Thank you, Cleveland Indians
Cleveland thanks you for a season to remember
By Heather Tunstall
We didn't win the World Series. Let's go ahead and get that out of the way--rip it off like a Band-Aid. And now, let's talk about why this was one of the greatest seasons to watch Cleveland Indians baseball, and why Cleveland is proud of our guys.
There's something different about baseball than other sports. A certain nostalgia, a personal story to go with why each fan loves the game. It's been called America's Favorite Pastime, and rings with historical significance.
Sure, it can get a bad rap, be called "boring" by people who just don't get it. To the rest of us, it's a game with passion, a game with strategy, a game that can shift with one pitch. It's our childhood heroes and our family outings. It's hot dogs and summer sun and the sulfur smell of fireworks. It's a reason to cheer or commiserate with friends. It's our grandpa telling us about the good old days at the old stadium, or sitting on our mom's lap for our first game as a kid. Baseball is interwoven into our lives.
The Cleveland Indians carry with them a history that makes that nostalgia even more potent. It's been two generations since the last World Series win, so the majority of us weren’t around to ever have seen it happen. We wanted this, badly. We remember the '90s when we had our hopes up, and remember how we felt in '95 and '97 after getting this close--and now we feel it again.
But this year is a bit different. This year, 2016, is still The Year of Cleveland. The city is enjoying the effects of years of investment, renovations and new business. Visitors from out of town are surprised and impressed with all there is to do here. Locals are fiercely defending against any attempt at making fun of our great city. The Cavs brought home our first major professional sports championship in 52 years. We've got a UFC champion and AHL champions to further bring up our collective spirits. We hosted a hugely successful (for the city) Republican National Convention. And we cheered our hearts out for our Cleveland Indians as they won the American League Pennant and took us to the World Series for the first time in nearly 20 years. Life is good in CLE.
The 2016 Tribe squad has been something else. The talent is insane, underrated and downright fun to watch. We battled through, despite injuries to some of our best players (including star Michael Brantley and two of our top three starting pitchers) and suspensions.
There's Francisco Lindor's infectious smile and shortstop magic, the clutch return of Coco Crisp, Jason Kipnis' gymnastics-like defensive plays and Mike Napoli's absolutely monstrous home runs.
There's Corey Kluber, the stoic pitcher with superhuman powers. And that bullpen? What?! When you can win a postseason game after your starter only throws 2/3 of one inning, you know you've got pitching talent that runs deep.
Then there’s Terry Francona. Tito has manipulated scenarios, made gutsy calls, trusted and pushed his team and generally performed as a genius puppet master to coach the Tribe into the World Series with his veteran intimate knowledge of postseason greatness. He’s had fans asking, “Why would you ever do that?” and then, time and again, it worked out. Because he’s not just guessing—the guy knows what he’s doing. There’s no one we’d rather have at the helm.
This team has had its fans in a frenzy all season.
There's something more, though. Something you can't teach, something that doesn't have much to do with talent. I won't get all sappy and say the team has "heart" because that just doesn't cut it. I will say that there's this indescribable feeling that Indians fans had watching these games where we could see the camaraderie and love that the team has for one another. We haven't seen or felt anything to this extent since Lofton, Thome, Alomar, Vizquel and the rest of the mid-90s Indians stole our hearts. The friendship is real. This year, they were having fun, all season, while getting the job done and winning games.
There was an attitude of quiet confidence, as the national narrative dismissed the Cleveland Indians again and again as they faced higher-payroll, media-darling teams. They spoke with their bats and their gloves, letting the scoreboard tell their story. The fans freaking loved it, even as TV announcers continued to get their digs in (or flat-out ignored that the Indians existed as a World Series contender). #ClevelandAgainstTheWorld started trending on social media after LeBron James said it during a nod to the Tribe at the Cavs' banner-raising ceremony.
So as we close the book on this season, we hold our heads high. This is Cleveland after all. We may win some, we may lose some, but we are never defeated.
Thank you, Cleveland Indians, and congratulations on an amazing season. We will see you in April!