Thursday, June 6, 2013

June 3- Indianapolis Indians

If there’s one thing I’ve taken comfort in over the years, it’s certainly baseball. Whether it’s at the professional level, collegiate, high school or even the occasional Little League game I can be as happy as a clam in the seats. I’ve learned rather quickly that anything can happen at the most random of times in a baseball game, not necessarily life-altering, but merely something I may never see again within the confines of the diamond. One moment in particular I wrote about on April 22nd. I was attending the Little League game of a friend of mine’s son Robert in New York City when he had a blooper hit to him just behind the pitchers mound which he caught and then proceeded to tag second and first base to complete and unassisted triple play. That’s right; an eight-year-old pulled that off. Since then, everything has looked rather pedestrian. Kidding of course. But seriously, one should not take the professional game for granted, even just the Major League level, because it’s when you don’t pay attention to the smaller teams and leagues magical things can happened.

A few weeks ago I bought this hat off of the Lids Web site after running across a truly amazing stat within the team’s history… but I’ll get to that later in this piece. This cap was introduced at the start of the 1993 season by the Indianapolis Indians. It's also a little funny that I would be buying this cap considering the fact that Lids is based out of Indianapolis, Indiana. Hmmmm... The Indians are a AAA team in the International League whose Major League affiliate at the time was, you guessed it… the Cincinnati Reds. Wait! Wait a sec… the Reds? Yes, with a name like the Indians one can’t help think of the OTHER Ohio-based MLB franchise. “How did this come to be?” you may be asking your self. Well…

Professional baseball was first played in Indianapolis in 1877. After 15 years of various franchises competing in various leagues (including four years in the National League and one year in the American Association), the current Indianapolis Indians franchise was founded as an original member of the American Association in 1902. That year's team won 95 games, and the first of 21 pennants.

The ballclub played its early seasons at several ballparks, including two on Washington Street, before Norm Perry, who took ownership of the team in 1929, built a new stadium on 16th Street in 1931. He named the park Perry Stadium in honor of his brother James who had been killed in a plane crash. That ballpark, which was renamed Victory Field in 1942 and Bush Stadium in 1967, remained the Tribe's home until July 1996, where they still play today. They are currently on their eighth team of affiliation, the Pittsburgh Pirates. Prior to that they were the Boston Braves (1946-1947), Cleveland Indians (1952-1956), Philadelphia Phillies (1960), Chicago White Sox (1957-1959, 1962-1967), Montreal Expos (1984-1992), Reds (1939-1941, 1961, 1968-1983, 1993-1999), Milwaukee Brewers (2000-2004) and now again the Pirates (1948-1951 and 2005 to the present). In their 111-year history the Indians have won seven class titles, 10 League titles and 23 division titles. Their most recent International League title came in 2000 behind the likes of Ben Sheets and Marco Scutaro.

As I was saying above, this hat was first introduced in 1993, an interesting move which has been known be more of a curse to the team than a blessing. In this case, the changes were rather dramatic. In 1992, the final season the Indians had under the Expos, their uniforms looked like this…

They were basically Expos uniforms and Expos hats except with an “I” as opposed to the multi-colored “M.” And yes, I really want that hat. When 1993 rolled around and the Reds become the parent clubs of the Indians, uniform changes were desperately in order as to look more like the Major League club and not of the team who just left town. Thus, these were born…

The Indians have elected to keep the logo and colors going for the last 20 years, which is pretty smart considering how unique the logo is. Although, this logo from 1969 would make for a pretty awesome cap nowadays, even for just a “turn back the clock night.”

Indianapolis is a rather interesting city. I used to go there once or twice the years with my father to watch Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers play back in their heyday. Victory Field sits only a few blocks away from the RCA Dome, where the Indianapolis Colts play, and only a few more blocks away from Bankers Life Fieldhouse (formerly Conseco Fieldhouse) where the Pacers play. My dad and I drove by Victory Field numerous times during our stays, but it was never during baseball season. I hope to get back there again some day soon. I would love to catch a game.

When coming up with a mark for this cap there was only one thing that made sense.

5/20/1998: In my introductory paragraph I talked about magical moments that seldom happen, and if you don’t pay attention, you could miss it. On May 20, 1998, one of those moments occurred, and it’s only happened twice ever during a professional game.

Now, I would love more than anything to stretch this into an amazing story; however, I am unable to. I scoured the internet for hours over the last few days and came up with nothing but cold trails. I even took to the Indianapolis Star’s Web site to go through the archives for the newspaper from May 21, 1998, the one that would have the boxscore from the game as that’s all I really need. Unfortunately, I have to pay $3.95 to be able to look at it. I mean, I’m all for supporting newspapers, but not that much for what I need. So I apologize for being frugal and not being able to give you a more in-depth story, but I’ll give you a story nonetheless.

Based on what I’m seeing the Indians were at home against the Pawtucket Red Sox. It also doesn’t say who the pitcher for the Red Sox was; however, based on the stat sheet on I can safely assume that it was Jim Farrell, Peter Munro, Brian Barkley or Brian Rose based on their ERAs and home runs allowed. Now, one thing I do know is that all of this takes place during the fifth inning which is how I deduced my conclusion. Indianapolis players hit for a "Homer Cycle". Pete Rose, Jr. opens the inning with a solo home run, Jason Williams connected for a 3–run shot, Glenn Murray slugged a grand slam, and Guillermo Garcia finishes the scoring with a 2–run blast. The Indians won the game 11–4. Like I said, amazing stuff. This was the only time during a professional game that, not only did the team complete the home run cycle in one inning, but they hit for it in general. Only one other time has a home run cycle ever occurred, but that story will have to wait for another night.

One thing that I should point out, which may be a valid reason as the why most people don’t know about this stat, is because of the timing. In 1998 the internet was still in its early going process in the average American home. On top of that, news from a Minor League game was not exactly worthy of national attention, even something like this. In most cases there would be a brief blurb in the local paper; however, that means it would have been printed on May 21, 1998, the day after it occurred. I don’t know how it was how it was where you live, but on that day there was only one headline grabbing national attention, and then took place in Thurston, Oregon, about 10 miles east of Eugene. A boy named Kip Kinkle had been expelled from school the previous day for carrying a gun in his backpack to class. After senselessly murdering his parents he went to Thurston High School and unloaded his carnage up the student body killing two and injuring 20. I was living and going to high school in Bakersfield, California at the time, but it was still chilling to see. Baseball at the time just didn’t matter, and the stat faded into the record books unnoticed by many.

I didn’t move to Oregon until I was 17-years-old in 2000. Between 2005 and 2007 I worked for Just Sports (@JustSportsPDX) as a store manager in Woodburn, the same town where Kinkle is serving a 112-year sentence in a youth detention facility. I moved to Eugene in 2007 and worked for a soccer shop in 2008. Around Memorial Day of that year I had to work the sales tent during a soccer tournament at Thurston High School. For the first few hours of the day I didn’t really think much of it. In fact, I didn’t even remember what had taken place. I overheard someone talking about in passing and a chill ran up my spine. Once you know you’re in a place where something tragic happened the feeling never seems to go away.

UPDATE (5/16/14): Today my lovely girlfriend Angie and I decided to venture out near our apartment to try and find a new bar we can call home. Since we moved here at the beginning of February we had hit quite a few places up on the east side of the I-580 freeway in the Lake Merritt area, but tonight we opted to hit up the west side. As luck would have it, we found our new public house. The bar is called Portal, and they offer a great assortment of beer and food during happy hour, not to mention their lunch and dinner menu is out of this world as well. As we sat at the bar, enjoying the assortment of delectables they had to offer, we watched the Oakland Athletics game as they took on the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland. We missed the Athletics' first time at the plate but were soon "treated" to Indians' first baseman Nick Swisher's solo home run off of Athletics' pitcher Sonny Gray to draw first blood. Even though it was only one run, Angie and I both felt that this might be how the night goes for the A's. Needless to say, we were wrong. 

In the bottom of the second inning with the bases full of Athletics, outfielder Josh Reddick teed off on Indians' pitcher Zach McAllister for his second career grand slam. Not too long after that Athletics' third baseman Josh Donaldson took McAllister yard for a three-run home run. That closed the book on McAllister. In the bottom of the third inning Athletics' shortstop Jed Lowrie crushed a solo home run off of Indians' relief pitcher Kyle Crockett (no relation to Don Johnson's character on "Miami Vice") and then finally in the seventh inning Reddick hit his second home run of the night off of Indian's relief pitcher Carlos Carrasco, a two-run shot making the Athletics the first team in Major League history to hit for the home run cycle. As happy as I was and how cool historically as this is, I found myself thinking about one unusual coincidence immediately after Reddick went yard for the second time, the school shooting at Thurston High School. 

The reason why this is so unusual, at least in my mind, is because a few years after the shooting (2004) Oakland Athletics' pitcher Dan Straily's family moved to Springfield during Dan's junior year. And, as fate would have it, Straily attended Thurston High School for the remainder of his high school years. No other player before or after Straily time at Thurston has gone on to play in the Majors. It's also a bit strange that even though both games took place 16 years apart, the game date was a difference of four days. It's a very unusual connection amongst the three points in history, but a connection nonetheless. 


  1. This truly brought me back reading about the team. I lived in Fort Benjamin Harrison, IN and Ingalls, IN (Pendleton). I remember going to the Old Bush Stadium and Victory Field all the time! Nice read and great job! I wish I could find the old mid 80's logo. The one with the whole Indians on it holding the glove etc. I've been searching forever and still can't find it. I want to get it inked.

    1. Dude! Thank you so much! And I totally agree with you; I've only seen that logo once and I loved it. Been trying to track it down myself.

  2. I talked to my mom today and she has some old merch from back in the day. She's gonna send it to me on Monday so if I can take a legit picture I will post it or if you want it via email. Did you see they are making Bush Stadiums into high end apartments and keeping the baseball field there? Gnarly! Anyway this is the only Old School 80's logo I could find online but it's pretty much all there. Hopefully this helps you! DO you know where I can find an image of the old I logo on the old hats?