Grandma and the Series

As I watched Game 1 of the 2016 World Series (a scintillating 6-0 victory), a single thought rattled around my brain: Grandma would have loved this. My grandmother, Dorothy Barnes, was one of the biggest Indians fans I have ever known. She never missed a game and would always ask how I felt about the club when we spoke over the phone or in person. Grandma passed away on November 22, 2014, but I know without a doubt she would have loved this particular team and what they have done in 2016.

Born and raised in Northeast Ohio, Grandma was an Indians fan from the beginning. As a little girl, her Girl Scout Troop would sometimes get free tickets to Indians games at old Municipal Stadium. She would sit with her fellow scouts in the centerfield bleachers and while they talked about school or boys, she would track the game on her scorecard. The game was always on when we visited her house. I remember in July 2002 the whole family gathered around the TV to watch utility infielder Bill Selby hit a walk off grand slam against Mariano Rivera. A joyous twelve-year-old, I jumped and cheered and cried I was so excited about the win. I ran over to grandma and gave her a giant hug. She was choked up over it too.

Grandma loved pitchers. She always appreciated how hard the hurlers worked relative to his teammates and pulled extra hard for them to succeed. She would have been gaga for Corey Kluber’s numbers last night: a sterling six innings, four hits, no runs, no walks, and nine strikeouts. Kluber was one of her favorite pitchers, perhaps because he shares a first name with her oldest grandson.

I’m fairly certain she would have called him “Francesco Lindle” unless we corrected her.

More than anything I wish she could have seen Francisco Lindor play. Lindor’s attitude and love of the game is infectious and I’m sure Grandma would have been smitten. She always struggled with players’ names though; I’m fairly certain she would have called him “Francesco Lindle” unless we corrected her. For years, her favorite player was Grady Sizemore because he was her type of player – a five-tool guy who never stopped hustling. When we spoke about him she would always call him her boyfriend. Sizemore should be so lucky.

Grandma took ill very suddenly in 2014, and the family immediately flocked to the house to see her. I was the last to arrive, but we all got to say our goodbyes. In the final days, we looked through her old photo albums to kindle some good feelings. You would be hard pressed to find a picture of her without a piece of Indians clothing on or the game on the TV in the background. More often than not she wore her Chief Wahoo hair bow, a staple of summer afternoons at Grandma’s. Those old photos provided great comfort at a difficult time; I even learned that she was in attendance in Game 1 of the 1995 ALDS when Tony Pena delivered Cleveland’s first playoff baseball win in 47 years. I had no idea she had gone to such a historic game. Sadly, I never got the chance to ask her about it.

After she passed it was decided that much of her Indians memorabilia would fall to me as it was one of our shared passions. She had books of old newspaper clippings, player cards dating back to the 1950s, and pins. She collected pins from every Opening Day since Jacobs Field opened. The pieces were wonderful, and while I still miss her terribly seeing the Indians in the World Series especially brings her to mind.

Tuesday morning, I found myself in a text chain with many of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and immediate family. We texted about love of Cleveland and excitement for the game. My Uncle John promised to get a World Series pin to continue Grandma’s collection. My Aunt Jaime took a picture of Grandma’s bow which we knew she would have worn for luck. More than anything we were excited for the city. We knew the eyes of the sports world would be on us between the Cavaliers’ ring ceremony and Game 1 of the World Series. We were ready to represent a city that Grandma loved so much, a place that she also called home. While we can’t call her anymore to talk about the game, we know that she was watching every pitch along with us. And I know she was proud of Frankie Lindor, Corey Kluber, and the whole team for playing so hard for her city. Here’s to three more.