As a resident newbie to WFNY, I still get occasionally caught up with the amount of talent the writers on staff have. After all this group pumps out high caliber material day in and day out to the tune of 24,000+ posts over the last 11 years. But what really draws me in is the absolute passion with which they write and share on a regular basis. Every front office move evaluated, every box score mined for information that can be dissected for the masses. That passion can be seen weaving in and out of articles from the Tribe, Browns, Cavs, and Buckeyes, forming the tapestry that is WFNY – a bunch of fans satisfying their hunger for sport through the writing they share.
I was recently fortunate enough to engage in dialogue with these very writers about some of our favorite Cleveland Indians memories – moments that helped shape not only our fandom but the words that we use to bring it to life. For those of you as passionate as this group, these moments are likely shared by you. For those of you who aren’t, hopefully, these memories will spark nostalgia within their words. Please feel free to share your favorite moments along with the writers. Here’s to the second half. Go Tribe!
Favorite place to sit at the Jake?
Chuck: My family had partial season tickets in section 151 growing up. I loved these seats then and now. But with the openness of the ballpark, today coupled with my inability to sit still, I prefer to roam in right and center field.
Bode: Growing up at the Muni, it was all about right field past the wall and the garbage bags covering the initial area there. When I go with my Ohio family, we still sit in those sections; just in front of what is now The District. Basically, the Bode family was there before it was cool.
Gilbert: There really is no bad seat in the house, especially after the right field makeover, but my favorite spot in the stadium is probably the bleachers. Yes, you can bake in the sun, but the vantage point to the game is so unique.
Poloha: I don’t really have a favorite. I’ve spent games at The Corner, in the Standing Room Only sections, behind the dugouts, in the upper level, in the bleachers…there’s not really a specific spot that sticks out.
Mitch: Like any other stadium, the best seats are the ones nearest to home plate. More interestingly, one of my favorite quirks of Progressive Field is that there isn’t much foul territory near the corners, so a seat near first or third base offers a uniquely close view to defensive players and baserunners. It might be the closest any of will ever get to the great Mike Trout in action.
Dave: I’ve always been partial to the “view box” sections that are the first few rows of the upper deck. I don’t mind the height because there aren’t a ton of people in your way. It fees like its own little section, and when its a big game the prices are usually pretty reasonable.
Andrew: If I can be in the first row, I actually love standing in the left field porch, leaning up against the fence above the wall. I’ve had some of my most fun times at Indians games standing there. Otherwise, if I can’t be in the first row there, I actually like any seat that is in the first few rows of the upper deck. Don’t get me wrong, lower deck seats can be great, too, but the unobstructed view of the game from the first couple rows of the upper deck is just awesome.
Who was your first favorite Indian?
Chuck: As much as it pains me to say, my first favorite Indian was Cory Snyder. I was fortunate to meet him in the tunnels of Municipal Stadium in I believe 1987. He and his wife were gracious enough to sign one more autograph for a small fan. As I grew older, my favorite Indian became Omar Vizquel. He remains my favorite Indian of all time.
Bode: The venerable Andy Allanson. Hey, I was an impressionable young lad and Topps told me he was an All-Star rookie.
Gilbert: Travis Hafner was probably my first real favorite Indian. The late ’90s had a lot of great players, so I truly did not have one favorite player on those teams. Hafner’s run in the early 2000s was incredible. His grand slam splurge in 2006 was amazing and it seemed like every time he was up, he could go deep.
Poloha: This one’s tough. There’s just too many to choose from, honestly. Frankie is rightfully one of my favorites, but there’s just so many that I have liked to root for, both past and present.
Mitch: Jim Thome. He left when I was eight years old; the bus driver, Earl, bore the bad news, and I fought back tears the entire ride home.
Dave: Carlos Baerga. Not sure why, but I’ve always loved Carlos. I remember being at my grandparents house when he hit 2 home runs in one inning, one from each side of the plate. That memory has stuck with me as a great connection between me, my late grandparents and baseball.
Andrew: Definitely Cory Snyder. When I was a kid, I sent baseball cards to a bunch of baseball players (with self-addressed stamped envelopes, of course) with letters asking for an autograph, and Cory was the only player to sign the card and send it back. A few players sent back unsigned cards, which I never knew was a nice gesture and just rude. But because Cory Snyder took the time to sign a card for me and send it back, I always wanted nothing but the best for him.
What is the greatest home run in Indians history?
Chuck: To me it is the Rajai Davis homer in game seven of 2016. I realize that we did not win the game. I realize that there are other home runs that are pretty amazing (Sandy Jr off Rivera, Tony Pena, etc). But this is the biggest stage against one of the league’s best relievers. Without this homer there are no extra innings, there is no rain delay – just an easy four out save for Chapman. Among all of the home runs that I would consider, this one gave us the best chance at a World Series title. I watched this one by myself as the stress of watching the game in front of others wore on me by the fifth inning. Trying to remain quiet because my daughter was asleep was difficult: keeping the dog from barking was impossible while frantically jumping around.
Bode: We were new to the postseason. We didn’t know any better. The 100-win Indians were going to roll over the 86-win Red Sox and win each game 10-0. Obviously. Except, in Game 1, Tony Pena taught us all an invaluable lesson about variability. In the MLB postseason, sometimes, the backup catcher coming into the game late will wind up hitting a monster home run in the bottom of inning 13 to win the first postseason game for the Indians since 1948 (swept in 1954). The lesson would be learned again as No. 2 on my list would be Tony Fernandez in 1997 Game 6, inning 11, against the Orioles.
Gilbert: Rajai Davis’ eighth inning home run against Aroldis Chapman in Game 7 of the World Series the greatest home run in Indians history. There are not many more important ones, especially in my lifetime than Davis’ home run.
Poloha: Not to copy others here, but Rajai Davis, Game 7, 2016. It’s crazy that many others will answer the same. Imagine if the Indians actually pulled it off after that home run.
Mitch: Rajai, World Series Game 7, come on now. In 2015, Rany Jazayerli wrote for Grantland a piece called The Biggest Plays In Baseball History. Davis’s homer increased the Indians’ odds of winning the World Series by 40.5%, making it the third biggest play in baseball history by Jazayerli’s count.
Dave: I can’t talk about it or I will cry, and you don’t want someone to cry during a roundtable.
Andrew: I wish I could come up with something else, but Rajai’s homer is the only answer I can come up with here. I just wish the ultimate outcome was different, of course.
Who are you calling when the Indians win the World Series?
Chuck: My dad. Baseball has always been our way to connect. He’s the reason I’ve been perennially waiting for next year to win a championship. He imbued the passion for Cleveland sports that flows through me and the person I most want the Tribe to win one for. My close seconds would be my buddies Mark and Ben who live and die by Cleveland sports.
Bode: No one. First, I am unsure I will be able to speak. If I am, my nuclear family is going to be too busy running around yelling like crazy for anyone to be capable of having a discussion on the phone with me.
Gilbert: I won’t need to call anyone. I will likely be with my family and enjoying it with them.
Poloha: No one. I will either be with the ones I would call or be downtown celebrating, way too busy to have my phone out.
Krall: It will be with my dad, and there will be tears of joy.
Dave: My mom. Her and I have always shared a lot of sports moments, she’s always been a huge Indians fan, and that was one of her connections to her father as well.
Andrew: Definitely my dad. I remember back in the 90s my dad calling the Indians on the day the tickets went on sale and waiting on hold for a chance just to buy tickets for our family to make a trip to Cleveland for a game. It would be nice if the Indians could win that World Series for him.
What was the moment you realized you were an Indian lifer?
Chuck: To first paint the picture my Indians experience (like most of yours) was that of blind optimism for the Tribe. The hole in the wall which we called Municipal Stadium, personified Cleveland Indians baseball to that point. I was naive enough to find whatever beauty laid in both. It wasn’t until the move to the Jake that I saw competitive baseball and really started to feel what it was about. My moment comes from the 1995 playoffs. Getting there was an amazing feat considering my dad was exactly my age and had never seen a Tribe post season. The Boston Series was amazing, but I was so enthralled with just being there that I didn’t focus as much on winning. It wasn’t until the Mariners series that it became real for me. From that series comes my first taste of real-deal Tribe playoff baseball. It was game 6 of the ALCS in the top of the 8th inning. Tribe up 1-0 with runners on second and third. You can see the rest for yourself. This play put the Tribe up 3 – 0 but was the nail in the coffin for the game and series and was symbolic of Kenny Lofton.
Bode: The Indians were bad when I was young but amazing in my late youth. The 2002 and 2003 teams though only won 74 and 68 games respectively at a time I had moved across the country (before the advent of MLB.tv) and was starting my career. I still managed to follow the team closely and remained attached too much of the corps that brought the competitively fun 2004 through 2008 teams. I mean, it’s baseball. It’s the Tribe. How could I not?
Gilbert: It was probably when I was still watching the Indians during the rough stretch between 2009 and 2012. Those were some rough years and I stuck with them, keeping close attention even though those teams were pretty bad.
Poloha: For both the good and the bad, I am a Cleveland sports lifer, so I was essentially an Indians fan from the moment I joined this world. Going to many home openers when I was a kid (I think I went to 10 straight?) made me realize that I am and will always be an Indians fan.
Mitch: I don’t have a particular moment in which I discovered my deep emotional attachment to Cleveland baseball. It’s just always been a part of my life. I might have reached my peak joy levels as a fan in 2017, though, when the Lake Erie midges descended upon Joba Chamberlain and the New York Yankees. They were plagued by both insects and the Mosaic Fausto Carmona, staring through a swarm cloud, mowing down Yankees on the way to a 2-0 series lead. Never has it more felt like the baseball gods were on Cleveland’s side.
Dave: I’ve never considered anything else. I’m a North East Ohio guy, so the Tribe is my team.
Andrew: This is a hard one for me to answer. What is a lifer? I’ve never been anything but an Indians fan, but in the wake of the CC, Lee, and Vic trades, I stopped paying attention to baseball and the Indians completely. So I sort of have two answers. The 1995 Indians team definitely sparked a greater love for the team in me. With the Browns gone, I dove all in on the Indians. But I would say, today, my answer is the first moment I watched Frankie Lindor play baseball. I had heard all about him as an impressive prospect that we should be excited about, but the first time I actually saw him play, his joy for life and for the game of baseball was so infectious that for the first time in a while, I wanted to pay closer attention to the team again.