Karen Martin remembers Cleveland Indians Legends

May 28, 2013

Cleveland Indians Legends
by Russell Schneider, illustrated by Tom Denny
Kent State University Press/Black Squirrel Books, $29.95

By Karen Martin
blood, dirt & angels

Elementary school kids who got good report cards in my suburb of Cleveland were often rewarded with tickets to Cleveland Indians home games. I didn’t know much about baseball, but I knew a thing or two about pleasing my dad, an intense Indians fan who listened to all the games on a little transistor radio. Earning straight As paid off in getting to spend time with him at the huge lakefront stadium on weekend afternoons without having to put up with the rest of the family.

I was so proud to be able to take him to the games.

He knew all the players, all the statistics, and like many of the team’s fans, he was fickle: A losing season (not uncommon) regularly provoked his dismissive pronouncement: “Stupid Indians.”

A rush of nostalgia — not for the Indians, for for those outings — came on with the arrival of Cleveland Indians Legends, a handsome book by Russell Schneider, a longtime sportswriter and columnist at the Cleveland Plain Dealer (he retired in 1993), with dreamily evocative illustrations of 40 of the team’s stellar players by Cleveland native and longtime Indians fan Tom Denny.Schneider_Denny-web

The book is organized in time periods with profiles of 10 players in each: 1901-1925, 1926-1950, 1951-1975 and 1976-present.

The era that intrigues me most were the days of those hard-won tickets, with players who were with the team for years like Bob Lemon, Early Wynn, Rocky Colavito, Sam McDowell, Herb Score, Luis Tiant and Jim “Mudcat” Grant.

The illustrations in oil, watercolor and mixed media, some with the older (some say racist) hook-nosed image of Chief Wahoo, accompany anecdotes and stats for each player.

I honestly wouldn’t recognize any of these guys on the street. But I have so many good memories of watching them play, which proves you don’t have to know much about baseball to be an Indians fan.

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