Each installment of this series is presented as a snapshot of a specific recollection involving the Cleveland Indians, along with thoughts on what (s)he was driving and the music (s)he was listening to.
Today, our edited discussion is with Pam. Incidentally, Pam happens to be my sister.
GREG: If you were asked for a particular memory involving the Cleveland Indians, what would come to mind?
PAM: I was a paper carrier for The News-Herald. They had a contest in which carriers could earn an Indians ticket by signing up new subscribers. The ticket came with a promise of a boxed lunch at a party behind the outfield fence. I happened to get enough new subscribers just by luck, because I was way too shy to knock on doors. You also earned a ticket, and we rode on a school bus to the game.
GREG: What are some of your memories of your paper route?
PAM: I had a lot of schnauzers on my route. They have a shrill bark. One of the owners told me that when their dog was bad, they would swat it with a newspaper, and that is why the dog did not like me. I thought they should use something else to reprimand the dog.
Many of the houses had breezeways which had been enclosed, and that is where they wanted the paper. Many times I would open the door just enough to toss the paper in over the head of a barking schnauzer.
One customer I never met, but I left the paper in the milk chute, and every two weeks I would find an envelope addressed to the News Herald carrier, with their payment. That was one customer I NEVER had to return to collect from, since they never forgot.
One lady always invited me in when I collected, and Friday must have been Baking Day. She would bring a tray of cookies and tell me to “take one for each hand”.
I was once told I had a new customer, but could not find the house. I called our supervisor to tell her the house did not exist, who told me she was looking at the entry in the phone book. She ended up calling the customer, who told her their house was behind a bigger house. Maybe it was a caretaker’s house once? I remember thinking, “How was I to know, I’m just a kid!”
That is the same house that had the dog that bit me. Our little brother was with me and when the dog came running and barking, he hid behind me. The dog, a sort of collie, bit my boot. We went home and told Mom, who called the dog owner, who said the words I’ve since heard other dog owners say: “My dog doesn’t bite!” We ended up going back and showing the teeth marks that were on my boot, and were told we must have been teasing the dog. I don’t remember if they kept the dog in afterward, or if I did not deliver to them anymore. I just remember the feeling that they thought I was lying.
Another house had a small, fenced-in pasture, complete with a cow. A friend whom I took along on my route was amazed that cow patties give off steam in the winter.
After I collected, I would count the money on my bed, making piles of bills and coins. A school friend was over and saw all the money and was amazed I was so rich. I explained that I had to pay our route supervisor, but I could tell she thought all the money was mine. It was a drag to have all that money, only to give so much of it away.
At first, even though you and I had routes, Mom and Dad kept our old carrier. Our aunt visited and could not get over the fact that there were two kids in the house delivering papers, but we paid someone else to deliver our paper to us.
Didn’t we often get too many papers, and were charged for them unless we called about the overage? What a racket!
GREG: For decades, I had a recurring, moderately disturbing dream involving my paper route.
The theme was that I’d forgotten to deliver papers, for days. My vaguely foreboding feeling was that dozens of folks were out there, wondering when they were going to get their papers.
I have a memory that I treasure, probably more now than at the time even. There was a really sweet, little, elderly lady who lived by herself. I thought her face looked like a cat. She liked me. Her house was out of the way- I’d have to ride my bike up a long driveway, sometimes in deep snow, and then get off and take a long sidewalk. But when I’d knock to collect money, she’d have it ready (which was huge, since people searching for money was a big time waster). And every time, she’d give me a warm smile and produce two shiny new pennies and say they were for me. Even then, you couldn’t buy anything with two pennies but she was so nice and earnest about it.
1974 Cleveland Indians Quiz
Source for the correct answers: my 13 year old self. Answers are below.
1. Who was the coolest player on the team?
2. Who was the best home run hitter in baseball? Better than Hank Aaron and Reggie Jackson, even.
3. Who did crooner Bing Crosby, as a guest on an Indians TV broadcast, remark that he “sure can ramble?”
4. This player won 20 games in 1974 for the 77-win Indians, after winning the AL Cy Young Award in 1972.
5. What was the final score of the 10-cent beer night game?
6. Which two players on the team were brothers?
7. At the end of the 1974 season, this player, the most underrated in major league baseball history,
was signed by the Tribe after being released from the California Angels.
8. Which player was toughest guy of his generation, at least?
9. Who was the outfielder who loafed, but looked cool doing it?
10. The Indians traded this player early in the season. He was one of the guys from Cleveland that would send to the Yankees, to help them win World Series. It was not Graig Nettles or Oscar Gamble.
GREG: So we earned Indians tickets? What do you recall from the game?
PAM: It had to be in 1974, since I had the route while in the sixth grade. It would have been during the summer, when school was out. I say that because on the day of the event, we found out one of your school friends was also on the trip. It was a nice surprise since you did not normally hang out with him during the summer. So, I was almost 12 and you were almost 13.
GREG: So, we would have had the gold, 1972 Oldsmobile Cutlass. I liked that car. My most vivid memory of that was when I eventually began driving us to school, and was distracted as we approached stopped traffic. You shouted, “STOP,” and I did without really looking. If you hadn’t been watching, we’d have plowed into somebody. I remember where we were, too. On Route 615 in Mentor, near the Perkins by Route 2.
What were you listening to at that time?
PAM: A lot of radio pop music. Bay City Rollers.
GREG: S, A, T-U-R, D-A-Y. NIGHT! Okay, I’ll stop. Do you remember the “Goofy Greats” album you had? I think I have it, currently.
PAM: I do- Ahab the Arab with Clyde the Camel; Wooly Bully; Surfin Bird. That was a K-tel album.1
PAM: At that game, we three meandered from the behind-the-outfield party for a reason I can’t remember, and when we returned our entire group of News Herald carriers was no longer there. My heart just sank to my toes. But you and your friend got us to the right seats in time to see most of the game. The game ended up being quite exciting. You and your friend animatedly exclaimed that you were glad we went to the one we did, not the game the day before because that one would have been so boring since the other team did not score.
GREG: What was I, some sort of idiot or something?
GREG: (Interrupting) -So, I think I found the game info online. I think it’s safe to assume that the paper carrier contest tickets were for a Saturday game. Your recollection is that the Indians would have won in a shutout at home the night before, and we attended an exciting game. The game had to be the July 20th contest vs. the Oakland A’s. They were a really good team at that time, working toward their third consecutive World Series title.
Wow, I see it indeed was an exciting game.
The starting pitchers were Ken Holtzman for the A’s and Fritz Peterson for the Tribe. After an uneventful first inning, Charlie Spikes singled and John Ellis homered in the second for a 2-0 Cleveland lead. The Indians tacked on four more runs in the third inning when Frank Duffy doubled in Jack Brohamer, Spikes homered, and Buddy Bell doubled in Ellis, who’d walked. (Bell ran them out of the inning by trying to take third base when the throw went home. He made the third out at third, a no-no.)
A six-run cushion wasn’t enough for Peterson that day, however. Claudell Washington singled home two in the fifth. After Ellis plated Duffy with a single in the bottom of the inning, the A’s crept to within a run of the Tribe in an inning when Bill North and Gene Tenace homered. The A’s tied the game in the eighth inning, on a Reggie Jackson steal of third (!) and a throwing error on the play by the catcher, Ellis.
Oscar Gamble scored Buddy Bell on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the eighth, to again lead by a run. Tribe relievers gave up the lead again, in the ninth inning, when Dick Green, Angel Mangual, Bert Campaneris, and Jesus Alou each collected hits. Also, pinch running specialist Herb Washington, a track star who would never bat in a major league game, stole a base and scored for the A’s in the ninth.
Down 9-8 in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Indians faced star reliever Rollie Fingers. Rusty Torres singled to right, and Duffy bunted him to second- but first baseman Joe Rudi threw the ball away so the runners were safe at second and third. John Ellis redeemed himself by singling them both home.
So the Tribe won in walk off fashion. As the tiny speakers serenaded the joyous 19,126 in attendance to “Happy Days Are Here Again,” the 12 and 13 year old kids picked up all the discarded beverage cups they could find under the seats and stomped them in the echoing barn of a stadium. THWOCK!
WFNY readers are encouraged to participate in this series- let me know below if you have a Tribe memory you’d like to share, or email me at email@example.com.
Wikipedia and baseball-reference.com were sources for this article.
Answers to the quiz
1) Buddy Bell, who was a third baseman like me. One of the “B&B Boys,” in an ad for B&B Appliance (with Jack Brohamer.)
2) Charlie Spikes, duh.
3) Oscar Gamble. As a baserunner, his helmet would fly off in a manner befitting 21st Century’s Jose Ramirez. Of course, Gamble’s iconic afro made it tough for a helmet to remain in place.
4) Gaylord Perry. Met him and got an autograph at an appearance he made for Gaylords department store. I think it had been called “Giant Tiger” until the late ‘60s.
5) 9-0. A run for each inning of the forfeited game. My 13 year old self was not happy with that, one bit. They’d taken the lead in that game, for crine out loud!
6) Pitchers Gaylord and Jim Perry. I just noticed that they were 1st and 2nd in team WAR, Gaylord with an 8.6 and Jim with a 4.4.
7) Frank Robinson, who’d be the Tribe manager the following season. Retired with the fourth-most home runs in baseball history. If you don’t agree that he’s the most underrated player ever, check the Career Highlights and Awards box on his Wikipedia page and let me know.
8) John Ellis. Fritz Peterson wrote a book, and he made a strong case. Ellis was a powder keg who was liable to blow, in a bar or on the street. It seems guys would only take him on when they had outnumbered him- but he still wouldn’t lose. He’d take out the unsuspecting wing man first; he was known to wear a topcoat, apparently for the purpose of wrapping it around his left arm to fend off a knife thrust.
9) Joggin George Hendrick. Gaylord Perry was known to want him benched when he pitched. The guy was a good hitter. When he ran, it looked effortless. Sometimes, it was.
10) Chris Chambliss. This was a time when the Indians were like a farm team for the Yankees.
- Per Wikipedia: K-tel helped define the way people purchased music in the 1960s and 1970s. In 2013, Forbes wrote a piece on K-tel, entitled “K-Tel Records: The Spotify of the 70s,” pointing out the way people discovered new music in the 70s was through K-Tel compilations, in the same way that Spotify playlists are now used to find related artists.
In 2013, Dave Grohl, front man of the Foo Fighters, gave a keynote speech at SXSW, praising K-tel for exposing him to music early in his life, specifically “Frankenstein” (instrumental) by The Edgar Winter Group: “Grohl told the crowd earnestly that the song’s inclusion on a 1975 K Tel Records Blockbuster compilation – the first album he ever owned – was “the record that changed my life.” [↩]