Yesterday, I hit a milestone of sorts. I turned 30 years old. And while I didn’t really seem to get the hoopla surrounding this alleged milestone, everyone else made it a point to emphasize just how big of a deal this is. I mean, it’s not as if I don’t get it. My 20′s are over and I’m entering into a whole new decade and phase of my life, but honestly I feel no different today than I felt the day before or the day before that.
But, with milestones as they are, I figured now would be as good a time as any to take a look back on the first 30 years of my life and my first 30 years as a fan of the Cleveland Indians. Ok, I admit there’s a little bit of cheating going on here. After all, there is no possible way that I could have really been a fan of the Indians as a baby or toddler. I didn’t know any better, but for the sake of this exercise just humor me.
Admittedly, I’ve had it pretty easy as an Indians fan during my first 30 laps around the sun on this planet. Unlike the 30 years that came before 1983, the Indians actually put together some winning seasons. In fact, they had some of the greatest teams in the history of the franchise. From 1994 through about 2001, the Indians were among baseball’s elite and Jacobs Field was the place to be between the months of April and October. Prior to that, a ticket to an Indians game and a trip to the old stadium wasn’t what you would call a hot commodity.
I can still vaguely recollect my first trip to the old stadium for my first Indians game. I don’t remember details such as the exact date, it was probably sometime in 1989 or 1990, but I do remember that the Indians were playing the Oakland A’s. I remember this because they had some guy named Jose Canseco and I thought the name was cool. I also remember it being commemorative bat day. Everyone who attended was given a full-sized wooden bat. It was a cheaply made, black Louisville Slugger with Chief Wahoo and the corporate sponsor logos in red. I would break that bat a few years later at the batting cages.
I also remember the two guys who sat behind us on that hot summer day. All they did was drink beer, cuss like sailors and spit. I distinctly remember the spitting because my mom found it disgusting and complained about it the entire ride home. I don’t remember the outcome of that game or really anything that happened, but I know that from that point forward I was hooked.
We attended dozens of games at the old stadium every year from that point forward by taking advantage of a promotion on the packaging of Kahn’s hot dogs. With so many labels you could receive discounted tickets. That’s how I got to see players like Robbie Alomar, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Cecil Fielder in the early 90′s. We also made it a habit of analyzing where foul balls landed in the stands. We would then purchase our tickets to our next game in the area we felt would give us the best chance of catching a foul ball. To this day I have still yet to catch one.
As the Indians moved down the street from the stadium to Jacobs Field, both expectations and excitement went up. The 1995 season that saw the Tribe annihilate the American League on their way to their first World Series since 1954 was a once in a lifetime experience. Too bad it didn’t have a better ending and to this day I still harbor feelings of ill will towards the Braves. The same goes for the Marlins. After the gut wrenching game 7 loss in 1997 there’s nothing I would enjoy more than seeing the Marlins wallow in obscurity from now until the end of time.
Since 1997 it’s been a bit of a struggle to say the least. We’ve seen the Indians reach the playoffs a handful of times, but not once has it culminated in a championship. We thought we had a shot in 2007 and had it not been for the Boston Red Sox and the Indians inability to finish them off we may have actually lifted the trophy that season. That will always be the one that got away.
If I’ve taken anything away from being an Indians fan over these first 30 years of my life, I would say it has been the lesson that nothing comes easy. Try as you might, there is always going to be someone bigger and badder than you standing in your way. That doesn’t mean that the end goal is impossible to reach. It just means that you have to work a little bit smarter and a little bit harder to get what you really want. I’d say that’s a pretty fair lesson to learn.
So while the first 30 years have been an enjoyable ride, here’s hoping that the next 30 are even more exciting. Yes, there’s bound to be plenty of ups and downs along the way, but hopefully between now and they’ll figure out a way to win the World Series. If not, the next nostalgic, 30 year article is going to be short, simple, and straight to the point.
Just win something before I die. Please.