This article was written by David Bohmer
This article was published in the Team Ownership History Project
Steve Gromek, left and Larry Doby celebrate after the Cleveland Indians’ win in Game Four of the 1948 World Series. The Tribe would go on to win the championship in six games, and the franchise is still looking for its first World Series title since. (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)
Cleveland had a history of major-league franchises long before the American League club was moved there in 1900. The Cleveland Forest Citys were one of the original teams in the National Association of Professional Base Ball Players in 1871, though the club folded after the 1872 season. While not a part of the original National League, the Cleveland franchise was established in 1879 when the league expanded. The Blues were to last six years in the NL, folding after the 1884 season. A new franchise was established in the American Association in 1887, lasting two seasons and departing only two years before the Association itself ended. In 1890, two new franchises emerged in the Forest City, the Spiders name returning as a National League entry and the Infants representing the ill-fated Players League. The latter team, along with the league, lasted only one season. The Spiders were one of the better teams in the what now was a 12-team National League, finishing second three times and almost always ending up in the first division — until 1899. In possession of two NL franchises, the Spiders owners decided to strengthen the St. Louis team at the expense of Cleveland, causing the weakened club to finish with a 20-134 record — the worst in major-league baseball history. Not surprisingly, the team was one of four eliminated in the National League before the start of the 1900 season.
It was into this vacuum that Ban Johnson, president of the Western League, moved his Grand Rapids team to Cleveland in 1900. Johnson renamed his minor-league circuit the American League. That same year, he relocated his St. Paul franchise to Chicago, striking a deal with the owners of the NL Chicago club. His league was still “Western,” with franchises from Buffalo to Kansas City. The Chicago and Cleveland moves had not changed that regional designation, but they had placed in league in two of the seven largest cities in the country, foreshadowing Johnson’s intent to compete with the NL monopoly. A year later, he moved into four major Eastern markets and officially declared the Americans a major league, directly taking on its National counterpart.
The early positioning of the Cleveland and Chicago clubs did little to benefit those two original American League franchises, at least as far as long-term success was concerned. Of the eight initial teams, Cleveland has won the fewest World Series, only two. While the Chicago franchise has won three, only one of those successes has come in the last 90 years and Cleveland has actually appeared one more time in the Series (6) than has Chicago. They are, in that regard, the two least successful original American League clubs.
At the same time, Cleveland has had some notable accomplishments in its American League history. Twice the franchise has established major-league attendance records, first for a single season and later for consecutive sellouts. The fans have witnessed some of the game’s superstars, including Napoleon Lajoie, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Bob Feller, and Satchel Paige. The Indians were the first club to integrate the American League, in 1947. And later, Cleveland fans also witnessed one of the longest droughts — 35 years — during which the team was never in serious contention for the pennant. Over the history of the franchise, there have been 12 different owners or syndicates that have shaped the history — notable or not — of the American League baseball club in Cleveland.
Charles W. Somers, 1900-1915
Ban Johnson’s Chicago move positioned the league in the country’s second largest city, but it was the Cleveland relocation that proved to be far more instrumental to Johnson’s ultimate success in becoming an equal of the National League. Johnson initially approached Davis Hawley, who had been one of the local owners of the Spiders, to see if he had any interest in purchasing the Grand Rapid Rustlers and moving them to his city. Hawley declined interest but set up a meeting for Johnson with Charles Somers, owner of a large coal company, and Jack Kilfoyl, owner of a popular downtown men’s clothing store and a major investor in Cleveland-area real estate. That meeting not only secured Somers’ and Kilfoyl’s investment; it also led to the purchase of League Park, the last home of the Spiders, for $10,000.1 The new Cleveland team would not only have owners, but also a place to play ball, located at the end of an established streetcar line at the corner of Lexington Avenue and 66th Street on the east side.
Somers, born in Newark, Ohio, in 1868, quickly proved to be the more important partner. His family moved to Cleveland in 1884. His father owned a major coal-mining and -distribution company that Charles took over and grew.2
Even more instrumental to Johnson and his league, however, was the enthusiasm and financial support that Somers provided. Essentially, Somers helped to finance the move of Charles Comiskey’s team to Chicago. He also provided monetary support to Connie Mack’s team in Philadelphia when it was established in 1901 and was the primary investor in setting up the new franchise in Boston that same year. In fact, the early Boston club was called the “Somersets” after him, the local paper declaring that Somers “is amply able to finance a club here.”3 On his trip to Cleveland, Johnson had found someone “eager to throw his all into the fight to make the American League’s ambitious dreams become actual realities.” Somers put hundreds of thousands, likely well over a million, dollars at the league’s disposal.4 In fact, Johnson’s main biographer has concluded that if Somers “had not financed several of the clubs in the first few years, the loop’s history would have been brief.”5 In Charles Somers, Johnson had the gold mine that ensured the longevity of the American League. His move of a team to Cleveland proved far more beneficial than he had initially expected.
Ironically, Somers’ investments in other teams proved to be more fruitful than was his backing of the Cleveland club. In the first five years of the American League, from 1901 to 1905, Somers’ three major investments besides Cleveland — Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago — were the only pennant winners in the league. Cleveland during that period never finished higher than third place. That pattern was to hold true throughout Somers’ ownership of the club; the team came close only in the 1908 season when it finished a half-game game behind the Detroit Tigers. One can only wonder what might have been in 1908 had Somers agreed a year earlier to trade outfielder and future Hall of Famer Elmer Flick, near the end of his career, for a young Ty Cobb. The Cleveland magnate asserted after he had rejected the offer that “maybe (Flick) isn’t quite as good a batter as Cobb, but he’s much nicer to have on the team.”6 Further, had the club been able to make up a game that had been rained out that season, it may well have tied the Tigers and faced them in a playoff game. The club was a victim of now-defunct rules in the AL, along with Somers’ own reservations on Cobb.7
While Somers never had the success in Cleveland that he did with the other clubs he had financed, he did receive some early payback for his broader support. In 1902, in the midst of the battle between the NL and the still upstart AL, Napoleon Lajoie jumped from the NL’s Philadelphia Phillies to the Athletics. A Pennsylvania judge banned Lajoie from playing any games for the A’s in that state, which would have caused him to miss half the season. To prevent that, Johnson transferred Lajoie to the Cleveland club, with little compensation in return, so he would only have to miss the 11 games the team played in Pennsylvania.8 The deal would give Cleveland its first player inducted into the Hall of Fame and its manager for part of his tenure in Cleveland, as well as the longest continuous club nickname — the Naps — until they were renamed the Indians after Lajoie was sold.
In fact, it was during Somers’ ownership that that club had been given all six of its nicknames, the last one, Indians, enduring until the present. When the team first arrived from Grand Rapids, the sportswriters referred to it as the Lake Shores, perhaps reflecting the city’s proximity to Lake Erie. The name was somewhat ironic since the actual ballpark was more than a mile from the lake. They then became the Bluebirds in 1901, for their blue uniforms, quickly shortened to the Blues, perhaps reflecting the nickname given to the original National League club from 1879-1884. The name was again changed in 1902 to the Broncos, for no apparent reason, until the writers again changed it to the Naps in 1904, playing off the first name of their star second baseman. After Somers sold Lajoie, the writers came up with the Indians, perhaps remembering and honoring Louis Sockalexis, the first Native American to play in the major leagues (Spiders, late 1890s.)9 It’s equally possible both writers and front office thought the name presented a more warrior-like image. In either case, they have remained the Indians since.
While Somers did not have any involvement with any of the team’s nicknames, he was instrumental in upgrading the ballpark he had purchased in 1900. League Park was built for the NL Spiders in 1890 and, as was common at the time, wood was used for much of the edifice, including its support beams. Such ballparks were fire hazards. Between the 1909 and 1910 season, League Park was essentially rebuilt, using concrete and steel in place of the wooden beams and other supports. The dimensions of the old park, with its unique contours, were largely maintained. The new park had a seating capacity of 19,200, although up to 20,000 could be accommodated with standing-room areas. Ernest S. Barnard, at the time secretary/treasurer of the Naps and much later the president of the American League, played a major role in renovating the park.10 The new structure was, from all indications, financed entirely by Somers. It would remain the primary home of the ballclub for another 36 years.
Somers was solely responsible for that financing largely because Jack Kilfoyl decided to sell his interest in the ballclub. There is no evidence to indicate that the new ballpark precipitated the departure, but the timing would suggest that the added cost may have been a factor in his decision. Whatever the reason, Somers bought out Kilfoyl’s interest around the time the construction began and later named Barnard the club’s vice president, perhaps rewarding him for his efforts and success in overseeing the renovation of the ballpark.11
Along with the renovation, the 1910 season also saw the arrival of one of Cleveland’s best-known players. Joseph Jefferson Jackson — Shoeless Joe — was traded by the Athletics to Cleveland in midseason, after two failed efforts on his part to make the club in Philadelphia. Having rejected the deal for baseball’s greatest hitter in 1907, Somers now brought to the Naps the player who would produce the third highest batting average of all time. In his first full season in Cleveland, 1911, Jackson batted .408, the best average of his career. He quickly became an idol of fans during his five-year tenure with the Naps.12
Jackson’s success and fan admiration, however, could not alone produce a successful team, let alone help Somers’ other business investments. After a competitive season in 1913 in which the team drew a record 500,000-plus fans, last-place and seventh-place finishes in 1914 and 1915 brought fewer than 200,000 to League Park in each of those years. A wealthy Charles Somers could have readily survived the struggling ballclub, but his coal-delivery business was in serious decline as more Cleveland homes converted to electricity. He attempted to maneuver out of the situation by selling some of his players, including dealing Jackson to the White Sox for $31,500.13 But that did little to offset Somers’ financial woes, with his business debts now estimated to be as large as $2 million.14 He was forced to turn to Ban Johnson for assistance in selling the ballclub.
While Somers was never successful in producing a Cleveland pennant winner, he was instrumental in the survival of the American League. His money had enabled the establishment of franchises in Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia. He was even able to help fund the creation of a franchise in New York, the Highlanders, in 1903. Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia all won pennants quickly. For whatever reason, perhaps because Somers was too much a micromanager, his own club never produced such results.15 At the same time, beyond ensuring the success of the American League through his money, he also helped negotiate the National Agreement, which brought peace to major-league baseball in 1903, and served for most of his ownership as a vice president of the league.16 While he may have been too much of a micromanager to produce a winning ballclub in his hometown, his macro involvement, especially his money, unquestionably enabled the American League to survive and prosper. Somers lived into the 1930s. He recovered some of his wealth. When he died at his summer home on a Lake Erie island in June of 1934, during the thick of the Great Depression, he was worth over $2 million. He remained a fan of the Indians, witnessing their first championship in 1920 and following them until his death.17
James C. “Sunny Jim” Dunn, 1916-1927
Somers’ need to sell the Cleveland club in late 1915 came at a convenient time for Ban Johnson. For a variety of reasons, the Federal League folded at the end of the 1915 season. The owners of the eight clubs in the “outlaw” league were all prospective buyers of major-league teams, if available, and at least two besides the Indians — the Cubs and the Browns — were purchased by Federal League magnates. Supposedly the owners of the Pittsburgh Rebels were interested in purchasing the Indians, but along with a Cleveland group they were rejected in their effort to acquire the team.18 Instead, Johnson chose to award the franchise to a fellow Chicago businessman already well known to him, Jim Dunn. The deal did not go through until March, but was completed before the start of the 1916 season.
There is no record to indicate why Johnson rejected both the local offer and that from a Federal League owner, especially since the offers from Charles Weeghman and Philip Ball to buy the Cubs and Browns were accepted. Johnson was at the time in some difficulty with some of the magnates after he negotiated the deal to end the Federal League, largely because it would cost the 16 owners collectively hundreds of thousands to buy out the league’s investors. Perhaps he rejected the first two offers because he could not be assured of support from the potential buyers that he had received from Somers, not so much financially as in the assurance that they would back his decisions. It was clear that some of Johnson’s strength was beginning to erode after the Federal League deal. Awarding the franchise to Dunn, a close friend, would ensure that Johnson had another owner as supportive as Somers had been. According to The Sporting News, Dunn also seemed suited for the job. “He is a big person, physically and mentally, and his disposition can best be indicated by the fact that he likes to have everyone call him Jim.” That informality, while notable, was probably the least important reason for the turnaround Dunn generated with the team.19
Dunn had made his money in the railroad construction business. A native of Marshalltown, Iowa, he had moved to Chicago to take advantage of the larger opportunities afforded by the booming city.20 Even with his personal wealth, he either could not afford or would not pay the Indians’ price tag of $500,000 by himself. After bringing in other Chicago businessmen, Dunn was still dependent upon $100,000 loans from both Johnson and Charles Comiskey.21 Those loans would cause some problems later, especially during the Carl Mays controversy, but did not in any way impede the operation of the franchise, which Dunn quickly rebuilt and promoted, largely making the decisions on his own.
One of Dunn’s earliest moves was to rehire most of the front-office staff and meet personally with Charles Somers for his input, assuring a smooth transition. Somers was certainly impressed. He gave his support to Dunn, calling him “a real live wire (who) will … give Cleveland a good ball club.”22 His most significant early move was the acquisition of Tris Speaker, star center fielder for the Boston Red Sox. The deal was expensive, costing the Indians two players, including a solid pitcher, as well as $55,000 in cash. Dunn asserted: “A tail-ender will not pay in Cleveland, but a first division team will draw big. … I would not have thought of entering baseball if I had intended to be content with a second division outfit.”23 It is likely the deal was motivated in part to replace the loss of local hero Shoeless Joe in a salary-dump trade by Somers in late 1915. During his first season in Cleveland, Speaker led the league in hits, doubles, and batting average. While it did not move the team up much in the standings — the Indians finished in sixth place — his overall efforts did restore fan interest. With the acquisition, Dunn claimed that “the purchase of Speaker will, I believe, show fans that I am making good on my promise to give them a good ball club.”24 He clearly succeeded. Dunn more than tripled attendance from the previous season with his efforts at rebuilding and marketing the ballclub.
The team continued to improve during the next two seasons, finishing third in 1917 and second in 1918. The latter season was plagued by the entry of the United States into World War I. Some players were lost to the draft and others were seeking jobs in war-related industries to avoid being sent to the front lines. Dunn became one of the first advocates among the owners of ending the 1918 season early, believing that with the loss of players he could not give Cleveland fans the brand of baseball they deserved.25 Both leagues did agree, under pressure from the federal government, to end the season early, beginning the World Series soon after Labor Day. Dunn demonstrated his concern for his players by giving them notice of the decision before it was officially announced so they could quickly move to find war-related jobs.26 A drop in attendance during the season may also have encouraged Dunn to advocate its early end, though the team still fared better than it had during the last two years of the Somers regime.
While the 1919 season started late, again due to the war, the Indians drew over 500,000 for only the second time in its history and again finished in second place. While the team was profitable, Dunn had yet to deliver on his early promise of a championship in Cleveland. During the season manager Lee Fohl was fired and was replaced by Speaker. Equally notable during the season was the Carl Mays issue, which demonstrated, more than a year before the Black Sox scandal became public, the extent of the rift between American League owners.
Carl Mays, who had helped the Red Sox win the World Series in 1918, was dissatisfied and asked to be traded. Boston obliged with a late July 1919 deal with the Yankees. At the time, Mays had been suspended from baseball by Ban Johnson, who for that reason attempted to block the deal. He was supported by five of the AL owners, including Dunn. However, the league’s Executive Committee that year was made up of Dunn and the three owners who now opposed Johnson and his control over baseball. Those three, Charles Comiskey of the White Sox, Harry Frazee of the Red Sox, and Jacob Ruppert of the Yankees, overruled the league president and allowed Mays to return to baseball and report to the Yankees.27 It was the first time Johnson had been rejected on a major decision, but Dunn, by his support, had provided the payback Johnson had hoped for when he recruited him to purchase the Indians. The fact that Johnson still held stock in the club sullied Dunn’s backing and may have hampered his effectiveness with the other owners for the rest of his time in baseball.28
There was a further irony to the Mays deal during the 1920 season when the Indians met the Yankees in New York in August. Mays was the pitcher and Ray Chapman the batter when an errant pitch struck Chapman in the temple. He died later that evening, the only fatality caused directly by an incident during a major-league game. Dunn must have wondered at the time how history might have been different had the majority of AL owners had had their way on the Mays trade to New York. That wasn’t the only somber event of the season. Ace pitcher Stan Coveleski’s wife died earlier in the year, producing what was unquestionably a remorseful year for the organization.29
In spite of those tragedies, 1920 also proved to be the season Dunn had promised Cleveland fans when he purchased the club, delivering its first pennant, followed by a World Series championship. The club finished two games ahead of the White Sox and three ahead of the Yankees in a close pennant race, largely aided by the exposure and suspension for the last week of the season of seven White Sox players accused of fixing the 1919 World Series. When the Indians clinched the pennant, Dunn sought and quickly gained approval to flip the games in the Series. The first three of the best-of-nine Series were supposed to be played in Cleveland, as well as the final two if necessary. Instead, Dunn requested that the Series open in Brooklyn so he would have time to add more good seats in League Park.30 The risky move paid off, both in success on the field and at the box office. After losing two of the first three games in Brooklyn, Cleveland won the last four to win the Series in seven games. In a ballpark that usually accommodated 20,000 fans, the Indians drew over 107,000 for the four games in Cleveland.31 A crowning touch was provided before the players scattered after the final game. Dunn signed each of them to a 1921 contact, providing all with a 10 percent increase over the previous season’s salary.32
That generosity was not out of character for Dunn. He was an unusual magnate in the way he cultivated relations with his players. As Henry Edwards, a sportswriter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, observed, “Jim Dunn does not regard his players as employees. They are his boys, his pals. Neither do the players regard Dunn merely as an employer. To them, he is … their colleague.”33 When Dunn died, Smoky Joe Wood, one of his players, referred to him as “the brightest man who was ever owner of a baseball club … a great man.”34 That level of praise from a player toward an owner was and even now remains relatively uncommon.
There was little time for Dunn to bask in the glory of the Series results, however. The Black Sox Scandal brought demands from many magnates to restructure the game, particularly at its top, as a way to bring gambling under control. Major emphasis was placed on naming an independent commissioner who would not be tied to either league or to the owners in any fashion. The most popular proposal, the Lasker Plan, essentially created an independent commissioner. Ban Johnson was adamantly opposed to the plan and Dunn remained one of five AL owners loyal to Johnson until outside pressure as well as internal strife forced Johnson to agree to the appointment of Kenesaw Mountain Landis as commissioner.35 Dunn was likely not happy with the result, but it did prevent the possible breakup of the American League, and the 1921 season was thus guaranteed to begin as usual.
League Park in Cleveland, circa 1910s. (DETROIT PUBLISHING COMPANY, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)
The 1921 season was another good one for Cleveland. The team was only four games off its 1920 performance and League Park, now named Dunn Park, drew almost 750,000 fans.36 That did not match the 900,000-plus fans of the season before and the team’s performance was not good enough to prevent the beginning of the first Yankees dynasty, featuring Babe Ruth in his second year in New York. Cleveland finished second, 4½ games removed from another pennant.
The 1921 season was also Dunn’s last full one as owner of the Indians. He fell ill with influenza shortly after the 1922 season started and succumbed on June 9. His will left the team to his widow, Edith. She thus became one of the rare women who owned a baseball team of any kind, although she had virtually no involvement in the day-to-day operation of the club. That responsibility fell to Ernest Barnard, whom Dunn had named president of the team in his will. Speaker remained manager until an alleged gambling scandal that also involved Ty Cobb forced his departure from the team in 1927. The club reached as high as second only once after Dunn’s death and finished in the second division three times. The major reason for the decline in performance was that money to invest in players and marketing was less plentiful after Dunn’s death. His estate was far less willing to provide resources to the club than Dunn himself had been. When Edith Dunn remarried, the team was put up for sale after the 1927 season and was purchased by a Cleveland syndicate headed by Alva Bradley.37
It is, of course, difficult to surmise how well the Indians would have done had Dunn not died. He was obviously successful at promoting baseball to the city of Cleveland, not the least because he was able and willing to invest in player talent. Overall, Somers’ teams had played just under .500 baseball and managed only one season as high as second place. Dunn’s squads produced a .545 percentage, finished second four times and won a pennant and World Series. His teams averaged 550,000 fans a year — a 76 percent increase over Somers’ clubs. The 912,000 fans who crossed through the turnstiles in 1920 remained an attendance record until Bill Veeck purchased the team. Part of that success certainly seemed to stem from Dunn’s relationship with his players. It’s clear they liked playing for Dunn and probably were more committed to the team’s success as a result. It’s also clear that although Dunn was part of a syndicate, he had full control over his ballclub, on matters of both personnel and finances. As we will see with future owners, especially Alva Bradley, that did not always happen. Dunn may have been an outsider to Cleveland, but he brought a level of success to the ballclub that fans wouldn’t see again for more than two decades.
Alva Bradley II, 1928-1946
Cleveland fans had reason for optimism in 1928. The sale of the Indians was consummated and the new owners prepared for the coming season. After the death of Jim Dunn, the team had languished under the ownership of his estate. There was little new investment and the results, only one second-place finish, demonstrated that lack of support. Even worse, popular manager Tris Speaker had resigned and then was forced to leave the team. The sixth-place finish in 1927 seemed to show how far removed the glory days of 1920 were.
The new syndicate that purchased the Indians for $1 million, however, gave reason for the city to be optimistic. Unlike Dunn’s group, all of the partners were Clevelanders with deep business interests in the city. Alva Bradley, whose investments included banking, real estate, and transportation, quickly emerged as the leading partner. The other major investors included Alva’s brother, Charles, along with bankers Joseph Krause and John Sherwin.38 Bradley gave more reason for encouragement by stating that his group “believed that a winning baseball team was a big asset to the development of a city.” He added that the syndicate would “make every endeavor to put (the team) into the winning class.”39 There was good reason to take Bradley’s words at face value since the syndicate was thought to be the wealthiest owner group in the American League.40 Before the year ended, Bradley named Billy Evans as vice president of the team. For many years Evans had been an umpire in the American League and was, Bradley declared, “one of the best-informed baseball men in the business.”41 Bradley also indicated that the club would establish a farm system, a new trend in the major leagues, looking seriously at New Orleans and Terre Haute as locations and also inviting offers from other cities.42
Finally, there was serious talk in the city about building a new ballpark, far larger than League Park, which came to fruition in November of 1928 when the proposal received strong approval in a referendum. While often thought to have been an effort to attract the Olympics, in fact it was part of a major effort to upgrade Cleveland’s lakefront.43 Even though the 1928 team fared worse than the year before, there was reason for fans to be upbeat. The reality with the syndicate, however, proved to be considerably different than those expectations.
Although the 1929 season, which produced a much improved third-place finish, gave further reason for optimism, the onset of the Depression in October would prove to be a major setback. Members of the syndicate no longer had the extensive wealth they had possessed when they purchased the Indians, and became far more conservative in their willingness or ability to put money in the club. The partners’ reactions were reinforced by a decline in attendance from 1931 through 1935, even though the Indians continued to finish in the first division. Even the new ballpark failed to generate much additional fan interest during the depths of the Depression.
Municipal Stadium in Cleveland opened in 1932; a crowd of more than 80,000 watched the Indians’ first game there on July 31. (NATIONAL BASEBALL HALL OF FAME LIBRARY)
The new ballpark, in fact, would prove to be an ongoing issue, at times even an albatross, for as long as the syndicate owned the team. Troubles began even before the ballpark, capable of seating over 80,000, was finished in 1931.44 Plans had been made and tickets sold for a gala opening in July, but all of that came to a screeching halt when the city and the club were unable to reach a deal on a lease. Bradley expressed his frustration in The Sporting News, saying, “[W]e have made one concession after another to the city, until now we come to the point where we can go no further.” The club had to refund $20,000 received from the advance sale of tickets for the grand opening.45 The Sporting News followed two weeks later with an editorial stating, “Now we have the spectacle of the city of Cleveland turning down a good offer from a responsible tenant that would reflect credit on the city and give it a permanent and profitable revenue.”46 As negotiations dragged on well into 1932, Bradley demonstrated further frustration by saying negotiations had been hampered “by the fact that too many city officials have the power to disrupt the result of weeks of careful thought and business-like dealings.”47 A deal was finally reached with the city and the new stadium opened to a crowd of more than 80,000 on July 31, 1932, a year after originally planned. Fans witnessed a 1-0 loss to the Athletics in a pitching duel between Lefty Grove and Mel Harder.48
That explosion of fans was short-lived, and even with the cavernous ballpark and the massive turnout for the opening game, the club failed to achieve the previous year’s attendance for the season. That caused Bradley to reconsider using Municipal Stadium at all. The Indians still owned League Park and paid no rent for any games played there. They began to play all their games at League Park in 1935, with the exception of the All-Star Game, which drew over 65,000 fans at Municipal Stadium.49 Otherwise, the new ballpark sat vacant for the baseball season.
In spite of the All-Star Game draw, 1935 was another bad year financially for the Indians. For the third year in a row, attendance fell under 400,000, even though the team finished in the first division in each season. General manager Billy Evans resigned after having his salary cut twice, a decision that was made not by Bradley but by his syndicate partners.50 Shortly after Evans’s departure, Bradley indicated that in the eight years he had been president of the Indians, the team had lost a total of $241,000.51
As the losses continued, the club began to play more games at Municipal Stadium, even with its obvious shortcomings: rental cost, fewer home runs and a lack of intimacy. The center-field fence was almost 500 feet away and, with extensive foul territory, fans were further removed from the playing field.52 In spite of those drawbacks, Bradley began to increase the number of games played at Municipal Stadium during the rest of his tenure. Opening Day, with its huge crowd, was a natural, as were Sundays and holidays. Bradley was also one of the first in the AL to receive approval for night games, so the seven allowed were also played there. No lights were installed at League Park. By the 1940s, close to half of the season schedule was played at the larger park.53 Only with the arrival of Bill Veeck, however, was League Park rendered obsolete.
On the issue of night games, Bradley proved to be a pioneer in the American League, though he was hardly a pacesetter in that regard for major-league baseball overall. As late as 1935 both Bradley and Evans declared that there would never be night baseball in Cleveland since there was already too much competition in the evening.54 The success of night baseball for Ohio’s other major-league club, Cincinnati, apparently caused Bradley to reassess his thinking, and he petitioned the other owners at the winter meetings in 1937 to allow the team to play seven games under the lights. They rejected his request by 5 to 2, with Clark Griffith of the Washington Senators leading the opposition, claiming there was “no emergency financial status” demonstrated and thus no reason to allow such games. The Tribe president was bitter over the refusal.55 He was not deterred, however, coming back the next year at the owners’ meeting and getting approval for seven night games in 1939. The club had to incur the cost of installing lights at Municipal Stadium, but the investment paid dividends for the first game, when 55,000 fans came to witness the new feature.56 In spite of that huge crowd, however, attendance overall declined for the 1939 season, ending up almost 100,000 lower than in 1938, even though the team finished in third place in both seasons.
Night baseball was not the only area when Bradley spoke in favor of innovation. In 1933 William Veeck Sr., then president of the Chicago Cubs, came out strongly in favor of interleague play, largely as a way to increase fan interest and attendance during the height of the Depression. Bradley gave Veeck strong support on the American League side. Like Veeck in the National League, however, both were in the minority.57 Implementation of interleague play was still more than five decades away.
While Bradley was somewhat progressive on lights and interleague play, he was totally the opposite on radio broadcasts and the development of a farm system. As early as 1931, when many clubs were experimenting with broadcasts as a means of increasing fan interest, Bradley was adamantly opposed, even though he charged for broadcasting rights. In effect, he was rejecting another potential revenue source.58 When Bill Veeck Jr. purchased the Indians during the 1946 season, there were still no radio broadcasts of Indian games in Northern Ohio.59 Bradley was also reluctant to build a farm system. Even though he claimed to have spent $128,000 on the minors, new talent, and scouting in 1938, he was actually lobbying Commissioner Landis, whom he strongly supported, to eliminate the farm system. When Landis decided not to abolish major-league team control of minor-league clubs, Bradley negotiated an agreement with Baltimore for the 1942 season. However, the lack of such arrangements earlier with lower-level teams was and would continue to be detrimental to the ballclub.60 It cannot be determined, of course, how much better Cleveland might have been with a richer farm system, or how much more interest radio might have generated, but there is little doubt that both decisions were detrimental to the team before the club was sold.
Even without a farm system, however, Bradley was responsible for two highly significant player signings that shaped the team’s history in important ways. Bob Feller was signed in 1936 and made his major-league debut that year at age 17. He proved to be a sensation, striking out 17 batters in his last game before returning for his senior year in high school in Iowa. Perhaps he was too successful, for other teams questioned whether his signing was legitimate and appealed to Landis to nullify his contract. If the commissioner had followed the pattern on other rulings he had made, Feller could have readily been declared a free agent. Instead, thanks in part to a direct appeal by Feller’s father, Landis allowed him to remain with the Indians and instead fined the club $7,500. In the aftermath, Bradley asserted, “Our rights to his services probably never would have been challenged if we had kept him in the minors instead of rushing him straight to the big leagues.”61 The other significant player move came as an indirect byproduct of the 1940 team revolt, which led to the firing of the manager at the end of the season. After an interim manager for a year, Bradley named Lou Boudreau, age 24, the player-manager. Boudreau had signed with the Indians out of college and had played three full seasons when he became the youngest manager in baseball history.62 He grew to be very popular with Cleveland fans, and as of 2018 remained the last manager to win a World Series for the Indians.
As mentioned, the major event leading to Boudreau’s hiring was the player revolt of 1940. During the 19 years of Bradley’s tenure, 1940 was the only year the Indians came close to winning the pennant. Oscar Vitt had managed the team for two full seasons before and there already were rumblings among some players who felt he was autocratic and uncaring. Bradley, although aware of the complaints, didn’t take them too seriously until well into the 1940 season, when things came to a head. On June 16, the majority of players, including Mel Harder and Feller, presented Bradley with a petition demanding that Vitt be fired immediately. The petition stated that “Vitt ridiculed them publicly … that he had been insincere in his dealings with them … that his words and actions in the dugout were of such a nature that the manager’s own jitters were transferred to the players, making it impossible to play their best ball.” Even Vitt admitted that he may have been too severe with the team.63 Bradley persuaded the players to rescind the petition, and the season continued, albeit with considerable friction. The Indians stayed in contention, but fell off near the end of the season, leading one sportswriter to refer to the players as “crybabies” and criticizing Bradley for interfering and undermining his manager.64 The team finished a game out of first and Vitt was fired in October. It was generally thought that Bradley had overstepped his bounds with the players and that as a result the revolt had cost the team a pennant.
Cleveland Indians star Bob Feller, center, signs his 1941 contract as general manager Cy Slapnicka, left, and owner Alva Bradley look on. It would be Feller’s last contract until he returned from military service in World War II four years later. (CLEVELAND PRESS COLLECTION, CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY)
Shortly after the 1941 season ended, Bradley faced his next major challenge. Just days after Boudreau had been named manager, the bombing of Pearl Harbor plunged the country into World War II. Bradley’s first response was to organize an all-star game during the coming season between major leaguers already in the service and the winner of the annual All-Star Game. The event drew over 62,000, with all proceeds going to assist the war effort. It was perhaps small consolation to a club that would have one of the lowest attendance levels during the 1942 season. Beyond attracting fans, Bradley was also challenged with keeping enough players to maintain a team. To do so, he encouraged them to seek war-related jobs during the offseason, to keep them from being drafted. As the war continued and the number of talented players decreased even further, he advocated that the ballparks be padlocked for the remainder of the war rather than sell “below standard baseball.”65 While Bradley made his views known publicly, he never pushed his idea at the annual meeting in December and it’s likely it would not have been well received had he done so.
For the most part, in fact, Bradley was not a major force in the major-league meetings. Often attorney Joseph Hostettler, a minor partner, was the main spokesman for the club. Bradley did play one very important role during his years in baseball, however, in the selection of a replacement for Landis after his sudden death in November 1944. Bradley was one of four owners named to the search committee, joining Don Barnes of the Browns, Phil Wrigley of the Cubs, and Sam Breadon of the Cardinals. Bradley and Barnes were strongly opposed to Ford Frick, the National League president, who initially had been considered the leading candidate to replace Landis. They were joined by Wrigley in preferring to hire an outsider. Bradley chaired the session that offered the name of US Senator Albert Benjamin “Happy” Chandler but made no official recommendation to the full meeting of the magnates on who should be chosen.66 The owners did, in fact, select Chandler as the new commissioner.
Bradley’s involvement with the naming of Chandler was the zenith of his tenure with Cleveland. The team continued to languish, finishing in the second division in 1945 and heading for the same the next year. Attendance was lackluster. Rumors of a sale had been floating around since early 1944, but Bradley denied them. They grew stronger in June of 1946, when one article even mentioned Bill Veeck Jr. as the buyer. Bradley again denied the rumors, even giving detailed reasons why such a deal would never happen.67 In fact, a number of owners in the ownership syndicate, especially John and Francis Sherwin, the largest investors and sons of an original partner, had grown tired of cash calls to keep the team afloat, along with little, if any, expectation of profits. Bradley was the only partner who still remained from the original syndicate. Many of the newer members had limited interest, if any, in baseball as a business and thus were less willing to pour more of their money into the team. As a consequence, Bradley was one of the last to learn that a group led by Veeck was buying the Indians. The deal was closed on June 22, 1946, for $1,539,000, only a short time after Bradley had learned about it.68 There wasn’t even time for him to form a group to purchase the club on his own.
The fans of Cleveland, and much of the baseball world for that matter, were excited by the deal, as was usually the case when a new buyer emerged for a weak club. Ed McAuley of the Cleveland News summarized the reaction succinctly in The Sporting News: “The former owners and stockholders were conservative, calm, patient and backwards when it came to innovations in the game. (Veeck) is the direct contrast — a glad hander, a congenial guy, an extrovert who has what the people would term ‘the common touch’!’” In the same issue of The Sporting News, J.G. Taylor Spink, the editor, summed up the change by saying: “It may be expected that the hitherto sedate club by the shores of Lake Erie will undergo quite a face lifting. … Veeck hadn’t been in charge two hours before the customers had accepted him unreservedly as a bright hope for better days. … The A.L (with) its lack of showboat tactics and the offering of baseball as 100% of its daily attraction, is due for a seasoning with tabasco.”69 Cleveland fans did not have to be patient this time. They would immediately witness a new and very different era of leadership in running the club. The tabasco seasoning would begin!
By almost any standard, Alva Bradley’s tenure with the Indians would be considered at best a mediocre one. Only a single second-place finish, numerous managers until Boudreau, a lack of publicity, including no broadcast of games, and lackluster attendance were the main characteristics of his time overseeing the club. The team did play better than .500 ball under his ownership, but attendance averaged 50,000 a season below that of the Dunn era. Born in February 1884, Bradley was, for the most part, a fairly typical businessman of his generation — somewhat aloof, leaning to the status quo, not wanting to make waves. He lived a fairly typical lifestyle of the well-to-do — golf, tennis, bridge, and horseback riding, reflecting his upbringing as well as his Ivy League education at Cornell. His wealth had come from coal and real estate, not from owning the Indians. He was generally hesitant to innovate. He also wanted deeply to be liked, even being known to fire his managers on “the friendliest of terms.”70 Even had he been more innovative, he may well have been hampered by a syndicate that tightly controlled the financial side of the business, in which he had little input. Bradley may have lacked imagination, but he also had limited access to the resources needed to innovate during the Depression and World War II, a problem that was not unique to the Indians. After the sale, he rarely attended a baseball game, even though he remained a fan of the Indians. He died in Delray Beach, Florida, in 1953.71
Bill Veeck Jr., 1946-1949
The new owner of the Indians was a hurricane compared with the previous management, as The Sporting News had forecast. In what J.G. Taylor Spink referred to as “a stiff workout — or a talk with Bill Veeck,” the new Cleveland owner summed up his philosophy: “Baseball has to be promoted, it has to be sold. …” As Ed McAuley summed up in the same issue, the Indians were “sadly in need of the hypodermic needle with which Veeck and his associates have stabbed it.”72 It was, indeed, to be a true shot in the arm for Cleveland baseball fans. Born in Chicago in February 1914, Veeck had grown up around baseball as his father was president of the Chicago Cubs until his death in 1933. His son spent countless hours at the ballpark, doing numerous jobs. Between his experience at Wrigley and his ownership of the Milwaukee minor-league team in the early 1940s, Veeck had gained considerable experience in building and promoting a ballclub.
Veeck undertook numerous strategies to draw fans to the ballpark. Promotions were a huge part of it. He immediately signed a contract with a local radio station to broadcast all home and away games. He re-established Ladies Day on a regular basis. He purchased new uniforms for 150 ushers and raised the number of night games to 21 from 14. He talked with cab drivers and bartenders, both of whom he would frequently encounter, to get a sense of what was wrong with the team. He carried that over to games, at which he mingled with fans to get their sense of how to improve the experience while watching the teams play. One of his early promotions was a highly publicized event to honor trainer Lefty Weisman, who had been with the Indians for 25 years. To add entertainment and comedy to the experience of the game itself, he hired Max Patkin as a coach and Jackie Price as a player. While both knew baseball, they were far better known as comedians. When not playing, which was most of the time, Price would entertain fans between innings with numerous bat and ball tricks. Patkin, while coaching, would go through a variety of gyrations, once even getting on the nerves of Red Sox manager Joe Cronin. Veeck’s efforts paid huge dividends. While the 1946 team finished in sixth place, it drew over a million fans, breaking the attendance record set by the 1920 pennant winners.73 At the time Veeck took control of the team in June, it had drawn 289,000 fans. For the remainder of the season, a little over half of the remaining 77 home games, his promotions brought in almost 800,000.74
Veeck almost got in the way of his efforts, however. Rumors began shortly after his syndicate gained ownership that the new magnate was looking to remove Boudreau as manager at the end of the season. Veeck later claimed to have Casey Stengel waiting in the wings to take over as soon as Boudreau was removed or traded.75 Local sportswriters responded with a highly publicized campaign to keep the popular manager, drumming up huge support from fans and forcing Veeck to back down from any managerial change. He concluded that “Lou was so popular that if I traded him away, I would have the whole city down my neck.”76 Instead, the owner hosted a night for Boudreau, drawing another large crowd and rewarding the manager with a raise and a new contract that would carry through the 1948 season.77 In the end, Boudreau remained as manager of the Indians longer than Veeck owned the team.
While both Price and Patkin had proved to be part of the attraction at home games, neither would return in 1947. A small part of the problem was that Price was a shortstop like Boudreau, though he certainly was no competition for the future Hall of Famer. The larger issue came in spring training in 1947, the club’s first year in the new Tucson, Arizona, facility, chosen so Veeck could be close to his ranch and family during that time. On a train with the rest of the team, Price walked through a car where a number of women were seated, carrying a number of snakes. The obviously disturbed women complained to the conductor, who was told by the Indians’ players, intending a practical joke, that it was Boudreau who was carrying the snakes. The accused manager had to explain his way out of the mess, which he did not find particularly humorous. He turned on Price and Patkin, exclaiming that he “was hired to manage a ball team and not a circus.”78 At the manager’s insistence, there would be no more appearances in Cleveland of either entertainer. But Veeck quickly found other ways to attract the fans.
Among his many tactics, Veeck became his own personal speaker’s bureau. He traveled to any community in Ohio, Pennsylvania, or New York considered in the Indians drawing area to speak. Veeck estimated that he gave up to 500 such speeches a year.79 While that number seems unlikely, he also added little gimmicks to make his appearances even bigger draws. At a Jaycee meeting in Ashland, Ohio, where he was to speak, the required uniform for admission was a sport shirt like the ones Veeck wore.80 He also found other ways to make the games more attractive to fans in outlying communities. The Indians now played all of their home games in cavernous Municipal Stadium with its exceptionally deep outfield stands. Recognizing that fans wanted more home runs, he installed temporary fences to bring the home-run distance closer to that of other major-league ballparks, shortening much of the outfield by up to 70 feet.81 He continued his special attractions, the most notable a celebration of Cy Young’s 80th birthday on June 11, at which Young’s entire community of Newcomerstown, Ohio — population 4,564 — was hosted for free.82 With all of his efforts, Veeck was well on his way to increasing attendance in 1947 by almost 50 percent, smashing the record set the previous year.
Veeck had another major promotional trick up his sleeve in 1947, although he denied it was such, and subsequent years would demonstrate that it was far more than a short-term stunt. After watching both the success of Jackie Robinson with the Dodgers and noting the larger crowds that Brooklyn was drawing both at home and on the road, Veeck signed Larry Doby to a contract, paying Effa Manley’s Newark Negro League club $5,000. Doby became the first black player in the American League. Veeck told The Sporting News that “Robinson has proved to be a real big leaguer, so I wanted to get the best Negro boy while the getting was good.” He added, “I am operating under the belief that the war advanced us in regard to racial tolerance.”83 Veeck also asserted that Doby was signed to build a stronger, pennant-contending team, not as a publicity stunt.84 Unlike Rickey with Robinson, Veeck had done nothing to prepare either Doby or his teammates for his arrival. While Doby’s first season in the majors was not successful, he was still generally well received by the club. His biographer has attributed that largely to Boudreau, the coaches, the players, and traveling secretary Spud Goldstein rather than to the owner.85 In any case, the American League was now integrated like the National. That unquestionably also helped draw fans to the ballpark in 1947.
Veeck was encouraged when Doby got off to a strong start in 1948 and by July, with the team in the thick of a pennant race, he made a roster change that garnered even more publicity. Satchel Paige, the best known pitcher in the Negro Leagues, was signed in July, when Veeck became convinced the club had a chance to win the pennant.86 The signing was costly, totaling $55,000, of which $25,000 went to Paige, $15,000 to the Kansas City Monarchs, and $15,000 to Abe Saperstein, with whom Veeck had contracted to help recruit black talent.87 The signing was not well received by sportswriters. Dan Daniel claimed Paige was already 50 and he found little excitement in New York about the pitcher joining the majors.88 Spink was even more vocal in his editorial, stating, “To sign a hurler at Paige’s age is to demean the standards of baseball in the big circuits. Further complicating the situation is the suspicion that if Satchell were white, he would not have drawn a second thought from Veeck. Will Harridge … would have been well within his rights if he refused to approve the Paige contract.”89
Paige quickly proved the skeptics wrong. He was hardly a travesty who generated little interest or failed to help the team. The Indians won the pennant in 1948, winning a tiebreaking game with the Red Sox. They were unquestionably helped by Paige’s 6-1 record, mostly as a starting pitcher. He drew huge crowds at home and on the road when he pitched, including more than 72,000 in Washington who came to see him win a game.90 Paige’s performances and his draw as a gate attraction prompted Veeck to telegraph J.G. Taylor Spink with his response to the earlier editorial: “Paige pitching — no runs, three hits. Definitely in line for TSN rookie of the year award.”91 Paige did not become rookie of the year, but he certainly made a major impact on the Indians and baseball in his rookie season.
While Paige, at 42 not 50, was near the end of his career, Doby was just beginning. And their success prompted Veeck to recruit even more black ballplayers. By the end of the next season, Veeck had 14 such players under contract, scattered throughout the minors.92 They included Minnie Miñoso, Al Smith, and Luke Easter, two of whom contributed directly to the success of the Indians in the 1950s. The aggressive signing of black talent was one of the ways Veeck laid the groundwork for the continued success of the team on the field long after he sold the Indians after the 1949 season.
Along with the aggressive effort to bring in new talent, Veeck also fortified both the minor-league organizations controlled by the team and the scouting of prospective players. He signed affiliation contracts with Triple-A San Diego and Double-A Oklahoma City.93 San Diego was especially important since it provided a city where the newly signed black players would not face the racial issues encountered in many Southern communities.
Veeck also brought in new front-office management that would help the Indians well after he sold the team. Hank Greenberg was ready to retire from his Hall of Fame career after one season with the Pirates in 1947. Cleveland’s owner offered Greenberg $50,000 to play and $25,000 to coach.94 The former star opted for the latter, thinking his playing days were over, but instead of coaching, he became an assistant to Veeck, enabling him to learn the front-office side of the business. After the 1948 season ended with the club’s second World Series win, Veeck put him in charge of the team’s minor-league system. At the time, the team had 16 minor-league teams and over 400 players in the system.95 It would be a natural transition for Greenberg to become the club’s general manager after Veeck departed, a job he would end up holding through the 1957 season.
While Greenberg would prove to be successful as the Indians’ general manager, he would be no match for Veeck’s ability to relate to the players. Perhaps that simply reflected Veeck’s generosity. He negotiated attendance-related contracts with Bob Feller, making him close to the highest-paid player in the majors, if not the highest.96 By 1949, the club had the highest player payroll in baseball, perhaps reflecting its success both on the field and at the ticket office.97 Years later, Veeck acknowledged that he preferred to be generous with his players, saying, “I would just as soon give a player what he thinks he deserves if I can afford it.”98 Clearly, he could afford it with the Indians. He also added a personal touch, often spending time in the dugout after games and giving out bonuses when players were signed. He was even known to give newly acquired players cash so they could purchase new suits.99 Larry Doby went so far to call Veeck “the greatest humanitarian that I have ever known,” adding, “The man wasn’t a hypocrite. He didn’t have one set of values in the church and another outside the church.”100 Many of his players would have agreed with Doby’s assessment.
The largess of the Tribe’s owner did not carry over to the 1949 season’s outcome, however, at least not in terms of the team’s ability to again make it to the World Series. For a variety of reasons, the team could finish no better than third. That did not stop Veeck, always looking for publicity, from capitalizing on the team’s decline in performance. When the Indians were mathematically eliminated from the pennant race, he promoted the next home game as a wake. The 1948 Series pennant was placed in a casket and driven in a hearse around Municipal Stadium by Veeck. The casket was then buried beyond the left-field fence.101 Ironically, the event would also serve to symbolize the end of the owner’s time with the Indians. The writing on the wall came even before the 1949 season had started, when Veeck’s first wife, Eleanor, filed for divorce in February.102 It is unclear how quickly Veeck realized he needed to sell his interest in the team to achieve a settlement, but he announced the sale in late October.103 The ultimate sale would return the club to local ownership, but without the continuous fanfare that had been generated by Veeck during his 3½ years in the city. Veeck would prove to be a very tough act to follow.
His achievements were certainly not limited to the ball field. Many of his promotions went beyond luring fans in to watch games. Some were actual fundraisers meant to benefit the community. He made a deal with Branch Rickey to have the Indians and Dodgers play two exhibition games during the 1948 season, one in each city, with the proceeds going to the sandlot baseball programs in both towns. In late July, Veeck presented a check for almost $80,000 to the Cleveland Baseball Federation from the game played in Municipal Stadium.104 Once the club had passed a record 2.5 million in attendance in 1948, Veeck announced that the take from the last home game of the season would be donated to the Community Chest, the forerunner of the United Way. It raised over $55,000 for the agency, which was right in the middle of its campaign.105 Nor were his fundraisers limited to organizations. During the championship season, Don Black, one of the team’s starting pitchers, collapsed on the mound, stricken with a brain hemorrhage that hospitalized him for weeks and ended his baseball career. Veeck held a night in honor of the recovering pitcher and awarded his family over $40,000 in proceeds from the gate.106 The citizens of Cleveland, as well as the Indians players, were true beneficiaries of Veeck’s promotions.
So was the front office of the club. The finances of any privately held baseball club are difficult to obtain, but there were enough hints provided from the time of Veeck’s tenure to obtain a general sense of the profitability or the organization. An article in The Sporting News in early 1948 indicated that the team needed to draw a million fans at home to break even. The article then mentioned that the club had 782 people on its payroll: 179 ticket takers,187 ushers, 132 special police, 20 office workers, 5 dining room employees, 117 scorecard boys, 28 scouts, 58 players and 56 ground crew.107 A later issue reported that the club made a profit of $1.5 million in 1947 when the team drew 1,521,978 paid admissions.108 Since the team drew over 2.6 million in 1948 and over 2.2 million in 1949, it is reasonable to assume both years were also extraordinarily profitable, even with normal increases in expenses. As an example of costs, the 1948 payroll was announced to be $400,000 for player salaries.109 At the same time, Veeck announced that profits from the first season and a half he had owned the club had already paid off his investment.110 It is likely the Indians were baseball’s best-performing club financially during Veeck’s tenure, even with his generosity to players and to local charities. Unlike with the previous syndicate, there were no cash calls during the entire period Veeck owned the team, not surprising given the owner’s ability to draw crowds to the Stadium.
The club was sold by Veeck for $2.2 million to a Cleveland syndicate headed by Ellis W. Ryan, CEO of the W.F. Ryan insurance company. Veeck and his Chicago partners sold their interest, but some Cleveland members of the earlier syndicate, including comedian Bob Hope, had maintained their partial ownership in the club. Veeck netted $700,000 before taxes and it’s fair to assume the other investors profited equally as well from the deal.111 The magnate summed up his success both operationally and financially by saying, “My philosophy as a baseball operator … is to create the greatest enjoyment for the greatest number of people … draw people to the park and make fans out of them.”112 He certainly succeeded during his short stay in Cleveland.
The Indians were certainly not Veeck’s last baseball endeavor. He remarried and purchased the St. Louis Browns in 1951, continuing to conduct outrageous promotions in an attempt to revive the franchise. He later twice owned the White Sox, again making a name with his innovations and ways to bring fans to the ballpark. He died in Chicago on January 2, 1986, less than five years after selling the White Sox for the second time. He is the only major owner of the Indians to be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ellis W. Ryan, 1950-1952
Ellis Ryan was certainly not a Bill Veeck. In public, Ryan was always immaculately dressed. Veeck wouldn’t be caught dead in a suit. Veeck loved to take part in the many promotions he used to bring fans to the ballpark. Ryan was less enthralled with promotions and always remained behind the scenes when they were done. Most importantly, Veeck grew up around baseball, his father having been the president of the Chicago Cubs for two decades. He had also operated a very successful minor-league franchise in Milwaukee before purchasing the Indians in 1946. Ryan, on the other hand, was a casual baseball fan, his expertise and money coming from the insurance business. He had actually been more involved with football and hockey in Cleveland than he had baseball before heading the group that purchased the Indians.113 His lack of background in the sport empowered Hank Greenberg, giving him more latitude to run baseball operations. While he was no longer officially a vice president in the new regime, Greenberg was named general manager and was given basic control over the day-to-day operations of the ballclub as well as player personnel. For the most part, Ryan stayed out of the limelight as well as the general operations.
Like Alva Bradley, Ryan was a native Clevelander, born in the city in June 1904. He graduated from The Ohio State University in Columbus and went into the insurance business after graduation. By the time he became the major partner in the purchase of the Indians from Veeck, his owned one of the more successful insurance companies in the Cleveland area.114
The syndicate Ryan headed, with his 20 percent ownership, did have three partners who would play important roles in the ballclub well past the tenure of Ryan. John Hornbeck, a partner in the Miller and Hornbeck law firm, was strong on legal matters and political connections. George A. Medinger, president of Fostoria Industrial Service, was named a vice president and director of the Indians. He would remain with the club long after Ryan had departed and frequently represented the team at league meetings. He had major authority over radio and television contracts, which would prove to be a significant revenue source. Nate Dolin, manager of the Cleveland Arena box office, would, like Medinger, remain with the club into the next decade. He was placed in charge of the box office and named operations chief, and also approved player salaries and daily promotions.115 His major contribution, however, was the introduction of a new accounting procedure that would have a major impact on the finances of sports franchises. Essentially, Dolin devised a method that enabled a major-league club to depreciate players over a five-year period. The new ownership had to possess 75 percent ownership of the club and assign most of the purchase price to the player contracts. The club also had to reorganize as a completely new business or else the previous book value of the team would be applied. If such a procedure were implemented, the earnings of the team could often actually be reduced to a loss on the books, which could in turn eliminate or at least reduce the need to pay taxes by a franchise.116 The new depreciation procedure would ultimately save numerous sports franchises a considerable amount of money in the future and had immediate benefits to the Indians’ organization.
Ryan did make a contribution during his three years of directing the Indians that turned out to have a major impact on the club’s remaining in Cleveland. Early in his tenure, he negotiated a 25-year deal with the city to lease Municipal Stadium. The city would receive 7 percent of the gate, up from the previous 3 to 5 percent. The club would get 55 percent of the concession sales and would agree to spend $300,000 on improvements. The city would be responsible for the maintenance of the facility while the club would tend to the upkeep of the field. The city agreed to purchase League Park from the club with the intent of tearing down the stands and converting it to a city park. The Indians would continue to have sole control over its radio and television contracts.117 While it did not appear to have much significance at the time to either the club or the city, the long-term lease of the ballpark was likely the decision most responsible for the franchise remaining in Cleveland.
Ryan’s tenure as president was not without controversy. Popular players, including Satchel Paige, were let go before the start of the 1950 season. When the team dropped from third to fourth place in the 1950 season, Lou Boudreau, still very popular as manager, was fired, creating a negative reaction from many fans. While Greenberg was largely responsible for the firing, Ryan supported him on the decision and took much of the heat. The announcement was coupled with the introduction of the new manager, Al Lopez, who had been managing the Indianapolis farm team. Ryan said, “[W]e would not consider replacing Lou Boudreau unless we were able to obtain the services of a man who we felt might do a better job. … That man is Al Lopez.”118 While the firing brought many violently-worded threats from Indians fans, Ryan was to prove prophetic in his statement. In Lopez’s five years with Cleveland, the Indians never finished below second place. No other manager has produced such consistent results for the Indians.
Although the firing of Boudreau was not solely related to the team’s performance, the drop in the standings was coupled with a decrease in attendance of almost 500,000 from 1949. The club was still profitable, reporting a net income of $460,000 after expenses of $3,427,000, including $550,000 of player and coach salaries.119 Obviously unknown at the time, the attendance in 1950 of 1,727,464 fans would actually end up being the largest single-season draw by the franchise until 1993. In all likelihood, the decline in attendance had less to do with the performance of the team than other changes going on in the country, including suburbanization, the increasing use of the automobile, and the rapidly growing prevalence of television as a major entertainment source in the household. The competitive performances of the Indians over the next five years on the field could not offset those societal and demographic trends.
While Ryan noted that the team was profitable, the decline in attendance did have an impact on the club’s overall operations. Initially, Ryan was optimistic about building on the momentum Veeck had created in fortifying the scouting and minor-league affiliations of the franchise. Shortly after the purchase, he declared that the team needed to spend money to make money, including higher salaries and the hiring of 12 new scouts.120 During the 1951 season, he announced the purchase of the Triple-A franchise in Indianapolis, the first such franchise ever owned outright by the Indians. In the aftermath of the 1952 season, however, in which attendance dropped over 250,000 from the previous year, even though the team again finished in second place, Ryan changed direction. The club cut costs, reducing its minor-league affiliates from 13 to 8 and laying off three scouts.121 Ryan and Greenberg had already argued over the acquisition of the Indianapolis franchise, and their dispute grew stronger with these cutbacks. In response to those disagreements, Ryan began to assert even more control over the team, with the intention of firing Greenberg and his $60,000 salary and assuming the general manager duties for himself, just as Veeck had done before him.122
Unfortunately for Ryan, the key members of his board of directors did not support his effort to gain more control of the club. Medinger, Hornbeck, and Dolin led the opposition to Ryan and attempted to gain control of the board by bringing in other investors. Part of their opposition stemmed from not being consulted on the Indianapolis purchase, but their larger concern was the possible removal of Greenberg. None of the three felt Ryan was capable of running the club. Initially when approached by the three, Ryan agreed to sell his stock, but he soon changed his mind and offered to buy out their interests at $500 a share. The three directors rejected his offer and took the issue of control of the organization to the entire board. Ryan lost the battle by a very slim 62-vote margin with all shares of stock cast, and thus agreed to sell his interest in the club at $600 a share. Having bought in at $100 a share in 1949, Ryan netted $200,000 to $250,000 on his initial investment of $55,0000. As 1952 ended, the Indians would again be under new ownership.123 In reality, since Greenberg remained as general manager and Medinger, Hornbeck, and Dolin continued on the board, there would be little noticeable change in how the club was run. If anything, Greenberg was now even more empowered than before.
For the short period in which Ryan was in charge of the Indians, he did have some impact on both the club and on baseball. As the leading partner, he attended all of the owners meetings and was directly involved in the controversy over not renewing the contract of Happy Chandler as commissioner. Initially, Ryan voted against renewing Chandler, then switched his vote in favor, enabling the commissioner to get a 9-to-7 majority of the owners behind him. But Chandler needed support from 12 owners to be retained. Ryan was then named to the search committee for a new commissioner along with Del Webb, Phil Wrigley, and Lou Perini. After some resistance from American League owners, including Ryan, National League President Ford Frick was named the new commissioner.124 While his role in Chandler’s dismissal and Frick’s selection was at best indecisive and vacillating, he had been given a major role of responsibility by the other owners rather quickly during in his short time with the Indians. On the local level, the team reported a profit after each of the three years Ryan was in charge and won over 60 percent of its games, things that would be looked back upon with admiration and envy by later owners. Ryan did not leave the Cleveland sports scene, investing in the Browns after his sale of Indians stock was accomplished. He died in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in August 1966.
The Baxter Brothers and Myron Wilson, 1953-1956
Myron H. Wilson is often listed as the lead owner of the Indians after Ryan’s interest in the team was bought out. In fact, Wilson owned only 3 percent of the stock in the team and was mostly uninvolved in the club’s operations during his tenure as the titular head. His selection was actually an effort to placate Ryan. While Wilson had voted against Ryan, the two had been and were to remain good friends. Wilson’s title as president was merely a way to keep the peace internally after the deal was consummated.125 Like Ryan, Wilson was a native Clevelander who made his money in the insurance business. Unlike Ryan, he possessed an Ivy League education from Yale.126 The primary owners of the team were actually the Baxter brothers, Charles “Wing” and Andy, who had made their fortune in investment banking. Little is known about them although it is clear their interests remained on the investment side as neither took any kind of a role in managing the club.127 They may have viewed the Indians as a short-term investment since they sold most of their stock less than three years later. The major players on the board remained Medinger, Hornbeck, and Dolin, but in reality the Indians were largely directed by Hank Greenberg, who had even more control in running the club than he had before.
While Medinger, Hornbeck, and Dolin appear to have continued to conduct their previous duties with the club, it was definitely Greenberg who gained greater prominence with the ouster of Ryan. He now joined Medinger at the owners’ meetings. Before 1953 was over, he was named, along with owner John Galbreath of the Pirates, to negotiate a new player pension plan. Ballplayers had been upset, feeling that they weren’t being treated fairly under the existing plan, and were convinced the commissioner was only looking out for the interests of the owners. They hired J. Norman Lewis, a New York attorney, to represent them, fostering what appeared to Frick and the magnates to be a hostile situation. Ralph Kiner and Allie Reynolds were the elected representatives of the players and some believed Greenberg was chosen partly due to his friendship with Kiner. Whether or not that was the case, within two months the two sides were able to negotiate an agreement. The players were guaranteed a 60/40 split of All-Star Game and World Series television revenues and gained equal representation on the committee that oversaw administration of the pension. The commissioner retained exclusive authority over the negotiation of broadcasting rights for both the All-Star Game and the World Series.128 The deal would provide close to a decade of peace between the two sides and Greenberg and Galbreath were commended for their “speed and dignity” in conducting the pension negotiations.129
Greenberg also put forth some other reform proposals at the owners meetings that would improve the game on the field and make it more interesting. He advocated and supported the ruling of Commissioner Frick to prohibit players from leaving their gloves on the field after a half-inning. He felt there were too many minor leagues and thus a serious need for consolidation. He strongly believed that the two major leagues should institute interleague play, felt the leagues should expand to 10 teams, and urged the American League to expand to the West Coast.130 On these three points, Greenberg was well ahead of his time, six years on expansion, slightly more on minor-league consolidation, and over four decades on interleague play. The majority of owners remained unreceptive to his recommendations.
Greenberg also proved to be creative on the home front. With Cleveland’s Public Hall closed during the summer of 1953 to install air-conditioning, the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra was left with no place to perform. Greenberg arranged to have the orchestra play at 7 P.M. before 12 home games during the summer, with the starting time of the games pushed back to 8. The club and the city each agreed to pay $15,000 to have the orchestra appear. The first concert at Municipal Stadium brought a “chorus of approval.”131 While this promotion lacked the popular appeal of Veeck’s, it did serve to draw some new fans to the ballpark and gave the orchestra opportunities to perform in public that they would not have had otherwise. Even with that promotion, almost 400,000 fewer fans came through the turnstiles during the 1953 season.
The general manager also continued to provide Northeastern Ohio with a winning product. In the years under Wilson’s titular leadership, the Indians finished second twice, in 1953 and 1955. More importantly for the city of Cleveland, the team won the pennant in 1954, with 111 victories. That team’s.721 winning percentage remains (as of 2017) the best ever in the American League. The success came in spite of some discontent when Greenberg required all players to wear a plastic helmet for protection or face a $50 fine, another way in which he was somewhat ahead of the curve in baseball.132 The pennant-winning season did restore attendance to the 1952 level, attracting almost a half-million more fans.
For all three years, the team was profitable. The club’s net income was over $150,000 in 1953, almost $600,000 in the pennant year, and almost $100,000 with another second-place finish in 1955. Even with the long-term gradual decline in attendance, the Indians remained one of the three most successful major-league franchises financially. As had been the case under Ryan, the team again won over 60 percent of its games. While attendance fluctuated, dropping again in 1955, any decline in box-office money was offset by the growth in broadcast revenues, which went from under $500,000 in 1953 to almost $1 million in 1956.133That financial success made the club a more attractive potential acquisition, ultimately leading to a sale in early 1956.
With all of Greenberg’s success and all of his contributions both to baseball and Cleveland with his innovative ideas and financial returns, there were signs of trouble brewing. Early in his tenure he had run into trouble with the fans, first for cutting players like Satchel Paige and a year later for firing popular manager Lou Boudreau. In spite of the team’s performance, many fans still held a grudge against Greenberg for those dismissals. He created major contract disputes with the club’s stars, including Al Rosen and Larry Doby. That led to Rosen’s retiring early and the popular Doby being traded. Greenberg’s relations with the press were also prickly and Al Lopez, the only Cleveland manager who had never finished below second place, had almost quit, claiming that Greenberg was too involved in the day-to-day decisions on the field. Myron Wilson had to intervene to persuade Lopez to stay.134 The results on the field and in the financial books helped obscure the problems that would soon surface under the new ownership group.
William Daley, 1956-1966
The largest irony associated with the problems that led to Greenberg’s demise was that with the sale of the club in early 1956, he was, for the first time, a part-owner of the team. The Baxter brothers, as mentioned, had never been that interested in the operations of a baseball franchise, and saw an opportunity with an early offer from William Daley, to cash in on their investment. In 1954 the directors turned down two offers from Cleveland groups to purchase the team for $3.5 million, the brothers likely feeling the offers were too low, especially coming off a pennant-winning season.135 Whether Daley was part of either offer is unknown. In 1956, however, after another second-place finish and a decline in both attendance and profits, the Baxters were ready to sell, especially since the offer of $3,961,800 was almost $500,000 higher than the earlier ones. Daley, a native Clevelander, purchased 55 percent of the stock in the club, bringing in two minority partners — Greenberg and Ignatius A. O’Shaughnessy, of St. Paul, Minnesota.136
In spite of the change in majority ownership, in many ways the deal once again signified stability rather than change. Daley and O’Shaughnessy indicated that they would not be involved in the day-to-day operation of the club and Greenberg, while now an owner, remained the general manager, in control of all baseball decisions. Equally important, the three mainstays still around from the 1949 purchase — Medinger, Hornbeck, and Dolin — all remained investors and directors.
It helped that Daley was well ensconced in the Cleveland community. He was born in September 1892 in Ashtabula, Ohio, northeast of Cleveland, and was a graduate of Western Reserve University. When he bought the majority interest, he was president of Otis & Company, a highly regarded investment-banking house. He was also a major investor with renowned industrialist Cyrus Eaton in Republic Steel and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, both headquartered in Cleveland. At a time when many growing cities were pursuing a major-league franchise, the sale seemed to ensure that the Tribe would remain an integral part of the city.137
The subsequent two baseball seasons would change that scenario. While the team finished second again in 1956, attendance dropped to well under a million fans for the first time since 1945. Lopez quit after the season ended, citing irreconcilable differences with Greenberg. To make matters worse, he jumped to the rival White Sox for the same salary he had earned with the Indians. The following season, 1957, the team dropped below .500 for the first time in a decade and finished in the second division. Attendance declined by another 130,000, to less than 750,000. The club still had a profit in 1956 and 1957, thanks to Dolin’s depreciation accounting method that benefited a new owner like Daley. But at a directors’ meeting after the 1957 season ended, Greenberg was ousted as GM by a 10-to-2 vote. Daley claimed that “this team really belongs to the people and that’s what they wanted us to do.” Greenberg asserted that his resignation was requested “in order to satisfy a hostile press.” While he remained an investor, Greenberg would no longer be in charge of the club, even though during his tenure the Indians had finished behind only the Yankees in winning percentage, attendance, and financial results.138 No one had any idea at the time that this was the beginning of a long drought for the franchise.
There was a brief glimmer of hope, however, after the hiring of the new general manager, Frank Lane. Lane had been general manager of the White Sox for almost a decade and had rebuilt the club, still recovering from the Black Sox Scandal, into a formidable and competitive team. He had been hired away by August Busch of the Cardinals after the 1956 season, but had worn out his welcome in less than two years, partly due to overtures he had made to trade St. Louis icon Stan Musial. He jumped at the opportunity to join the Indians. He was unanimously approved by the Tribe directors, including Greenberg, and signed a three-year contract for $60,000 a year, matching the salary of his predecessor. Like Greenberg, he was given a free hand in running the club.139 Although no one could foresee it at the time, Lane would wear out his welcome with Cleveland fans before his contract ended.
Expectations reached their high point during Lane’s second season with the Indians, when the team remained in contention for the pennant through mid-August and drew almost 1.5 million fans. The resurgence of interest was not only profitable for the owners, but for Lane as well. His contract stipulated a 5-cent bonus for every person crossing the turnstiles beyond 800,000, providing him with an additional $35,000.140 Lane had a similar clause for the 1960 season, but he would receive a much smaller bonus, largely because attendance had dropped by over a half-million, with the team finishing the season just under .500. By that time, the directors were likely pleased to have Charlie Finley woo Lane away with a $100,000 contract before they had to reach any decision on his renewal. In the three years with the Tribe, Lane had made 55 trades involving 82 players, including dealing away fan favorites like Rocky Colavito and Roger Maris. He also executed the major leagues’ first swap of managers. Only two players were left on the Tribe roster who had been there when Lane began his three-year stay.141
At the same time, Lane, like Greenberg before him, represented the club at major-league meetings and advocated a rather progressive agenda that was definitely ahead of its time. He was a strong opponent of the bonus-baby rule, proposing a general draft for first-year players. He was a major supporter of the American League expanding to 10 teams. Like Veeck before him, he was a strong advocate for the visiting team receiving half of the local television revenue, essentially saying that all TV money should be split equally among the eight teams.142 Like Bill Veeck, however, his influence with other owners was rather limited, although two of his pet projects, expansion and the draft, would be implemented during the next decade.
After his first season, in which the team still struggled with attendance and results, Lane, who was not an investor, watched from the sideline as Hank Greenberg attempted to buy out Daley’s interest in the club, with support from the Baxter brothers. The brothers had still maintained a minority interest in the club. Together, the three owned 35 percent of the team. While Greenberg promised to keep the team in Cleveland, he argued that there needed to be a change in management, perhaps with the intention of returning as general manager. He had offered the other owners $450 a share, but instead Daley, Dolin, Medinger, Hornbeck, and one other director bought out Greenberg and the Baxters for $400 a share. In the end, Greenberg made almost $400,000 by selling his interest in the Indians.143 He subsequently joined Veeck with the White Sox for a short time and also attempted to gain the expansion franchise in Los Angeles, but the sale of his interest in the Tribe marked the beginning of the end of his involvement in baseball.
It was clear by August of 1958 that the team was going to have another poor year at the gate, prompting Daley to announce that this could be the last season in Cleveland. He indicated that both Houston and Toronto were options, but there was also mention behind the scenes that Minneapolis was in the picture as well.144 Civic leaders responded quickly to the threatened move, promoting a “Back the Indians Night” in September that drew over 50,000 fans on a “cold and dreary night.” After the game, Daley said, “This crowd will not be the decisive factor, but it certainly will have a favorable influence.” The event also led to a concerted effort over the winter to sell season tickets.145 After the season, the directors voted unanimously to keep the club in Cleveland indefinitely. Daley exclaimed, “The club is here to stay,” while noting that the directors had rejected a $6 million offer from Houston and a million attendance guarantee from Minneapolis.146 While the subject of relocation was placed on a back burner for the time being, it would be considered numerous times again over the next three decades.
While the club would remain in Cleveland “indefinitely,” Frank Lane would not, departing to Kansas City for a very short, tumultuous tenure with Charlie Finley. Initially the Indians announced that they would not hire a general manager, perhaps burned out by the endless wheeling and dealing experienced under Lane. In March, Nate Dolin even announced that the organization was happy without a GM, with Walter “Hoot” Evers running player personnel and Bob Kennedy overseeing the farm system. A month later, Dolin added, “[T]he more we watched Evers work, the more we realized he filled our needs impressively. … We thought it was time the spotlight left the front office and concentrated on the players.147 Apparently, the directors didn’t like the spotlight on the players for too long, however. Two weeks later, the club announced that Gabe Paul, at the time with the newly established Houston Colt .45s organization and previously the general manager of the Cincinnati Reds, was officially named as the new GM of the Indians. A dinner at Toots Shor’s in New York between Dolin and Paul, at which Paul indicated his dissatisfaction the Houston job and his interest in Cleveland, led to the surprise announcement.148 It marked the beginning of a relationship for Paul that would last for almost 20 years, interrupted only by a five-year hiatus with the Yankees in the 1970s. The experiment of not having a general manager ended quickly, not to be tried again.
Paul soon became a part-owner of the club. In fact, his 20 percent interest in the team made him appear to be the partner with the most shares in the club. Daley and a group of Clevelanders remained in control of 70 percent of the stock.149 Paul purchased his stock from two members who had played important roles with the club since it was purchased from Veeck back in 1949. Nate Dolin and George Medinger both decided to sell their interest in the club and retire from the board of directors, and Ignatius O’Shaughnessy, who came in with Daley in 1956, also decided to depart. Paul now owned 20 percent of the stock and two of his associates had another 10 percent, making him appear to be the largest shareholder. While Paul appeared on paper to be in control, Daley had actually recruited new investors with major ties to Cleveland, all of whom looked to him as the chairman, the man in charge. They included Thomas A. Burke, former mayor of Cleveland and former US senator, F.J. “Steve” O’Neill of Leaseway Transportation and Vernon Stouffer of Stouffer Corporation. The last two would come to play prominent roles in the future of the Tribe. Daley also recruited other important investors from local grocery and department stores, assuring that he would maintain his control over the club, with 70 percent of the stock owned by him and his allies.150
Unlike most of the other directors, Gabe Paul was not a Clevelander. He had grown up in Rochester, New York, and went to work at a young age for the local minor-league club. His boss in Rochester was Warren Giles, who in the 1930s joined Larry MacPhail in the effort to rebuild the Cincinnati Reds. When MacPhail was fired abruptly in 1937, Giles was named the new general manager of the Reds and hired Paul to be the team’s traveling secretary. After serving in World War II, Paul became a vice president of the team and when Giles was named the new president of the National League in 1951, Paul was promoted to general manager. He left to join Houston shortly before the Reds won the pennant in 1961, intrigued with the challenge of building a whole new team, but soon experienced major differences with majority owner Roy Hofheinz.151 Whether Paul had intended to join Cleveland before his dinner with Dolin is unknown, but the outcome of his meeting would lead to a long and generally frustrating relationship with a ballclub that languished during his tenure, never seriously competing for the pennant.
Part of the reason for that lack of success, at least during the period when Paul worked with Daley, was the board’s decision to limit investment in the basic building blocks of a baseball team. When Daley acquired control of the Indians in 1956, the club had nine minor-league teams under its control, either through direct ownership or by an affiliation agreement. After the 1963 season, there were only four minor-league teams under such control.152 The number of scouts working directly for the club was also cut back. Instead, Paul announced after the 1964 season that the team would become part of a scouting combine with four other clubs. He said the creation of a player draft in 1965 would reduce the need for scouts, but with losses from the previous three seasons and attendance between 550,000 and 725,000 for the previous four years, the scouting combine was an obvious means to save money.153 All four of those years, the team played under .500 baseball. Almost desperate, especially given the renewed threats to relocate the club, the organization undertook a more concerted effort to sell season tickets. At the same time, Paul traded two talented young players to bring back former star and idol Rocky Colavito to generate more fan interest.154 In the short run, those two efforts appeared to assure the team’s remaining in Cleveland.
That had not been the case during the 1963 season, however, when there were again serious threats to move the club to another city. This time, the interest by the directors was substantial enough that Daley and Paul were charged with visiting some of the prospective cities to report back on the opportunities. At least four cities, Atlanta, Dallas, Oakland, and Seattle, were expressing serious interest in the Tribe. One article even asserted that there were actually 10 to 12 interested cities. The lease for the stadium negotiated by Ellis Ryan was also expiring, which caused Mayor Ralph Locher to lead an all-out effort to save the team for Cleveland, bringing in the support of the two local newspapers and a number of civic groups. The investors in the team, however, had been faced with losses of well over $2 million over the previous four years and there had been numerous cash calls to keep the ballclub afloat.155 Of the interested cities, Seattle was by far the most aggressive in pursuing the Indians, its only weakness being the lack of a ballpark that could accommodate more than 25,000. Daley seemed supportive of the move, and he and Paul traveled to Seattle to learn more about the opportunity. After deliberating for over 4½ hours on the proposed move, the directors voted in favor of staying in Cleveland, agreeing to a new 10-year lease on Municipal Stadium.156 Once again, the threat of major-league baseball leaving Cleveland had been rejected. Especially with the 10-year lease, it looked as though the Indians were secure for at least another decade.
That security seemed to be cemented further by two events during the coming seasons. In the short run, what was more important was the investors’ satisfaction with the 1965 season. Good ticket sales, the return of Colavito and some other trades made by Paul during the offseason helped the team finish 12 games over .500 and bring in over 900,000 fans. While nowhere close to the attendance generated during the early 1950s, it was a considerable gain over the previous four years. Equally important was the sale of the team by William Daley in August 1966 to one of the other investors, Vernon Stouffer, for $8 million. All owners would be bought out for $300 a share, totaling $5.5 million along with the assumption of a bank loan for $2.5 million. The deal was also contingent on Gabe Paul remaining as general manager for the next 10 years.157 By the end of the 1966 season, especially with the Stouffer purchase, it clearly looked as though happier days were ahead for Cleveland. It was not the end for Daley, who provided the major capital for the expansion Seattle Pilots. When that ill-fated club was sold and moved to Milwaukee in 1970, his baseball involvement ended. He died in Cleveland a year later.
Vernon Stouffer, 1966-1972
There were plenty of reasons for high expectations with Stouffer’s purchase. The son of a very successful restaurateur in Cleveland, he inherited the business and grew it into a national chain of restaurants and hotels. He was also a pioneer in the frozen-food industry and some of the products he created are still available in grocery stores. He was also an innovator in microwavable food. Less than a year after buying the Indians, Stouffer’s merged with Litton Industries. At the time, Stouffer’s was valued at $21.5 million. It was certainly enough that he was able to afford to purchase 80 percent of the team with $5.5 million in cash and the ability to take out a short-term loan for the other $2.5 million.158 The club now had a wealthy owner whose company had merged with an even larger corporation. With strong ties to the city, where he had been born in August 1901, and with the apparent availability of almost unlimited cash, there was hope that money would quickly be invested to rebuild a badly weakened organization in both scouting and the minors.
Indeed, that was the direction initially taken by the new regime. Newly hired manager Joe Adcock, at 39 the youngest manager in the majors, announced that the club was hiring six new scouts, increasing that number to 25. Hoot Evers was named a special assistant to the president and Hank Peters, who would years later play a major role in rebuilding the Indians organization, was named vice president of player personnel and minor-league operations. A minor-league club was also added, raising that number to five, and the team re-entered the Florida Instructional League, after having dropped out under Daley. Stouffer, thanks to Hank Peters’ recommendation, also withdrew from the scouting combine. With some good initial player signings, it looked as if the new leadership was off to a great start and local interest grew accordingly.159
That early optimism soon proved unfounded. The merger with Litton Industries, a conglomerate that included the manufacturing of microwave ovens, seemed like a natural to Stouffer when he agreed to the merger, especially given his own innovations in microwavable frozen food. But Litton fell on hard times rapidly after the merger. Litton stock, which peaked at $120 near the end of 1967, lost almost half its value three months later. By 1971, the stock was trading at less than one-sixth of its peak. Making matters even worse, Stouffer had agreed in the merger deal to hold on to the Litton stock over a long period of time. The capital he supposedly had to rebuild a badly underinvested ball club was gone.160 While the decline was gradual, by 1970, four years into his ownership, the club was at least as badly underfunded as it had been during the Daley regime.
The lack of funding created other problems that caused Stouffer to get increasingly more involved in the day-to-day operations of the Indians. Adcock’s first year as manager was a bust, the team dropping well under.500 and finishing in eighth place. Alvin Dark was hired to replace him, having taken the Giants to a World Series in 1962. The result in 1968 was an immediate and surprising turnaround, with the Indians finishing in third place, their highest standing in almost a decade. While it was the last time the club finished in the first division until 1994, Stouffer decided it was the start of a bright future. He became enamored with Dark’s results, rewarding the new manager by adding to his responsibilities, at Gabe Paul’s expense, and even attempting to give him equity in the franchise. First, in January of 1969 Stouffer signed Dark to a five-year contract worth $300,000. Halfway through the 1969 season, the owner announced a major shift in duties. Effectively, Paul was no longer the general manager. Dark now had responsibility for player salaries and signings. He also gained more oversight of the farm system, an area Stouffer felt was not developing quickly enough. Paul was now to focus on policy rather that salary negotiations and deals. All of this was poorly communicated to Paul, Dark, and Peters, creating greater confusion and even tension between the three. Stouffer also gave more authority to his son, Jim, who knew little about baseball operations. All of this was done at a time when Dark’s team was deeply ensconced in last place, 5½ games behind the fifth-place team in the newly created AL East Division.161 It did not seem like the best time to be increasing the authority of a manager whose team was struggling.
When Stouffer took it a step further, by offering Dark an opportunity to purchase stock in the club, the backlash escalated. Major-league baseball, specifically acting Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, had problems with a manager directly purchasing stock in the club that employed him. Instead, Stouffer was forced to convert the stock to future options. Later, Dark discovered that managing players on a day-to-day basis, along with negotiating their salaries during the offseason, created a lot of friction between him and the players.162 It proved to be highly contradictory to criticize a player’s performance during salary negotiations and then attempt to lift his spirits during the season. With little money to offer increases, Dark was left with considerable player discontent. His problems increased in June of 1971 when Commissioner Kuhn announced an investigation into the team’s contracts with at least three players. The Indians had apparently agreed to pay them performance bonuses at the end of the season, an arrangement prohibited by the major leagues.163 Dark was fired at the end of July, but the bonus problems came to a head, with Ken Harrelson retiring and Sam McDowell, their ace pitcher, quitting the team, claiming to be a free agent. New contracts ultimately had to be negotiated with the affected players.164 In the aftermath of his dismissal, Dark realized that Stouffer’s experiment in giving the manager higher administrative duties had been a disaster for the club and for him.165 It had essentially doomed Dark to failure, if the crisis of Stouffer’s finances hadn’t done so already. In the aftermath, Paul resumed the normal duties of a general manager.
That resumption of duties didn’t change the club’s financial situation. By the end of 1970 the club’s minor-league teams had been reduced from five to four. The scouting staff was also cut back. Paul assured the directors that the 35 minor-league players released in the reduction were not major-league material. Both the trainer and the traveling secretary were terminated, their duties reassigned to one of the coaches. Jim Stouffer assured the public that the team was “trying to be more business-like. … Our theme is quality rather than quantity.” Quoting Paul, young Stouffer added “[Y]ou can cut the fat from a steak without detracting from the flavor.”166 Unfortunately for Indians fans, the flavor they tasted was that of a poor second-division team. Even worse were the departures of two talented members of the organization. Hoot Evers left before the end of the 1970 season to take a front-office job with Detroit. Close to a year later, Hank Peters departed to become president of the National Association, the minor leagues’ umbrella organization. In his parting, he let Stouffer know that if he planned to keep ownership of the Indians, he was doing the club serious damage by cutting back on the minors and on scouts.167 On the field and financially, Cleveland’s baseball team was clearly in a tailspin.
However, Vernon Stouffer felt he had found a way out of the doldrums as the season ended in 1971, coming in the form of an offer from New Orleans for the club to begin playing 30 games there upon completion of its Superdome in 1974. New Orleans investors would put $2.5 million into the club now in return for the 30-game agreement in the future. Both Stouffer and Paul jumped at the offer, especially since it would provide the club with a badly needed infusion of cash and avoid having to ask the other investors for more. It was definitely welcome news coming a week after the club’s Double-A affiliate, Jacksonville, severed relations with the Indians.168 The American League owners threw a monkeywrench into Stouffer’s plans, however, voting down the New Orleans deal pending a study of its consequences. Charlie Finley, owner of the Oakland A’s, led the opposition, stating, “If you move 30 games to New Orleans, you’re going to alienate the people in Cleveland and make a bad situation worse. I don’t want to come into Cleveland and not even be able to make carfare.”169 While not completely rejected outright, the team-sharing idea with a second city appeared to face a major uphill battle to be approved, although Stouffer was not inclined to back down on the proposal.
There was a more immediate hope for better prospects in Cleveland without losing 30 games a season. A local group of investors, supposedly led by former star Al Rosen, but actually headed by shipbuilding magnate George Steinbrenner, offered to purchase the Indians outright with cash for $8.6 million plus repayment of a $300,000 loan Stouffer had taken using the team’s television contract as collateral. The group also included Ted Bonda and F.L. “Steve” O’Neill, who already was a part-owner. Both would soon play prominent roles with the Indians. Steinbrenner and Jim Stouffer had attended Culver Military Academy together and secretly met to hammer out the agreement, with knowledge that the purchasing group could go no higher than what was offered. When the proposed deal was presented to Vernon Stouffer on a conference call, he rejected it, exclaiming to Rosen that “you and your friends are trying to steal my team. … I know I can get at least $10 million for it. … I’m not selling to you.”170 While there was speculation at the time that Stouffer was intoxicated when he rejected the offer, it is also likely that the New Orleans deal caused him to value the club at more than $10 million, especially since a Washington, D.C., group had offered over $12 million to purchase the club.171 With the rejection, it looked as though the only hope to salvage the situation was the New Orleans deal, even though it was viewed with considerable skepticism.
Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get more dismal for the financially strapped ballclub, they did. Russell Means, the director of the Cleveland American Indian Center, brought a lawsuit for $9 million against Stouffer seeking to stop the use of Chief Wahoo, the cartoon caricature of a Native American that symbolized the team. A Native American himself, Means asserted “If they’re going to call the team the Indians, at least they could use a proud image, not that grinning clown.”172 While the suit was eventually dismissed, it provided another headache for the struggling, underfinanced organization.
There was soon reason for hope, however. By early March of 1972 a new syndicate, headed by Nick Mileti, offered Stouffer $9.75 million to buy the club and keep it in Cleveland. While the initial offer was rejected by American League owners for being too short on cash and dependent upon a public sale of stock, which they prohibited at the time, Mileti placated the league by bringing in more partners to both increase the cash component and eliminate the need for the sale of stock.173 The deal was approved and transacted in late March. Mileti was already deeply involved with other local endeavors, owning both the NBA Cavaliers and the AHL Barons. He also owned the Cleveland Arena and a major radio station and had begun the process of building a new basketball arena between Cleveland and Akron. He also brought in other local investors, including Alva T. “Ted” Bonda and Howard Metzenbaum, founders of Airport Parking Corporation, which they had sold in 1966 for $30 million. Shortly after the purchase, Mileti announced that the deal with New Orleans was terminated.174 The Indians would continue to play all their home games in Cleveland. It certainly looked like renewed life for the club.
The Vernon Stouffer era had begun with high hopes that finally the team had an owner with sufficient money and a willingness to invest it in the ballclub. But the severe decline in the value of Litton Industries stock dashed those expectations. His tenure began with the intention of being an uninvolved owner, letting Gabe Paul and others run the day-to-day operations. He expressed full confidence in Paul, signing him to a 10-year contract. With Stouffer’s decline in fortunes, however, Stouffer became a micromanager, getting involved in many day-to-day decisions. He emasculated Paul and gave many of the general manager’s duties to Alvin Dark. He involved his son in the day-to-day operations as well, even though neither he nor his father had much baseball experience. It’s not surprising that the team had the worst collective performance and the worst showing in attendance of any postwar owner. Stouffer had diminished both the scouting staff and the minor-league operations, losing two experienced and capable front-office employees in the process. In doing so, he ensured that the near future would not produce any influx of young talent. While Stouffer had turned down lucrative deals that would have moved the team elsewhere, he received little credit for keeping the team in Cleveland. Stouffer died in July 1974, less than three years after the sale. Meanwhile, sportswriters and fans received Mileti with open arms and high expectations.175
Nick Mileti/Ted Bonda, 1972-77
Nick Mileti was certainly good at fanning the optimism that came with his acquisition of the Indians. At 41, he was young, similar to Bill Veeck when Veeck took control of the team almost 30 years earlier. Mileti was a native Clevelander, born in April 1931. He had long hair, fitting for the time but out of character with the older, more conservative set who preceded him. He was “charming, outlandish, and the consummate promoter.”176 An attorney, alumnus of Bowling Green and Ohio State law school, he had also built his sports empire on his own devices, using both his sales skills and creativity. Given his ownership of two other teams, the most powerful radio station in Cleveland, and the arena that housed both the Cavaliers and Barons, and his plans to build a new facility to house the basketball franchise, there was good reason to harbor high expectations for the baseball club. After his first season as chief owner and president, he announced the hiring of five new scouts, doubling the number employed when he acquired the Indians. He proclaimed: “The foundation of every successful organization is its scouting system and I’m confident we will have the type of men capable of piping new vitality in the Cleveland Indians in years to come.”177 Almost no one, including the sportswriters, was aware of the soft underbelly of his empire. Mileti was heavily in debt. While he owned 51 percent of the Indians, he had invested only $500,000 of his own money in the club. The construction of the new basketball arena, while ultimately accomplished, was entangled in numerous lawsuits. Worse, the cost of its construction would double from the original estimate.178 It would not take long before the banks that invested in the Indians deal realized that the main partner — Mileti — was like the emperor who had no clothes.
That realization came in early 1973 when it was announced that George Steinbrenner had purchased the New York Yankees and would include in his investment group both Gabe Paul and Steve O’Neill. Paul had actually helped broker the Yankees deal and already was having major conflicts with Mileti. Their Yankees investment automatically required that Paul and O’Neill divest their holdings in the Indians. Paul would also assume similar general-manager duties with Steinbrenner’s new club, eventually becoming its president. While Mileti was able to find other investors to replace Paul and O’Neill, he lost the confidence of the banks, which no longer thought he was financially able to run the baseball team.179 They quickly turned to minority partner Ted Bonda as the logical choice to head the partnership. Mileti slowly drifted to the back bench in overseeing the club. He remained president of the club for a short period, but Bonda, as chairman, was clearly in charge. No official announcement was made of the shift in control, but Mileti was bought out by the partnership in 1975.
In one way, Alva “Ted” Bonda seemed destined to be president of the Indians. He was named after Alva Bradley, who had owned the building in Cleveland where his father was employed.180 Given his namesake’s lack of success over 19 years, the name itself offered no guarantee that Bonda would have better fortunes. It wasn’t for lack of trying on his part, however. The most notorious of his club’s promotions came in June of 1974, known as “Ten cent beer night.” The promotion was not new for the Indians, having been done without incident earlier. This time, however, it was done for a game involving the Texas Rangers, and there had been bad blood between the teams when they had played in Arlington a week earlier. There were a couple of incidents earlier in the fateful game, but it wasn’t until the Indians rallied to tie the score in the bottom of the ninth that things unraveled, resulting in hundreds of inebriated fans taking the field, some armed with knives or parts of the stadium seats. The result was a forfeited loss for the Tribe. In the aftermath, it was agreed that any future promotion would limit the purchase of beer to two at a time, not the six that had been allowed that night. When it was done again in July, there was no turmoil.181 Along with Disco Demolition Night by the White Sox a few years later, the beer-night forfeit has lived on as a major failed promotion.
The more noble effort to promote the ballclub came after the 1974 season, when the team bought the contract of Frank Robinson and announced that he would become the new manager of the team. Robinson would be the major-leagues’ first black manager, with a $180,000 contract, reflecting that he would continue to play. At Opening Day in 1975 both Commissioner Bowie Kuhn and Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s widow, were there, Rachel wishing Jackie were still alive to witness it. It became even more notable when Robinson hit a home run in his first at-bat. Most importantly for Bonda, the promotion drew a crowd of over 56,000. He was clearly pleased with the positive publicity.182 Three years later, in 1977, however, when the club was well under.500 after two .500 seasons, Robinson became the first black manager to be fired. His dismissal stemmed in part from feuds with some of his players and, most particularly, differences with general manager Phil Seghi, who had replaced Gabe Paul. It had been Bonda, not Seghi, who had suggested and pushed to hire Robinson in the first place, making the termination that much easier for the general manager.
Bonda’s efforts at promotion, including Robinson, did pay some dividends at the gate. In 1974, his first full year of running the club, attendance almost doubled from the previous year. Promotions such as 10 cent Beer Night were certainly helpful, but so too was a team that remained in contention until mid-August. That improvement didn’t stop Bonda from replacing the manager with Robinson. While the team improved in the win column the next two years, attendance declined, dropping by over 200,000 in 1977 from each of the three seasons earlier. Between 1972 and 1977, the club had lost over $5 million but Bonda had been able to maintain solvency and the flow of cash by bringing in other partners.183 While operations could be maintained, no improvements were made in scouting or the minors. The club still operated with only nine scouts and four minor-league teams.184 Bonda was frequently approached by other major cities seeking a major-league team, but consistently resisted their offers, largely because of his ability to bring in new cash to keep the operation afloat. Yet he was actively looking to sell the club, likely stemming from pressure by some of his partners, who were growing impatient with the lack of improvement in the team as well as the lack of ability to show a profit. As a loyal native of Cleveland, Bonda was actively seeking someone who would commit to keeping the team in the city.
The most obvious choice, and one Bonda courted extensively, was Edward J. DeBartolo, a Youngstown, Ohio, native who had made his fortune in shopping malls. Art Modell, owner of the NFL Cleveland Browns, introduced the two men, having known and worked with DeBartolo’s son, who owned the San Francisco 49ers. There was certainly strong interest, enough to produce an offer for 80 percent of the club for $10 million in 1977. The only stumbling block to completion of the deal came from the American League owners and the commissioner. Both Bowie Kuhn and a majority of the owners blocked the deal, concerned about DeBartolo’s ownership of racetracks in three states. There was also a suggestion that DeBartolo had ties to organized crime, although Kuhn denied that such rumors had anything to do with the rejection. New York real-estate tycoon Donald Trump also expressed an interest in buying the Indians and Bonda even flew to New York to meet with him. Bonda ultimately rejected Trump as a legitimate buyer since he would not provide a commitment that the club would permanently remain in Cleveland. In fact, Bonda suspected Trump would move the team to New Jersey to compete directly with the Yankees and Mets.185 When the 1977 season ended, Bonda was still actively looking for a buyer.
He would find one closer to home than either Trump or DeBartolo. F.J. “Steve” O’Neill, who had been a longtime investor in the ballclub until he joined Steinbrenner and Paul in the Yankees partnership, was persuaded to return to his hometown as the primary owner of the Indians. Art Modell was responsible for bringing O’Neill and Bonda together and even helping to broker the deal. O’Neill and his brothers were multimillionaires from their Cleveland-based trucking business and his primary motivation for buying the club was to keep the team in Cleveland. At 78, it was unlikely he harbored any thoughts of a short turnaround. Indeed, he said, “[W]hen I saw the sad situation with the team here, I wanted to help. It’s that simple.”186 It’s unclear whether he persuaded Paul to join him or vice-versa, although O’Neill’s comment suggested that he was the driving force behind the deal. In any case, O’Neill became the majority owner. Paul was a minor investor, as were Bonda and the Blossom brothers, who were major Cleveland philanthropists. All had been part of the Mileti partnership. The total value of the transaction was $11 million, $6 million in cash and $5 million covering the assumption of debts incurred by the Bonda group. Phil Seghi would become a vice president and have “additional authority” on player personnel, while Paul would assume the position of president, with a promise to beef up the team’s scouting. Once again there seemed to be reason in Cleveland to think favorably about the Indians’ future, if for no other reason than that the transaction had likely saved the club from bankruptcy, at least for the short term.187
Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium in the late 1980s. (BALLPARKS OF BASEBALL)
F.J. “Steve” O’Neill and his estate, 1978-1986
It was doubly ironic that Art Modell had brokered a deal with Steve O’Neill meant to keep the Indians in Cleveland. Perhaps the greatest irony was that less than two decades later Modell would move the beloved and popular football Browns out of Cleveland. A somewhat smaller irony, but more rapid in its development, was the battle that developed between Modell and O’Neill over the contract to lease Municipal Stadium. It took five years after O’Neill had purchased the team for the conflict to come to a head, but as the stadium lease was about to expire in 1983, the Tribe owner was convinced Modell had been ripping off his club. Modell had gained control over Municipal Stadium in a deal he made with the city 10 years earlier. After threatening a move to the suburbs, Modell agreed to sign a 25-year lease. He invested over $10 million in improvements, including 108 luxury loges. In return, he reached agreement with the city on rather favorable rent payments and then entered into a 10-year contract with the Indians while Mileti was still in charge during the summer of 1973. Between fees paid for the rental of the luxury loges, concessions, advertising, and parking, O’Neill believed his club had lost out on almost $3 million a year in revenue from those services. At the same time, his club, since the acquisition, was facing almost $20 million in losses. While O’Neill had deep pockets, both through his investments and his shares in the company he owned with his brothers, the cost of the stadium lease nagged at him. His contention put in motion events that eventually led to a new ballpark in Cleveland.188
Steve O’Neill was another owner who was native to Cleveland, born in September 1899. A Notre Dame graduate, he and his brothers had built Leaseway into one of the nation’s most profitable trucking operations.189 While O’Neill had deep pockets, it was the annual losses of the club that created his frustration. After his first season of ownership, the team was estimated to have lost almost $2 million. While fans may have been upbeat about the change at the top, they didn’t show it at the gate. Attendance at the stadium dropped by 100,000 in 1978 and the investment group had to cover the losses.190 Those losses would continue. The organization was in the red an estimated $1.2 million in 1979, even as attendance surpassed a million.191 Another million passed through the turnstiles a year later, but even then the club lost money. That was only compounded in 1981 when the players went on strike during the season and drove attendance down by over 350,000. Even with baseball back to normal over the following two seasons, the Indians still lost almost another $8 million.192 Deep pockets or not, O’Neill was not used to losing that kind of money and thought the lease with Modell provided a good avenue to help lower his costs and improve his revenue stream over the long run.
In the short run, however, there continued to be offers to purchase the club, some that would have moved the team, others that promised to keep them in Cleveland. The first serious offer came from Detroit resident and theater magnate James Nederlander and Los Angeles attorney Neil Papiano. With a commitment to keep the club in Cleveland, they agreed in principle to purchase 58 percent of the organization for $8.7 million, along with debt assumption of $2.27 million. Both O’Neill and Paul would maintain minority interests and the latter would remain president. The deal had progressed far enough that Nederlander supported Paul’s effort to sign Dave Winfield with the promise to the player of “a multimillion-dollar Hollywood movie contract and the possibility of an acting career on the legitimate stage”and further “offered to produce benefit shows for the David Winfield Foundation for underprivileged children.” Winfield rejected the offer and soon after O’Neill rejected the deal, objecting to his group having to pay $500,000 of the debt.193 Both potential owners were surprised that O’Neill refused to accept their offer but decided bow out. Near the end of the 1982 season, Edward D. DeBartolo again emerged as a buyer, offering $12 million for 80 percent of the club, along with assumption of $4 million of the debt. Once again, his race-track interests, coupled with the AL owners’ rejection of an earlier attempt to purchase the White Sox, squelched the offer before it was presented to the league for approval.194 Two serious offers emerged after the next season, both coming shortly after the sudden death of Steve O’Neill. A wealthy Denver man offered $32 million for the club outright, but only if the team would move to Denver.195 Weeks later, Donald Trump resurfaced as a bidder, supposedly offering $30 million for the club, but providing a commitment of only five years to keep the team in Cleveland. It was rumored that he ultimately intended to move the club to the Meadowlands in New Jersey. His offer was also viewed with skepticism given Trump’s casino interests, with the expectation that the AL owners would reject the deal.196 In the aftermath of O’Neill’s death, even with the many rejections, it seemed even more likely that the club would be sold.
The most serious offer to buy the Indians once the club was transferred to O’Neill’s estate came from New York attorney David LeFevre during the 1984 season. LeFevre, the grandson of Cleveland industrialist Cyrus Eaton, offered $16 million to purchase O’Neill’s 53 percent interest and another $14 million to buy out the other interests. Baseball executive Tal Smith joined LeFevre in the venture, with the intention of replacing Paul as president. LeFevre, however, quickly encountered two major stumbling blocks. The first was the Municipal Stadium rental deal with Modell, an agreement LeFevre seemingly opposed even more strongly than had O’Neill. The second involved snags in concluding the deal. If he merely bought O’Neill’s interests, LeFevre would be unable to take advantage of the ability to depreciate player value over five years. If he offered to purchase all of the other interests, as he seemed intent to do, he had, by Ohio law, to gain unanimous approval of all investors, including the 55 partners who held limited-liability interests. He came close to pulling it off. Three of the limited investors rejected his offer, however, causing LeFevre to back off and buy only the 5 percent of the stock owned by Gabe Paul, who was preparing to retire.197 While an outright purchase of the club seemed to be the most attractive, the requirement to obtain 100 percent of the investors was a huge inhibitor for LeFevre. The estate of Steve O’Neill appeared to be left with a difficult challenge of trying to keep the club in Cleveland on the one hand and of dealing with Art Modell’s stadium arrangement on the other.
The conflict over the lease of Municipal Stadium remained an albatross for both sides, with neither showing much desire to budge. The controversy had already extracted a high price on both sides. Art Modell suffered a massive heart attack in the summer of 1983, caused in part by the stresses over the lease and the suit and countersuits it had produced. Things were not much better on the side of the Indians’ board. Ted Bonda, opposing O’Neill, led an effort to make peace with Modell, with only minor changes made to the agreement. O’Neill responded by packing the board with more investors who supported his cause. Bonda found himself even more removed from the other board members. The stress was ultimately even more tragic for O’Neill. In October, on the morning of the funeral of his younger brother, Steve O’Neill’s heart gave out. The ballclub that had been losing money every year since he bought it in 1977 was now left in the hands of his estate with an ownership structure that made any effort to sell it a major challenge.198 Making matters worse, in May of 1984 the voters of Cleveland rejected a property-tax increase that would have enabled construction of a $150 million domed stadium downtown, voting it down by 2 to 1.199 The club seemed destined to remain stuck in an antiquated stadium with an unfavorable lease, along with a poor performing team that offered little attraction to the fans.
Not surprisingly, the sportswriters and Indian fans were well aware of the dilemma and willing to vent their frustrations, largely directed at Gabe Paul and Phil Seghi. Led by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the morning newspaper, and a local radio station, a concerted effort was begun in 1983 to clean house in the executive office. Much of the campaign was aimed at Paul and Seghi, both of whom had long been associated with the underperforming team. A Voice of the Fan column in The Sporting News in August of that year offered, “The solution to the myriad of problems of the Cleveland Indians is to put Gabe Paul and Phil Seghi on waivers for the purpose of giving them their unconditional release.” Another column the next summer added, “With the track record these two have compiled, Cleveland fans can count on many more years with a last-place dynasty.”200 The frustration was understandable. Since Paul had returned in 1978 and Seghi’s duties were expanded, the team had finished in last place or next to last every season, and the most visible demonstration was at the turnstiles, where only 750,000 fans a year on average were coming to see the games. Unknown to the sportswriters and fans, though, was the recognition by Patrick O’Neill, the nephew left in charge of the estate after Steve’s death, that major changes would have to be made to the front office.
The initial catalyst for those changes was the younger O’Neill’s decision to hire Peter Bavasi to replace Gabe Paul as president of the Indians. Not only was Bavasi an experienced baseball operator for someone still in his 30s, but he had also been raised in a baseball family. His father, Buzzie, had been general manager of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers, as well as president of the Padres and Angels. The younger Bavasi had worked in the Dodgers and Padres organizations and later was named president of the expansion Toronto Blue Jays before being forced out in a power play. Immediately before taking the Cleveland job, he had been a consultant for Tampa-St. Petersburg and Indianapolis in their efforts to attract a major-league franchise. For that reason, many Cleveland sportswriters thought Bavasi had been hired to relocate the club.201 Whether that had been his intent or had even been discussed with Pat O’Neill, it didn’t happen during his two-plus years with the Tribe. Instead, he began a turnaround process that laid the foundation for the Jacobs brothers when they acquired the franchise.
Perhaps Bavasi’s largest contribution to the turnaround was his effort to modernize the organization to reflect the growing complexity of the sport. He divided the operation into four components, baseball operations, revenue production, finance, and administration. Initially, Seghi was put in charge of baseball operations. Bavasi announced that he would focus on the farm system as the best way to build the franchise and denied rumors that the club would move.202 Two months later, to demonstrate his seriousness about changing the direction and culture of the club, he fired Seghi and minor-league director Bob Quinn, replacing them with baseball veterans Dan O’Brien and Joe Klein. By doing so, he hoped to convince Tribe fans that a brighter future was on the way.203 Bavasi summed up his challenges in attempting to improve the club’s image and prospects, stating that it’s “like taking over a restaurant with a “D” rating from the health department.”204 For good measure, he even achieved a modest improvement in the stadium contract and, in doing so, made peace with Art Modell.205 Once again, it certainly appeared to be a new era in Cleveland.
That new start was most evident in Bavasi’s second year of running the club. While the 1986 team still finished in fifth place, it was only 11½ games out of first place, the closest finish for the team in almost 30 years. The club drew almost 1.5 million fans to Municipal Stadium, within 20,000 of the attendance level reached by the last truly competitive team, in 1959. The team also had its best won-lost percentage since 1968. At least part of the team’s success — along with the fan support — was attributed to Bavasi’s own gung-ho attitude. As he explained to The Sporting News: “The players are involved in what we’re trying to do. We need a rah-rah approach and the players who didn’t feel that way were sent packing.”206 The club even turned a small profit from the season, something that had not happened since O’Neill purchased them almost nine years before.207 Once again, Tribe fans were finding reason to be hopeful.
For the first time in decades, there was substance behind the optimism for better baseball in Cleveland, although Peter Bavasi would not be a part of the resurgence. The O’Neill estate finally found a local buyer who could win support of all the limited partners and thus take advantage of player depreciation. The new buyers of the Indians were Richard E. and David H. Jacobs, brothers from the Cleveland area. Born in Akron, Ohio, David in May 1921, Dick in June 1925, they moved to Cleveland and started the real-estate development business together after both finished college at Indiana. Together with a third partner, they had run a firm that owned more than 40 shopping malls in 14 states, including some in greater Cleveland. The purchase price was $35.5 million, with the two brothers buying out the other owners and assuming all debts of the organization. The brothers put up $18 million of their own money, $12 million in borrowed capital and $2.5 million in subordinated debentures. The other $3 million was a loan from the Steve O’Neill estate.208 Dick Jacobs, who quickly emerged as both the spokesman and person most involved with the club said, “I look at it as a civic responsibility but also as a way to have a little fun. … I think we can make some money, too.” He added, “We have a management team in place and we are comfortable with their decisions. My brother and I will not be on the front lines.” As for Bavasi, Jacobs said in December 1986, “He is very important part of the team, one of the assets of this club.”209 He was not to be a long-term asset, however. A month later Bavasi announced his resignation to become president of Telerate Sports, departing the club by the end of March.210 He didn’t give his reasons for leaving, whether it was the new opportunity or because his authority in running the club might be limited. Regardless of his reasons and his short-term success, many were not disappointed with Bavasi’s departure. He had raised ticket prices and closed the bleachers for night games. He also disagreed with Gabe Paul’s claim that Cleveland was a “sleeping giant,” keeping open the possibility of a move. In many ways, he was not regarded as being considerate of the fan.211 His departure opened the door for the Jacobs brothers to build their own management team.
In many ways, the Jacobs brothers’ purchase would mark an important turning point for the Indians, but at least some of that credit belongs to Steve O’Neill and his nephew Patrick. In spite of continuous losses until the last season, the family had accomplished its most important goal, keeping the Indians in Cleveland. In spite of numerous rumors, the Tribe was still around. The fight O’Neill picked with Modell had serious repercussions for both men, fatal for the 83-year-old O’Neill. At the same time, it laid the groundwork for a new ballpark in Cleveland. It convinced many, most importantly, the Jacob brothers, that Municipal Stadium was no longer adequate to house a baseball team. In particular, the dispute convinced both old and new owners that sharing a stadium with the Browns would not work. The groundwork was laid for a new ballpark, although there would still be a long road ahead. While the years under O’Neill still provided many frustrations for Indians fans, Bavasi generated some renewed interest that would remain, even as the team continued to struggle while undertaking the rebuilding effort led by the Jacobses. Notably, attendance would never again fall below a million fans. Overall, the O’Neill group did not have different results on the field or at the gate than had the previous three owner groups, but unlike their predecessors, they put in motion the process that would lead to future success.
Richard and David Jacobs, 1987-1999
Many Indians followers would consider the era of Jacobs ownership the most successful period in the history of the club. While the team never won a World Series during their tenure, attendance initially remained stable, always over a million fans, and ultimately grew substantially when the club became competitive. For six straight years, the team played before more than 3 million fans, at the time breaking the record for consecutive sellout games at 455. The team won its division five years in a row, from 1995 through 1999, and made it to the World Series twice. The club had never come close to achieving that level of success before Dick Jacobs bought the club. Part of what contributed to the success was the move to a new ballpark in 1994, which corresponded with the first year the club had become seriously competitive since 1959. In fact, the Jacobses’ first years owning the ballclub were largely focused on two things: Constructing a stadium built only for baseball, and remaking the team’s roster. Both efforts were to produce impressive results.
It took almost a year to replace Bavasi at the top of the organization, but when Dick Jacobs, who quickly became the more involved of the brothers, persuaded Hank Peters to rejoin the Indians, they found the person well suited to rebuild the club. Peters had a long history in baseball, working in scouting for the St. Louis Browns and then joining the Athletics as director of scouting and the minor-league system. In that position, he helped lay the groundwork for the successful A’s of the 1970s. He joined the Indians in 1966 as director of player personnel and assistant general manager, but left when it became clear Vernon Stouffer could not sustain the commitment to talent development. He was named general manager of the Baltimore Orioles in 1975 and helped produce two pennant-winning clubs and a World Series championship in 1983. When the team faltered for two years in 1986 and 1987, he was fired by owner Edward Bennett Williams. A month later, in November 1987, Jacobs persuaded Peters to rejoin the Indians.212 One sportswriter called the hiring “a major step toward respectability.”213 Over the long run, that would prove to be a major underestimation of what would be accomplished.
For the next four years, Peters focused on strengthening both the scouting and the minor-league organization, areas that had been profoundly neglected for decades. The results would not become evident by the time Peters retired in 1991, but he had instituted a strategy that would produce results both on the field and at the box office, and effect positive financial results. The number of scouts was increased from 18 to 29 by the time Peters retired and the number of minor-league clubs was raised from four to six. Peters also noted that the club had been woefully negligent in developing Latin American talent, so he oversaw establishment of a baseball school in the talent-rich Dominican Republic.214 He also developed a plan to trade higher-paid players heading toward free agency in return for younger talent. While not all of his trades were successful, some provided the nucleus that would become the division-winning clubs of the late 1990s.215 Much of the talent with those clubs was either traded for or signed while Peters was in charge. When he retired for good in 1991, the club was still a second-division team, finishing the 1991 season with a club record 105 losses. By then, the talent that had been developed, along with the general manager and manager, both of whom he hired, were in place to carry out Peters’ long-term vision.
Perhaps the most instrumental part of that vision was general manager John Hart, who had worked under Peters in Baltimore and was recruited by him to join the Indians. Hart had been the third-base coach for the Orioles, but Peters saw his potential better utilized in the front office. Jacobs did not immediately replace Peters with Hart, however. Instead, he hired Rick Bay, athletic director at the University of Minnesota, to be the new president of the club. Hart was promoted to general manager and would be responsible for all decisions involving player personnel.2116 Both would begin their duties at the start of 1992. Bay did not last long, departing less than a year later, largely over differences with Jacobs. Upon his departure, Hart was named executive vice president of baseball and Dennis Lehman executive vice president of business, which included marketing, sales, stadium operations, media relations, and promotions.217 Hart had already adopted the Peters philosophy of building the scouting and minor-league system, but took it a step further by signing the best of the young talent to long-term contracts, thus avoiding arbitration and, in some cases, postponing free agency. Hart explained: “We came to the conclusion a while ago that this is the only way a small-market club like ours can survive. It’s basically our solution to a very bad system, because arbitration is like a gun at a team’s head.”218 While the team finished in sixth place in 1993, it drew over 2 million fans for only the third time, thanks in large part to a marketing campaign built around saying farewell to Municipal Stadium. As the Indians prepared to move into a brand-new ballpark, the renewed interest in the city was best reflected in The Sporting News: “General Manager John Hart and the Jacobs ownership have built a foundation of exciting young talent that seems ready to contend. The city’s downtown has undergone a revival that will be crowned this spring with the opening of a new stadium. As a result, Cleveland is no longer a place to avoid.”219 Hart had even managed to gain Jacobs’ approval to sign free agents, announcing contracts with three significant veterans before the 1994 season began.220 It certainly appeared that Hart was moving closer to bringing Peters’ vision to full fruition.
While Hart had done much to generate new excitement in Cleveland, much of it also revolved around the anticipation of a brand-new ballpark. The park, to be called Jacobs Field after the owner bought the naming rights, had been on the wish list of local officials as far back as when Vernon Stouffer proposed a domed stadium.221 Such a ballpark was even brought to a referendum in 1984, but its funding, a property tax, had been rejected resoundingly. In the aftermath, numerous politicians, including the governor of Ohio, mayor of Cleveland, and Cuyahoga County Commissioners, helped put together a new effort, known as the Gateway Project. Land was acquired just south of the downtown center where an open market had existed since the 1850s. Originally, a domed stadium had been envisioned to accommodate baseball, football, and basketball. Jacobs, however, well aware of the previous battles with Art Modell, argued convincingly for an outdoor, baseball-only ballpark. A separate arena would be built for the Cavaliers and a football stadium was offered to Modell as part of the project. He opted to keep the Browns in Municipal Stadium. This time, a 15-year sin tax on tobacco and alcohol would be proposed rather than an increase in the property tax, and the vote would encompass all of Cuyahoga County, including the suburbs, not just city residents. Baseball Commissioner Fay Vincent added some immediacy to the issue, stating that if a new ballpark did not pass, he would give Jacobs permission to pursue moving the team.222 The matter was placed on the ballot in May of 1990 during the Ohio primary, which would usually generate a lower turnout. In this case, however, almost 50 percent of the eligible voters went to the polls and approved the proposal by a slim 51 percent to 49 percent. Construction started a year later with the intent of having the park ready for Opening Day of 1994.223 Between the rebuilding of the team and the opening of the new ballpark, the 1994 season was now anticipated with keen interest.
Getting to that point came with a price, however. For the first five years they owned the club, the Jacobs brothers were estimated to have lost $14 million, even though by that time they also had the lowest payroll in the majors — $8.1 million.224 To cut costs further, they began negotiating a new spring-training agreement to move from Arizona to Florida. They first reached a deal with the city of Homestead, Florida, only to have that agreement wiped out by a major hurricane. They then reached a temporary arrangement with Winter Haven for a year as they continued to explore other options. All seemed to work out well with the new location until three of the players were involved in a tragic boating accident that killed two of them and badly injured the third. It was one of the worst tragedies ever incurred by a major-league baseball team.225 The accident likely affected the team’s performance in 1993, as the club finished in sixth place out of seven. A year later, however, with a new ballpark as well as the Indians now playing in the five-team Central Division, the poor results of the previous year did not dampen the anticipation.
Without question, the 1994 season lived up to expectations until it ended abruptly with the players strike in August. At that point, the Indians were one game out of first in the Central Division and would have qualified for the newly created wild-card spot. While the attendance for the season did not quite match that of the year before, it would have soared past the 2 million mark had the season been completed. When baseball resumed in 1995, the club drew over 2.8 million fans, even though only 144 games were played, again due to the strike. From then through 2001, the club drew over 3 million each year, which certainly equated to significant profits for the organization, estimated at over $60 million between 1994 and 1998.226 At the same time, the club was also incurring a rapid increase in payroll, from $18 million in 1993 to $61 million in 1997. That increase, with no foreseeable end in sight, was likely what made Jacobs decide first to sell public stock in the club and then, a year and a half later, to put the club on the market.227
When Nick Mileti purchased the Indians in 1972, he had been prohibited from selling public stock in the club, but that ruling had been changed by Major League Baseball by 1998. Jacobs saw the public sale of stock as a means of raising cash to be used to support the rapid increase in player salaries. On June 3, 1998, the club did an initial public offering of 4 million shares of stock for $15 a share, thus raising $60 million in cash that could be used to help fund operations. Many investment analysts recommended against the purchase, but the local enthusiasm over the club’s success outweighed any skepticism over the potential return. In structuring the deal, Jacobs relinquished none of his control over the team, as the stock granted no power to the shareholders. While the team continued to perform well, winning the Central Division in both seasons, the stock actually dropped in value, at one point reaching a low of $6. That changed, however, when Jacobs decided to sell the team after the 1999 season, in what was at the time a record price for a major-league team. The deal included a buyback of all the outstanding shares of stock, at a price of $22.61. Any original investors who had held on to their stock would thus receive a return of over 50 percent for an 18-month investment, by most standards a very good return.228 Regardless of how the stock performed during those 18 months, Jacobs had the cash infusion that would help the team remain competitive as salaries escalated. Further, when the team was sold, the outside shareholders were certainly pleased with the return.
Escalating player salaries were also a major reason why Jacobs decided to sell the club in 1999. He had never intended to pass the team on to the next generation, nor had he planned to remain as owner for the rest of his life. He reached an agreement with another local man, Larry Dolan, who purchased the club for $320 million, including buying back the outstanding stock. That price was even higher than what Fox Entertainment had paid for the Dodgers a year earlier. In effect, Jacobs was selling the club for almost 10 times what he had paid for it 13 years before and was providing a decent return for his shareholders as well. Dolan, a Cleveland area lawyer, was utilizing his personal assets and four family trusts to finance the deal. Dolan had been jilted three times before, in attempts to buy the Cleveland Browns and the Cincinnati Reds, along with an earlier offer for the Indians. This time, Dolan had a deal. A lifelong fan of the Indians, he was elated, saying, “I don’t want one World Series for the Indians, I want a string of them. I want to reach the Holy Grail.” He also emphasized that his brother Charles, owner of Cablevision, a major East Coast cable company, along with Madison Square Garden and two sports teams, was not a part of the deal in any way.229 While Dolan as of 2017 had yet to achieve his goal of a World Series championship for his hometown, he was close to being the longest continuous owner of the club.
The pending sale in 1999 did result in one major loss for the team. Manager Mike Hargrove, who had been the skipper since midseason in 1991, was fired by John Hart, even though the team had once again won its division. For some time, Hart had not been convinced of Hargrove’s skills as a manager. Losing in the first round of the playoffs in 1999, along with the departure of Jacobs, who had talked Hart out of terminating Hargrove earlier, was enough to result in the firing.230 Lou Boudreau is listed as the Tribe’s most successful manager, as he surpasses Hargrove in total wins for Indian teams by seven games. However, only Al Lopez and Terry Francona, of those who have skippered the team for at least four seasons, have produced better won-lost percentages than has Hargrove. Along with Jacobs, Peters, and Hart, Hargrove, too, deserves some of the credit for the golden era of the late 1990s.
Dick Jacobs stepped aside from baseball after the deal with Dolan was consummated, although his surname remained attached to the ballpark until the naming rights expired in 2008. Jacobs died a year later, in June. His legacy remains. Many fans still call the ballpark Jacobs Field. Many also look back on his tenure as the golden era for the Indians, even though the team never won a World Series. Its dominance of the Central Division during his tenure is matched by only the Atlanta Braves in the NL East. Moreover, only one team, organization, the Boston Red Sox, has surpassed the Indians in consecutive sellouts. Even the teams from the early to mid-1950s failed to match the continuous success both on the field and at the gate. Upon taking control of the club, Dick Jacobs had developed a long-term strategy, which was carried out and strengthened by both Hank Peters and John Hart. Those efforts resulted in a highly successful franchise by any standard. While the team has had some degree of success since, Jacobs’ tenure as owner would prove to be a tough act to follow.
Larry Dolan, 2000-present
The challenge facing Larry Dolan was in many ways insurmountable. Not only had Dolan paid the highest price at the time for the franchise, but also the upside was limited at best. The club was in the midst of consecutive sellouts, meaning there was no room for growth other than to raise ticket and concession prices. The team had just won five straight Central Division titles, meaning there was no place to go further in making the team more successful except by winning a World Series. Further, the payroll was escalating dramatically, largely driven by the decision to sign free agents to remain competitive, in part to replace players who had signed with other teams. It was a habit the club had avoided like the plague in the early years of Dick Jacobs, but changed when the team finally opened the new ballpark and was competitive enough to contest in their new division and lucrative enough to afford to do so.
When Dolan, another Cleveland area native born in February 1931 in suburban Cleveland Heights, took control before the 2000 season, he also inherited John Hart as president and general manager. While Hart had subscribed fully to the model for rebuilding designed by Hank Peters and Dick Jacobs, the success of the last five years had revamped his approach. As the club needed to replace players who went elsewhere through free agency and as the team drew continuous sellouts, the mode of operation changed. Without any specific announcement, the focus was now on signing free agents or trading for established players by utilizing the talent generated in the minors. The new process remained profitable for Jacobs, but produced a continuously escalating payroll that by 2001 was the third highest among the 30 clubs. It also meant that in his first two years of owning the Indians, Dolan had to pay over $25 million in luxury taxes, a large component of a $40 million loss incurred in those initial two years.231 Further, after the team dropped to second place in 2000, the 455-game sellout streak came to an end. Attendance still remained above 3 million for the next year, but season-ticket as well as loge sales were both declining significantly. John Hart had been rumored for years to be heading elsewhere, to undertake new challenges, and he officially left for the Texas Rangers in November of 2001.232 Whether Larry and Pat Dolan, Larry’s son, who got involved in club operations and ultimately became its chairman, were disappointed to see him depart, there is no question that they set out to institute major changes upon his departure.
While the changes were dramatic, especially in the reduction of payroll, the front office was hardly affected. Hart had been grooming his successor, Mark Shapiro, to be his replacement and he was already designated to do so before the start of the 2001 season. At the same time, it was announced early that the club would start cutting payroll at the end of the season.233It was difficult enough to follow in the shoes of a general manager who had generated the results Hart had, but it became especially challenging when Shapiro’s main mission was not to pay out huge salaries to improve the team but rather to slash payroll by $20 million. As Shapiro put it, “We’re out of the business of collecting talent and in the business of building a team.”234 The goal was reached over the next two years, when the team payroll was reduced by over 65 percent, dropping to $45 million.235 Not surprisingly, the team also fell well below .500 in each of the next two seasons and attendance was also fell to half of what it had been in the glory years. As of 2017, attendance has not reached 3 million since 2001 and has hit the 2 million mark only three times since 2002. It was indeed a new era for Cleveland baseball, one to which the fans did not react well.
However, the Dolans did have a longer-term plan and, with the limitation of tight budget constraints established, were more than willing to empower Shapiro to execute it. The emphasis was again on rebuilding the minor-league organization and the scouting system. Along with that strategy, there was also an emphasis on trading higher-paid talent for young minor-league prospects, again similar to the early years under Jacobs. Many of those deals proved to be successful, in large part because the Dolans increased the investment in scouting and the minors by 50 percent from 1999 to 2002. In fact, between 2002 and 2005 they were one of the top three clubs in funding those operations.236 This was a dramatic change from the last years under Jacobs and Hart when the focus was much more on winning today rather than building the organization for the tomorrow.237 The efforts actually paid some fairly quick dividends. The team just missed a wild-card slot in 2005 and won the Central Division in 2007, just missing a World Series appearance that season after losing the AL Championship Series to the Red Sox in seven games.
The success that year and expectations for the subsequent season stimulated fan interest even more. Attendance exceeded 2 million in 2007 and 2008. However, a combination of free agency for some of the top players, coupled with injuries and slower results in player development, kept the team below .500 for the next four years. In spite of slower than hoped-for achievements, the club stuck to the game plan developed when Shapiro became general manager. Top players heading into their free-agent year were traded for young, emerging talent. Resources continued to be committed to scouting and the minors. Those plans would again prove to pay dividends.
By that time, Shapiro had been promoted to president of baseball operations and Christopher Antonelli, who had joined the Indians organization in 1999, stepped into his slot as general manager. Perhaps one of the most impressive aspects of the Dolan ownership has been the continuity in top management. Shapiro had been groomed to replace Hart in 2001 and Antonelli had been similarly groomed to replace Shapiro when he moved up the organizational ladder in 2010. When Shapiro left in 2015 to assume a similar position with Toronto, Antonelli became president and Michael Chernoff, who joined the club as an intern right out of college in 2003, was promoted to general manager.238 It is clear that the Dolans have been strong supporters of developing front-office management from within the organization and place a high premium on maintaining a level of stability at the top. They have also had good results in maintaining most of their staff, even when some have been offered positions elsewhere. Perhaps that is because they have also believed in staying out of the baseball side of the organization, letting their top management make the decisions on how to build the club. They have set guidelines, especially in the form of tight budgets, which in turn shape the decisions, and especially the limitations of the baseball side of the business, but within those guidelines, Shapiro, Antonelli, and Chenoff have been provided considerable latitude. As the senior vice president of finance said a decade ago, “The goal is not to overspend in a manner that puts the franchise at risk.” When the team has made a profit, the Dolans have plowed it right back into the ballclub.239 While that philosophy has caused many Cleveland fans to consider the Dolans to be cheap, it has also maintained constancy at the top level of the organization.
The club seemed to reach a significant turning point in 2012, brought about by an infusion of outside money as well as by the hiring of an experienced, well-regarded field manager. The money came from two separate deals, the sale of the regional sports network the Dolans had established in 2006 to carry all Indians games, and a new contract with Major League Baseball, to carry all of the games on the MLB subscription package. The sale of the regional network to Fox Sports Ohio netted the Dolans $230 million for the purchase, along with a 10-year contract at $40 million a year to carry all the games exclusively in the region. The new carriage agreement netted the club $7 million a year over what it had been paid by the Dolan-owned network. The MLB agreement to carry all Indians games, along with those of the other 29 teams, on a subscription TV package, was estimated to provide the club with another $25 million a year.240 The infusion of cash into the organization enabled the baseball side of the business to sign some major free agents for the first time in over a decade.
Just before the two deals were announced, the Tribe had hired a new manager, Terry Francona. Francona had already had spent 12 years as a big-league manager, four with Philadelphia and eight with Boston. While his record with the Phillies was undistinguished, with the Red Sox he produced world champions, in 2004 and 2007, something that had not been accomplished by the organization since 1918. He was fired by the Red Sox in 2011. Francona’s father had been a popular player for the Indians, so in some ways it was like coming home for the new manager. The combination of the cash infusion and Francona’s arrival seemed to make a difference in the performance of the club under the Dolans. In the 13 years the family had owned the club prior to the 2013 season, the team had won the Central Division twice, and one of those was a carryover from the Jacobs/Hart era. In the five years since Francona became manager, the team has won the division twice along with achieving a wild-card slot in his first year as manager. The team has also made it to the World Series for the first time under the Dolans, losing to the Cubs in seven games in 2016. During those five years, the team achieved the best won/lost record in the American League, in spite of having a below-average payroll.241
Even with that success, Cleveland fans have been slow to respond. For the first four years, including the first division title under Francona, the gate was not appreciably different from the years in which the team played below-.500 ball. Attendance averaged roughly 1.5 million a year for those four years, almost identical to the previous four. Only during the 2017 season, when the team won over 100 games for the first time since 1995, did attendance pass the 2 million mark. For that entire period, Cleveland was at the low end, the bottom five in attendance, of all 30 MLB clubs.
If the Dolans remain as owners of the Indians for one more year, they will surpass the longest tenure in the history of the club, that of the Alva Bradley syndicate. Simply by winning one pennant, they have been more successful than the Bradley group was. Another World Series appearance would match the accomplishment under Jacobs, although the team has won the Series only twice, once under Jim Dunn and again during Bill Veeck’s tenure. Regardless of what transpires going forward, the Dolans have generated some decent results. More importantly, they have maintained a stable front office, largely developed from within, and have executed a philosophy of running a small-market ballclub that has generated a level of consistency, if not the incredible results both in performance and attendance that were produced by Dick Jacobs. In any case, the last three decades years of Indian ownership have been a much more productive era than the three decades that preceded it. Unlike those earlier 30 years, there have been no further threats of Cleveland losing its team to another city.
Progressive Field in Cleveland, 2017; photograph by Erik Drost at Flickr.com. (CC BY 2.0).
If there is any conclusion to draw from those periods that have been more successful for the Tribe, it is the importance of how the ownership is structured. Under Somers, Dunn, Veeck, Jacobs, and Dolan, there was one final person who was capable of making decisions, both for financial matters as well as for baseball operations. While both Dunn and Veeck had other investors, both were fully empowered to make decisions on all matters associated with the organization. The other three had full ownership control of the club. For all of the other major owners of the Indians, they were dependent upon the other investors in the syndicate to make final decisions, especially on the financial side. While there may have been one person able to make the baseball decisions, even they were dependent upon the investors to allocate the funds necessary to run a ballclub. The buck did not stop with Alva Bradley or Gabe Paul, even if they were engaged in all the activities associated with an owner. In essence, those in charge were handcuffed by the investors, even when they were supposedly possessing full authority. It’s not surprising that some of the best front-office talent during these eras, such as Hank Peters, decided to go elsewhere. It is also not surprising that the organization produced the best results when one person has had the ultimate control over the direction of the club. That has led not only to the best outcomes on the field, but also, not surprisingly, to the best results in bringing fans to the ballpark.
There are a couple of interesting ironies when one looks at the history of the Indians. The team has won the fewest World Series of any original American League franchise. The only two wins came on the only two occasions when the club was owned by an outsider, someone who did not reside or originate in Cleveland. Both Dunn and Veeck were either adopted or native Chicagoans. During the only period in which the club was in serious jeopardy of being moved to another city, the various owners — Daley, Stouffer, Mileti, Bonda, and O’Neill, were all native to either Cleveland or Northeastern Ohio. During the tenure of both Jacobs and Dolan, the club has seemed again to be well ensconced in Cleveland, with no threats of a move, in spite of the fact that in recent years the club has languished behind most other teams in attendance. For now, the Indians seem to be a stable, well-run organization.
DAVID BOHMER is Director Emeritus, Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media and Media Fellows Program, DePauw University. Formerly a telecommunications executive, he has been teaching and researching baseball history for more than a decade.
Last updated: January 2, 2018
1 Ken Krsolovic and Brian Fritz, League Park 1891-1946: Historic Home of Cleveland Baseball (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., Inc., 2013), 18.
2 Fred Schuld, “Charles Somers,” SABR Baseball Biography Project (http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/ee856cc8).
3 The Sporting News, February 23, 1901, 5.
4 Euguene C. Murdock, Ban Johnson: Czar of Baseball (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1982), 49.
5 Murdock, 75.
6 Cait Murphy, Crazy ’08: How a Cast of Rogues, Boneheads, and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 2007), 200.
7 Gabriel Schechter, “Chicago Cubs World Series Win of 1908? The American League Pennant Race Was Better.” The National Pastime Museum, August 4, 2017.
8 Murphy, 202.
9 The best sources are Wikipedia, Cleveland Indians (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Indians) and Baseball Reference “Cleveland Indians Team History & Encyclopedia” (http://baseball-reference.com/teams/CLE/ ). Any reference to attendance or won/lost records comes from these sites. Lajoie actually did not become manager until 1905 and was replaced during the 1909 season, well before he was sold. There is some speculation that Sockalexis was not the inspiration for the current nickname, but there is no documentation other than the fact that sportswriters generally provided all teams with their names during the era.
10 Krsolovic and Fritz, 30-33.
11 Krsolovic and Fritz, 39; Tim Hornbaker, Fall From Grace: The Truth and Tragedy of “Shoeless Joe” Jackson (New York: Skyhorse Publishing, Inc., 2016), 19. Krsolovic suggests Kilfoyl retired while Hornbaker asserts that Somers bought out his interest in the club. Since Kilfoyl was an investor, the latter is more likely.
12 “Shoeless Joe Jackson”. Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoeless_Joe_Jackson); Hornbaker, 12.
13 Hornbaker, 77-78; Harold Seymour and Dorothy Mills, Baseball: The Golden Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971), 164.
14 Murdock, 76.
15 Such was suggested by The Sporting News, February 18, 1915: 3. “The problem with Somers is that he … wants to be the manager in everything except name.”
16 Harold Seymour and Dorothy Mills, Baseball: The Early Years (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960), 322-23; Warren N. Wilbert, The Arrival of the American League: Ban Johnson and the 1901 Challenge to National League Monopoly (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., Inc., 2007), 161.
17 “Charles Somers,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Somers).
18 The Sporting News, December 30, 1915: 1; Murdock, 76.
19 The Sporting News, March 2, 1916: 1.
20 “James C. Dunn, Baseball Owner,” Wikipedia (http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Dunn_(baseball_owner).
21 The Sporting News, March 2, 1916: 1; Gary Webster, Tris Speaker and the 1920 Indians, Tragedy to Glory (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., Inc., 2012), 14-15.
22 Henry P. Edwards, The Sporting News, March 2, 1916: 1.
23 The Sporting News, April 13, 1916: 1. The dollar figure comes from “Tris Speaker,” Baseball Reference (baseball-reference.com/players/s/speaktr01.shtml). The sporting News article claimed the amount was $50,000 and a later article said it was actually $20,000. The pitcher in the deal was Sad Sam Jones, who went on to win 229 games with five 5 AL teams.
24 Timothy M. Gay, Tris Speaker: The Rough and Tumble Life of a Baseball Legend (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005), 169.
25 Webster, 21.
26 Seymour, Golden Age, 252.
27 Allan Wood, “Carl Mays,” SABR Baseball Biography Project (http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/99ca7c89).
28 Murdock, 169-70, Michal T. Lynch Jr., Harry Frazee, Ban Johnson and the Feud That Nearly Destroyed the American League (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., Inc., 2008), 82, 102.
29 Daniel R. Levitt, “Stan Coveleski,” SABR Baseball Biography Project (http://sabr.org/bioproj/person/7b589446).
30 Webster, 159; Krsolovic and Fritz, 63.
31 “1920 World Series,” Baseball Almanac (http://baseball-almanac.com/ws/yr1920ws.shtml).
32 Webster, 199.
33 Webster, 121.
34 Gerald C. Wood, Smoky Joe Wood: The Biography of a Baseball Legend (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013), 318.
35 The Sporting News, November 11, 1920: 1. Dunn was credited with being “more close-mouthed about baseball politics, a rare, but welcome trait in a magnate.”
36 Krsolovic and Fritz, League, 71.
37 THE SPORTING NEWS, July 4, 1922, 4; December 9, 1926, 2; December 30 1926, 3; “Dunn” (BB owner), Wikipedia, Krsolovic and Fritz, 82; Gay, 221. An interesting side note is that Dunn’s funeral was the only time until Ban Johnson was near death that he and Charles Comiskey were reunited after their feud began. Murdock, 267. It’s also possible that the sale by Dunn’s widow was precipitated by Barnard taking Johnson’s position as AL president.
38 Francis Powers, The Sporting News, September 15, 1927: 3.
39 The Sporting News, September 22, 1927: 3.
40 The Sporting News, November 24, 1927: 1.
41 The Sporting News, December 8, 1927: 7, “Billy Evans,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Evans). Bill James considers Evans to have been the first authentic general manager in his duties.
42 Powers, The Sporting News, January 5, 1928: 3.
43 “Cleveland Stadium,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleveland_Stadium); Jack Torry, Endless Summers: The Fall and Rise of the Cleveland Indians (South Bend, Indiana: Diamond Communications, Inc., 1995), 208-09.
44 Officially, capacity was 77,500, but 80,000 was achieved quite a number of times.
45 Ed Bang, The Sporting News, July 23, 1931: 3.
46 The Sporting News, August 6, 1931: 4
47 The Sporting News, May 5, 1932: 3.
48 Torry, 212.
49 Krsolovic and Fritz, 104.
50 The Sporting News, November 21, 1935: 1; Bang, The Sporting News, November 28, 1935: 3-4.
51 The Sporting News, January 30, 1936.
52 “Cleveland Stadium,” Wikipedia.
53 Krsolovic and Fritz, 108-109.
54 “Caught on the Fly” column, The Sporting News, January 24, 1935: 2. This was likely a response to the National League allowing Cincinnati to play seven night games during the 1935 season.
55 The Sporting News, December 9, 1937: 1.
56 The Sporting News, January 2, 1939: 10; Ed McAuley, The Sporting News, January 26, 1939: 1; Dan Daniel, The Sporting News, July 6, 1939: 3. Bradley was even featured in a General Electric advertisement.
57 Charles C. Alexander, Breaking the Slump: Baseball in the Depression Era (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 76.
58 David George Surdan, Wins, Losses, and Empty Seats: How Baseball Outlasted the Great Depression (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2011), 206.
59 Gerald Eskenazi, Bill Veeck: A Baseball Legend (New York: McGraw Hill Co., 1988), 28.
60 McAuley, The Sporting News, January 26, 1939: 1, February 1, 1940: 8; Edgar Brands, The Sporting News, February 22, 1940: 3; McCauley, The Sporting News, December 11, 1941: 2. Shortly after Bradley made that agreement, the United States entered World War II, seriously affecting the ability to develop players.
61 David Pietrusza, Judge and Jury: The Life and Times of Kenesaw Mountain Landis (South Bend, Indiana: Diamond Communications, Inc., 1998), 355-56; The Sporting News, December 17, 1936: 2.
62 McAuley, The Sporting News, December 4 1941: 1, 4. He was a popular choice with sportswriters.
63 McAuley, The Sporting News, June 20, 1940: 1.
64 Daniel, The Sporting News, September 5, 1940: 4. A Sporting News editorial a week later, said, “Bradley, an astute business man, has a problem on his hands never before paralleled and the situation is such it would stump a Solomon.”
65 “Spink editorial,” The Sporting News, July 16, 1942: 4; McCauley, The Sporting News, October 1, 1942: 5; Daniel, The Sporting News, February 10, 1944: 4.
66 Daniel, The Sporting News, February 15, 1945: 1-2, Carl T. Felker, The Sporting News, February 15, 1945: 3: McCauley, The Sporting News, May 3, 1945: 2; William Marshall, Baseball’s Pivotal Era, 1945-1951 (Lexington, Kentucky: University of Kentucky Press, 1999), 19-20, discusses Bradley’s role in narrowing down the list of candidates for commissioner.
67 McAuley, The Sporting News, February 17, 1944: 7, and June 12, 1946: 6.
68McAuley, The Sporting News, July 3, 1946: 5; Marshall, 170-71; Paul Dickson, Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick (New York: Walker and Company, 2012), 110.
69 McAuley, Spink, The Sporting News, July 3, 1946: 5, 10.
70 The Sporting News provided two good articles on Bradley: December 5, 1935: 7, and December 2, 1937: 1.
71 “Alva Bradley II,” Wikipedia (http://wikipedia.org/wiki/Alva_Bradley).
72 Spink, The Sporting News, July 10, 1946: 8; McCauley, The Sporting News, July 10, 1946: 12.
73 There are numerous mentions of Veeck’s promotions. See especially McAuley, The Sporting News, July 10, 1946: 11, 36, The Sporting News, August 21, 1946: 13; McAuley, The Sporting News, September 4 and 11, 1946; Eskenazi, 28; Dickson, 112.
74 Bill Veeck with Ed Linn, Veeck as in Wreck (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), 103.
75 Veeck with Linn, 97; Red Smith, The Sporting News, July 17, 1946: 12.
76 Veeck with Linn, 100.
77 McAuley, The Sporting News, September 25, 1946: 10.
78Herman Goldstein, The Sporting News, April 16, 1947: 19.
79 Veeck with Linn, 105.
80 The Sporting News, April 2, 1947: 13.
81 McAuley, The Sporting News, April 23, 1947: 10. In his first book, Veeck indicated that he would move the fence in and out depending on the power of the opposing team, although The Sporting News had caught on to his tactic even before midseason. Spink, The Sporting News, June 18, 1947: 14.
82 The Sporting News, May 21, 1947: 11.
83 Oscar K. Ruhl, The Sporting News, July 16, 1947: 3.
84 Dickson, 122.
85 Joseph Thomas Moore, Larry Doby: The Struggle of the American League’s First Black Player (Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1988), 55. Veeck even acknowledged the fact. “Rickey was smarter than I was on that. I tried to bring him (Doby) along too fast.” Moore, 62.
86 Dickson, 144.
87 The Sporting News, September 1, 1948: 4.
88 Daniel, The Sporting News, July 21, 1948: 10. Paige was actually 42 when Cleveland signed him.
89 Spink, The Sporting News, July 14, 1948: 3.
90 Shirley Povich, The Sporting News, August 18, 1948: 1.
91 Spink, The Sporting News, September 1, 1948: 4. Spink added that Paige’s success was a bad reflection on AL talent.
92 Dickson, 173.
93 McAuley, The Sporting News, November 24, 1948: 9, December 29, 1948: 11.
94 McAuley, The Sporting News, February 11, 1948: 13.
95 McAuley, The Sporting News, December 8, 1948: 14; John Rosengren, Hank Greenberg: The Hero of Heroes (New York: Penguin Group, 2013), 315-18. Rosengren mentions that Veeck offered Greenberg a chance to purchase 10 percent of the stock for $100,000, but no investors wanted to sell. Greenberg was often mentioned as a part-owner of the team but he did not become an investor until 1956.
96 McAuley, The Sporting News, January 15, 1947: 1.
97 McAuley, The Sporting News, February 2, 1949: 1.
98 Veeck, 133.
99 Russ Kemmerer, personal interview, April 22, 2007. Kemmerer played for Veeck with the White Sox in 1960.
100 Eskenazi, 43.
101 McAuley, The Sporting News, September 28, 1949; 3; October 5, 1949: 10.
102 The Sporting News, February 16, 1949: 26.
103 The Sporting News, November 2, 1949: 2.
104 The Sporting News, August 4, 1948: 34.
105 The Sporting News, October 13, 1948: 18.
106 McAuley, The Sporting News, September 29, 1948: 9.
107 Hal Lebovitz, The Sporting News, March 3, 1948: 5.
108 McAuley, The Sporting News, March 24, 1948: 4.
109 Daniel, The Sporting News, January 14, 1948: 3.
110 Povich, The Sporting News, January 14, 1948: 12.
111 McAuley, The Sporting News, November 22, 1949: 7; December 20, 1949: 5; Dickson, 178-79, estimated Veeck’s take as $500,000 before 25 percent capital gains; the other investors received a 2-to-1 return on their investment.
112 Veeck, 117.
113 Russell Schneider, The Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996), 328-29.
114 “Ellis Ryan,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellis_Ryan).
115 Bang, The Sporting News, November 30, 1949: 6; McAuley, The Sporting News, March 1, 1951: 10; Torry, 45-46.
116 Torry, 46. Veeck with Linn, 325-328. Veeck said he’d thought of the tactic during a night-school accounting course and that Nate Dolin “developed it further.” Veeck also noted that, for various reasons, he’d never been able to use the procedure, while Dolin’s group had used it when it bought out Veeck. Dolin had a much stronger accounting background than Veeck.
117 McAuley, The Sporting News, February 1, 1951: 18.
118 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, November 22, 1951: 3-4; Rosengren, 321-22.
119 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, January 17, 1951: 1.
120 McAuley, The Sporting News, January 18, 1950: 5. Interestingly, shortly after that announcement both Bob Feller and Joe Gordon saw cuts in their salaries. The Sporting News, January 25, 1950: 4.
121 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, November 5, 1952: 7.
122 Torry, 47.
123 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, December 17, 1952: 5-6; December 24, 1950: 5. Torry, 48. Torry found that Ryan actually netted $250,000 from the sale. The original deal was highly leveraged, with the stock investment covering only $300,000 of the $2.2 million, the rest covered by debenture bonds and a million-dollar bank loan. See Schneider: 328.
124 Brands, The Sporting News, December 20, 1950, 3, 16; Edgar Munzel, The Sporting News, September 26, 1951: 1, 4. Ryan’s vacillation on Chandler and his initial holdout on Frick, against the other three members on the search committee, suggest a rather indecisive person. This corresponds with the suggestion in Schneider, 329, from one of the Indians directors that “The big thing wrong with Ellis (Ryan) is that he can’t make up his mind to what he wants.”
125 Schneider, 330.
126 “Myron H. “Mike” Wilson Jr.,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myron_H._Wilson).
127 Torry, 48.
128 Munzel, The Sporting News, December 16, 1953: 5; Lebovitz, The Sporting News, December 23, 1953; 7; Hy Turkin, The Sporting News, February 24, 1954: 1-2.
129 Spink, The Sporting News editorial, February 24, 1954: 10.
130 The Sporting News, November11, 1953: 6; Bernard Kahn, The Sporting News, February 25, 1953: 29; Lebovitz, The Sporting News, May 26, 1954: 1; and November 17, 1954: 1. He also suggested using a stopwatch to speed up pitches when no runner was on base.
131 Harold Rosenthal, The Sporting News, April 22, 1953: 2; Lebovitz, The Sporting News, June 10, 1953: 5.
132 The Sporting News, March 10, 1954: 21.
134 The best discussion of Greenberg’s problems can be found in Rosengren, 325-28, 334-36, and Schneider, 343-44.
135 McAuley, The Sporting News, December 29, 1954: 1, 4.
136 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, February 22, 1956: 5.
137 Torry, 48, 62-64.
138 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, October 23, 1957: 7, 14.
139 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, November 23, 1957: 16; November 30, 1957: 3.
140 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, August 12, 1959: 19.
141 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, April 27, 1960: 3; May 4, 1960: 3; August 10, 1960: 25. The trade that brought the backlash was Rocky Colavito for Harvey Kuenn. Kuenn lasted one season with the Indians and the club paid a high price years later to bring Colavito back.
142 The Sporting News, May 7, 1958: 2; May 21, 1958: 2; Lebovitz, The Sporting News, August 6, 1958: 1. The first two would happen in the early 1960s. The equal distribution of local TV revenue never has.
143 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, October 29, 1958: 7; November 26, 1958: 11; Torry, 82, Rosengren, 337-38.
144 McAuley, The Sporting News, August 27, 1958: 2. Minneapolis had been mentioned as a potential site a year earlier. Lebovitz, The Sporting News, July 24, 1957: 10.
145 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, September 17, 1958: 24.
146 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, October 22, 1958: 18. Daley also prophetically added that with a good sales effort and improved team, the club could draw 1.5 million in 1959.
147 McAuley, The Sporting News, March 22, 1961: 6; April 19, 1961: 5.
148 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, May 3, 1961: 7. Paul had found working in Houston intolerable, indicating that he planned to quit his position. He “found it most difficult to work with ‘a certain element’ involved in the Houston undertaking.”
149 Schneider, 331, lists Paul as the owner of the club, although Daley essentially remained in control until he sold his stock in 1966 to Vernon Stouffer.
150 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, December 1, 1962: 28; Schneider, 331.
151 “Gabe Paul,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabe_Paul).
152 Torry, 91.
153 The Sporting News, December 19, 1964: 2.
154 Russell Schneider, The Sporting News, January 23, 1965: 5; January 30, 1965: 13. Fans approved the Colavito return by an 8-to-1 ratio. More importantly, his return and a better performing club brought the attendance to about 900,000 and produced a team with a winning record.
155 Lebovitz, The Sporting News, June 20, 1964; 2, 8; McAuley, The Sporting News, September 19, 1964: 10, 26; McAuley, The Sporting News, September 26, 1964: 10.
156 Schneider, The Sporting News, October 31, 1964: 15; Torry, 98, 101-02.
157 Schneider, The Sporting News, August 27, 1966: 5. It is likely Daley agreed to the sale with the intention of taking his money and purchasing the expansion team in Seattle. While Seattle had yet to be named one of the expansion cities, it was certainly high on the list. Indeed, Daley and his group were awarded the franchise at the end of 1967. Schneider, The Sporting News, December 23, 1967: 32. His year in Seattle would prove disastrous and he would sell the franchise to a group headed by Bud Selig that would move the club to Milwaukee. Seattle went eight more years without a team.
158 Vernon Stouffer,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vernon_Stouffer).
159 Schneider, The Sporting News, January 28, 1967: 31; February 11, 1967: 29; Torry, 108.
160 Bill Madden, Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2010), 5; Torry, 111.
161 Schneider, The Sporting News, February 5 1969: 19; July 19, 1969: 19; August 9, 1969: 18.
162 Schneider, The Sporting News, September 20, 1969: 23; December 27: 1969, 29; March 20, 1971: 44.
163 Schneider, The Sporting News, June 19, 1971: 17.
164 Schneider, The Sporting News, August 14, 1971: 5; August 21, 1971: 34.
165 Torry, 116-17.
166 Schneider, The Sporting News, December 12, 1970: 55; January 2, 1971: 46.
167 Schneider, The Sporting News, August 1, 1970: 24; August 7, 1971: 34; Torry, 111. Prior to Peters’ departure, Stouffer had ordered him to cut the annual budget for player development by 30 percent. Peters assured Stouffer that if he planned to keep the team, he was “committing suicide.”
168 Schneider, The Sporting News, October 2, 1971: 20; October 9, 1971: 17.
169 Jerome Holtzman, The Sporting News, December 25, 1971: 32.
170 Madden, 6-7.
171 Torry, 125.
172 Schneider, The Sporting News, February 5, 1972: 43.
173 Schneider, The Sporting News, March 25, 1972: 23; and April 8, 1972: 29.
174 Torry, 130-31.
175 Both Dallas and Washington had been serious bidders for Cleveland near the end of Stouffer’s tenure. See Schneider, Encyclopedia, 333, and Torry, 125.
176 Torry, 126.
177 Schneider, The Sporting News, December 2, 1972: 49.
178 Torry, 126, 135-36.
179 Jim Ogle, The Sporting News, January 27, 1973: 45; Torry, 136.
180 Torry, 138.
181 “Ten Cent Beer Night”, Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ten_Cent_Beer_Night); Schneider, The Sporting News, June 22, 1974: 5.
182 Schneider, The Sporting News, October 19, 1974: 5; November 5, 1974: 17; May 3, 1975, 3; Torry, 142.
183 Schneider, Encyclopedia, 334-35.
184 Torry, 144.
185 Torry, 146; Schneider, The Sporting News, June 11, 1977: 9; On page 11, the sporting News article also referred to player discontent and even the possibility that the club would not be able to meet its payroll.
186 Schneider, The Sporting News, February 25, 1978: 46.
187 Schneider, The Sporting News, December 31, 1977: 53; February 2, 1978: 46. See also Torry, 147, and Schneider, Encyclopedia, 335. Art Modell was named a director but NFL rules prohibited him from being an investor due to his owning the Browns.
188 Torry, 148-49, 152, 154.
189” F.J. ‘Steve’ O’Neill,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_O%27Neill_(owner)).
190 Bob Sudyk, The Sporting News, October 14, 1978: 28.
191 Stan Isle, The Sporting News, April 19, 1980: 15.
192 Torry, 148.
193 Sudyk, The Sporting News, November 15, 1980: 54; January 3, 1981: 41; January 24, 1981: 51.
194 Terry Pluto, The Sporting News October 4, 1982, 27.
195 Sheldon Ocker, The Sporting News, November 7, 1983: 49.
196 Ocker, The Sporting News, November 28, 1983: 59; Torry, 169.
197 Ocker, The Sporting News, July 9, 1984: 28; October 22, 1984: 21; October 29 1984: 49; December 3, 1984: 46; Torry, 168-70.
198 Torry, 156-64, discusses the controversy in great detail, including the tragic outcome.
199 Ocker, The Sporting News, July 9, 1984: 28; Torry, 214-16.
200 The Sporting News, August 8, 1983, 14; “Voice of the Fan,” The Sporting News, August 22, 1983: 6; “Voice of the Fan,” June 18, 1984, 6.
201 Schneider, Encyclopedia, 337.
202 Ocker, The Sporting News, December 31, 1984: 61; January 7, 1985: 40.
203 Peter Gammons, “American League Beat,” The Sporting News, March 4, 1985: 28; Schneider, Encyclopedia, 339.
204 Isle, The Sporting News, July 8, 1985: 7.
205 Isle, The Sporting News, February 4, 1985; Torry, 175-76.
206 Moss Klein, “American League Beat,” The Sporting News, May 12, 1986: 25.
207 Torry, 175.
208 Schneider, Encyclopedia, 338.
209 “American League East Beat,” The Sporting News, December 22, 1986: 47.
210 “American League East Beat,” The Sporting News, February 16, 1987: 31.
211 Schneider, Encyclopedia, 337-38; “Voice of the Fan,” The Sporting News, June 3, 1985: 8.
212 “Hank Peters,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hank_Peters); Torry, 187-91.
213 Klein, “American League Beat,” The Sporting News, November 16, 1987: 50.
214 Torry, 193.
215 Torry, 199-200; Schneider, Encyclopedia, 348.
216 Ocker, The Sporting News, September 30, 1991: 19.
217 Ocker, The Sporting News, December 14, 1992: 31.
218 Peter Pascarelli, “Baseball Report,” The Sporting News, April 26, 1993: 14.
219 Pascarelli, “Baseball Report,” The Sporting News, December 20, 1993: 31.
220 Pascarelli, “Baseball Report,” The Sporting News, December 13, 1993: 35; Ocker, The Sporting News, February 21, 1994: 21. Hart had a prophetic comment as the season was about to commence, saying “[I]t is not about 1994. … We have a chance to do this in ’95, ’96, ’97, all the way through the rest of this century, and we have the chance to do it with a lot of the same players.” Mark Newman and John Rawlings, The Sporting News, April 11, 1994: 14-15. Indeed, many of the key players were still there in 1999, in spite of the losses to free agency.
221 David Jacobs died in September of 1992. Whether the decision to buy the naming rights for the new ballpark was made by both brothers or the surviving brother is unknown
222 Torry, 227.
223 The most extensive discussion of the project can be found in Torry, 220-29. Also see “Gateway Sports and Entertainment Complex,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gateway_Sports_and_Entertainment_Complex), and Mark Naymik, “Art Modell Was Offered a Stadium for the Cleveland Browns and Passed,” Cleveland.com.
224 Ocker, The Sporting News, April 27, 1992: 26.
225 Ocker, The Sporting News, September 14, 1992: 23; September 28, 1992: 27; April 5, 1993: 74.
226 Terry Pluto, Dealing: The Cleveland Indians New Ballgame (Cleveland: Gray and Company, Publishers, 2006), 19-20.
227 Pluto, Dealing, 20.
228 Pluto, Dealing, 22. See also CNN Money, “Cleveland Indians to Launch IPO,” June 3, 1998 (http://money.cnn.com/1998/06/03/markets/q_indians/); SF Gate, “IPO by Cleveland Indians Not Exactly a Hit With Investors,” June 5, 1998 (http://sfgate.com/business/article/IPO-by-Cleveland-Indians-Not-Exactly-a-Hit-With-3004516.php); and Sports Business Journal, “Cleveland Indians’ stock Is Falling in the Standings,” June 29, 1998.
229 Sandomir, Richard, “Baseball: A. Dolan Agrees to Purchase the Indians for $320 Million,” New York Times, November 5, 1999.
230 Peter Schmuck, “AL Report,” The Sporting News, September 1, 1997: 31; Mark Bonavita, “Calling ‘Em As I see ‘Em”, The Sporting News, October 25, 1999: 59.
231 Pluto, Dealing, 9, 144.
232 The Sporting News, November 12, 2001: 19. At $2 million, he would become the highest-paid GM.
233 Ken Rosenthal, The Sporting News, April 16, 2001: 18. At the time, before the 2001 season, it was announced Hart would move into a senior advisory position and Shapiro would become the general manager.
234 Steve Herrick, The Sporting News, December 10, 2001: 64; February 25, 2002: 52.
235 Pluto, Dealing, 107.
236 Pluto, Dealing, 57.
237 Pluto, Dealing, 50.
238 “Christopher Antonetti,” Wikipedia. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Antonetti); “Michael Chernoff,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_Chernoff_(baseball)).
239 Pluto, Dealing, 148.
240 Paul Hoynes, “Fox Sports Purchases STO for an Estimated $230 Million; Will Pay Indians $400 Million in Rights Fees Over Next 10 Years,” Cleveland.com (http://cleveland.com/tribe/index.ssf/2012/12/fox_sports_purchases_sto_for_a.html).
241 Terry Pluto, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 5, 2017.