Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ping pong balls

I will never forget where I was on May 22, 2003. I was sitting in Jacobs Field along side the first base side foul pole.

After all those years of sellouts, it seemed like it was a really small crowd but everything is relative since there were over 18,000 in the stadium.

It was the last days before everyone had a cell phone. Those that did have them — well, they were merely phones. All the information in the history of the world wasn’t just yet at our fingertips.

It started slow but it spread quickly.

There was one loud yelp but in seconds the murmur grew. Within moments the majority of the crowd was partying as if Tony Pena had just ripped an extra inning home run into bleachers to win a playoff game.

The players on the field were perplexed and by the time the center field scoreboard proclaimed what everyone had already learned the celebration was in full swing.

The Indians won the game in 11 innings that day but I had to look that up. What I do remember is this collective feeling that things were going to get better.

One of our own was going to save us and this was going to be a day we would never forget.

Well, we all know how that turned out.

This year I had honestly I forgotten until the day before when this year’s lottery would take place. I no longer believe in saviors.

On the day of the lottery I was at a bar playing team trivia. The TV in my direct view had the Indians game on. They were winning.

Once again there was a yelp. I looked up and the Indians weren’t scoring so I assumed the Cavs got the top pick.

I continued playing trivia. There was no buzz around the bar. Everyone went on with their lives.

It was maybe an hour later when I checked my phone and saw that indeed the Cavs had won the top pick. I waited another 20 minutes before I clicked on the link to discover that it was the Clippers pick that snagged the top spot and the Cavs own pick was fourth.

So I missed all the awesomeness that was Nick Gilbert.

On that awful day last July, Dan Gilbert who many Clevelanders had seen as a carpetbagger earned his street cred.

The nation mocked his letter. Most of us thought he was nuts as well but it played well with the home base.

Gilbert was certainly not blameless for what transpired last year. He can come off as smug and arrogant. The dude knows how to make money but when you make your living on home loans and convince a state to give you a sweetheart casino deal — it is hard to pass yourself off as a man of the people.

I don’t know if Gilbert wants a title for the good people of Cleveland or out of spite. Frankly I don’t care if he is genuine or merely full of slick Madison Avenue theatrics. The man knows his audience.

Bernie Kosar. Joshua Cribbs. Joe Haden. His courageous and lovable son.
A few high draft picks aren’t going to make the Cavs championship contenders overnight.

In 1986 the Cavs drafted Brad Daugherty, Ron Harper and Mark Price and Hot Rod Williams was let out of purgatory. Still it took six years to get to a conference final and they never did get to the finals. The last lottery ball didn’t pan out either.

However Dan Gilbert is going to do whatever it takes and even if he fails — he isn’t going to quit.

As Clevelanders that is all we ask.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gilligan preempted perfection

I wasn’t there. In fact until yesterday, the only highlight I remember seeing was the final out.

My memories of May 15, 1981, however, are still pretty clear to me.
I was eight years old and already a pretty big Tribe fan. I was a wide-eyed innocent sports fan.

A few months earlier, my heart was broken by a Browns home playoff loss, but I thought a Super Bowl trip was only a matter of time.

The 1981 Indians team is one of my favorites. The team of your childhood always invokes happy memories. My favorite player was Toby Harrah. My brother’s was Mike Hargrove. My mom had a Frito Lay t-shirt with Rick Manning’s face on it. I owned a 45 record of “Go Joe Charboneau.” I loved Thundering Andre Thornton, Miguel Dilone, Duane Kuiper, Cleveland native Jerry Dybzinski and the rest.

And on the morning of May 15, 1981, my Cleveland Indians were in first place.
Yet on that famous Friday, I did not watch the game. My dad worked third shift and my mother and sister had control of the sole television. The only channels available were 3, 5, 8, 43 and the brand new 61, which became pay per view at night. They decided to watch the world premiere of “Harlem Globetrotters visit Gilligan’s Island.”

You can imagine my horror during the climatic basketball game between the Globetrotters and the Robots when the following scroll ran along the bottom of the screen: “The Cleveland Indians’ Len Barker has just thrown a perfect game.”
A piece of history missed and the real Ginger wasn’t even in the movie.
After my anger subsided, I thought for sure the Indians would win the World Series later that year. A few days later the Indians fell out of first place and the players would go on strike less than a month later. The NFL players would go on strike the year after that.

My sporting innocence would evolve into disappointing cynicism.

So yesterday was the 30th anniversary of Large Lenny’s masterpiece. I turned on my television which now features several hundred channels to watch the Indians play the Mariners. Because of the rain, STO instead showed the perfect game. It was a lot of fun to watch.

The Indians haven’t had a no-hitter since that day. Those that are superstitious often blame Indians radio announcer Tom Hamilton. While Joe Tait never uttered the words, “Perfect game” until Manning catches the ball, Hamilton starts saying perfect game as many times as he can if a pitchers gets through the lineup unscathed the first time. Regardless, like most Indians fans, I still adore Hamilton.

On Friday I was out with friends. Since there was a break in the 40 days and nights of rain, we ate outside where there was no television to watch the Tribe game.
After we left, I checked the score on my phone. I saw the Indians were down 4-3 with a runner on third. We put the game on and arrived at our destination with the game still going on. We stayed in the car to listen to the end. His call of Hafner’s hit was more subtle than normal – “A swing and a high fly ball, deep center, Saunders back …”

I said to my friend, “It’s going to be short. Hamilton isn’t going nuts.”

But Hammy finished, “At the track, at the wall, it’s gooooooone”

Hamilton, bless his heart, had the presence of mind to stay silent for the next 32 seconds. He let the faithful fill the air. The roar of the crowd brought me right back to the 90s and Hamilton let listeners revel in it until he screamed, “The magic is back at Progressive Field.”

It is why he is the best in the business.