ending. He joined Alcoholics Anonymous while with the Indians and stayed sober thereafter.

4. Nobody likes Vitt

Oscar Vitt became the Indians manager in 1938, and he was immediately unpopular. In fact, the team nearly mutinied against him in 1940.

But he was a known firestarter, even going back to his days as a player.

While a rookie with the Detroit Tigers, he almost got pummeled by Ty Cobb. You see, the rookie thought it was a good idea to heckle Cobb after he got picked off of second.

Vitt suggested that Cobb should wear a ball-and-chain. Cobb suggested that Vitt should shut his mouth or suffer tremendous violence.

Vitt wisely kept his mouth shut.

5. Terminal catch

In 1938, the Come to Cleveland Committee organized a stunt in which Indians catchers Hank Helf and Frankie Pytlak would catch baseballs dropped from the Terminal Tower.

For context, the Terminal Tower is more than 700 feet high.

Miraculously, Helf and Pytlak each caught one.

The balls were estimated to be traveling 140 mph. When one bounced, it flew back up 30 stories.

For more remarkable stories from Indians’ history, check out Longert’s books.

He’s written about:

02 17, 2018

Terry Pluto discusses sports, faith & his favorite interview

By |2018-02-17T06:00:20-05:00February 17, 2018|

Sportswriting legend Terry Pluto visited us last Tuesday, and he had a lot to say on a range of topics.

He discussed:

  • why baseball is his favorite sport to write about
  • the last time he interviewed LeBron James one on one
  • the flowery phrases of Cleveland Indians pitcher Dennis Martinez
  • the most scared he’s ever been of an athlete
  • the last time sports made him cry
  • and how covering sports journalism has changed in the last 40 years.

Pluto has also written several columns and even books about his faith in God.

He talked about why and when he began writing columns about faith and how prayer affects his sportswriting.

Finally, he told us who his favorite person to interview is. (Surprise, it’s not an athlete!)

01 31, 2018

Author Scott Raab discusses hometown pride and Cleveland sports

By |2018-01-31T06:00:21-05:00January 31, 2018|

Scott Raab, author of You’re Welcome, Cleveland and The Whore of Akron, visited the library to talk about his love for Cleveland and its sports teams.

Raab spent decades interviewing celebrities for GQ and Esquire, and he’s mastered both sides of the Q & A. Watch our videos where he discusses:

  • the last time sports made him cry
  • his affection for Cleveland
  • why people care so passionately about sports
  • how his feelings gradually changed toward Indians mascot Chief Wahoo
  • the one thing he has in common with James Joyce.

11 4, 2016

Scott Longert talks Cleveland Indians & Great Depression

By |2016-11-04T06:00:53-04:00November 4, 2016|

Author, historian and Cleveland Indians fan Scott Longert talked about his newest book, No Money, No Beer, No Pennants: The Cleveland Indians & Baseball in the Great Depression, during a recent visit to our library.

Longert’s newest book will delight Indians fans and Cleveland history buffs. It spotlights:

  • the lawsuit that stopped the construction of the then-new Cleveland Municipal Stadium for more than a year
  • Bruce Campbell, an Indian who survived two bouts of spinal meningitis and returned to professional baseball after each recovery.
  • how the Indians nearly lost a 17-year-old Bob Feller after signing him, and much more.

Longert has his MA in American history and worked as a ranger at James A. Garfield National Historic Site. He knows baseball as well as he knows history.

He’s also written The Best They Could Be about the World Series-winning 1920 Cleveland Indians and Addie Joss: King of the Pitchers.

Longert previously visited the library to talk about The Best They Could Be.


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