Goldman: The Cleveland Indians’ unfinished 1990s

From SABR member Steven Goldman at The National Pastime Museum on July 7, 2016:

Back in the 1980s, when I was about 14, a new kid transferred into the school district. His family had moved to the East Coast from Ohio, and the day I made his acquaintance I became friends with my very first Cleveland Indians fan. Now that the Kansas City Royals have emerged from their long period of darkness and won a World Series, there is no current analog for just how simultaneously quixotic and exotic an Indians fan seemed in those days. This was the 1980s. The Indians had not won a championship since 1948 (the second and to date last in club history), hadn’t won a pennant since 1954, hadn’t finished as high as second since 1949. Between 1968 and 1994, there were just three winning seasons.

The new kid was smart and funny, but as all fans know, if you’re brought up to follow the wrong team you can be set for a life of pain. That’s what being an Indians fan meant in the early 1980s—90 or 100 losses a season and trying to sustain the hope that something was being built around Joe Carter, Julio Franco, and Brett Butler.

The Indians still haven’t rewarded my old friend with a championship, and they seem to have gotten away with it—fate is capricious when designating goats. For some, the Atlanta Braves franchise has become a kind of collective Fred Merkle, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory by winning just one World Series despite reaching the postseason 15 times in the 19 seasons there was a postseason during Bobby Cox’s second tour with the team (everyone gets a pass on 1994 except for Bud Selig). Instead of being lauded for their high achievement, it is used to ridicule them.

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Originally published: July 7, 2016. Last Updated: July 7, 2016.