Tuesday, September 24, 2013

July 20- Cleveland Indians

I’m not even sure where to start with this cap, but I do know what I want to talk about when I look at it. Since 2007 there has been a rumor floating around that the Cleveland Indians have been trying to phase out the iconic, but racist logo that has been a staple of the team since 1947. The reason why I can only use the word theory is because there is no concrete evidence to support it, only speculation and conspiracy theories… or so we’re led to believe. Sportswriters have periodically alleged that the Cleveland Indians are gradually phasing out the logo. A sportswriter for the New York Times suggested this in 2007, noting that Chief Wahoo enjoyed a much-diminished presence in Cleveland's home stadium. Sportswriter Craig Calcaterra wrote about his suspicions of a phase-out when he observed that the team used an alternate logo on their scoreboard, and the Journal News of New York has alleged the team is "so embarrassed by their grinning Indian logo that they've all but banished it from Jacobs Field". Changes to the batting helmets in 2013 led to renewed speculation of a phase-out. Sportswriters have speculated that a slow phase-out allows the team to avoid a negative short-term reaction; however, Indians president Mark Shapiro and other team spokespeople have said there are no plans for a phase-out. No matter what your opinion of this matter is, here are a few facts which may persuade you that the phase out is all… well, I don’t know really.

One thing that I can attest for is that I am a huge fan of this logo from merely an artistic perspective. Yes, I will admit that it’s pretty racist; however, the connotations have a much more innocent background. Legend has it that the team honored Louis Sockalexis when it assumed its current name in 1915. Sockalexis, a Native American, had played in Cleveland 1897–99. Research indicates that this legend is mostly untrue, and that the new name was a play on the name of the Boston Braves, then known as the "Miracle Braves" after going from last place on July 4th to a sweep in the 1914 World Series. Proponents of the name acknowledged that the Cleveland Spiders of the National League had sometimes been informally called the "Indians" during Sockalexis' short career there, a fact which merely reinforced the new name. As time wore on the name just stuck. Changing it now would be a bit of an issue, kind of like with what happened when the Montreal Expos relocated to Washington, D.C. and became the Nationals. It’s just weird. But, for arguments sake, if I had a vote on choosing a team name I highly suggest going back to the Spiders. Because honestly, it’s an underutilized and badass mascot name.

So now that the history of the name has been established we have to go into detail about the logo. In 1947, Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck hired the J.F. Novak Company, designers of the patches worn by Cleveland’s police and firefighters, to create a new logo for his team. 17-year-old draftsman Walter Goldbach, an employee of the Novak Company, was asked to perform the job. Tasked with creating a mascot that "would convey a spirit of pure joy and unbridled enthusiasm", he created a smiling Indian face with yellow skin and a prominent nose. This one.

Goldbach has said that he had difficulty "figuring out how to make an Indian look like a cartoon", and that he was probably influenced by the cartoon style that was popular at the time. Sportswriters would eventually take to calling the unnamed character "Chief Wahoo". Goldbach has said that the logo's moniker is inaccurate. Quoting a child he met while talking at a school, Goldbach explained in a 2008 interview, "He’s not a chief, he’s a brave. He only has one feather. Chiefs have full headdresses.” A valid point.

In 1951, the mascot was redesigned with a smaller nose and red skin instead of yellow skin. This logo has remained in use ever since, with only minor changes to the design. In the 1950s, the logo had black outlines and red skin; today the logo has blue lines and red skin.

After its introduction, the face of the 1951 logo was incorporated into other, full-body depictions of the character, which is the style I decided to roll with for my tattoo.

Ohio sportswriter Terry Pluto has described comics of Chief Wahoo that would run on the front page of the Cleveland Plain Dealer in the 1950s, with the character's depiction signifying the outcome of yesterday's game. Wins were illustrated by Chief Wahoo holding a lantern in one hand and extending the index finger on his other. Losses were illustrated by a "battered" Chief Wahoo, complete with black eye, missing teeth, and crumpled feathers, because artists who do caricatures in sports and politics are borderline racist themselves. Kidding of course.

From then until the end of the 1985 season the Chief Wahoo logo was only featured on jerseys, memorabilia, jackets, posters and other novelties but it had yet to be put on a hat until the 1986 season. Prior to 1986 the caps all featured a variation of the “C” logo, but as soon as the Chief Wahoo logo was introduced as the cap logo, sales of the cap exploded. All throughout the late 1980s and into the early 2000s Indians caps were some of the best selling Major League Baseball caps on the market. Aside from them having a cool look it also helped that the Indians were World Series contenders for the majority of the stretch until the end of 2007, plus there was also that movie made about the Indians which people have come to know and love. Spaceballs?

But what happened in 2007 to cause the rumor about a phase out? In 2007, Shapiro signed veteran help for the bullpen and outfield in the offseason. Veterans Aaron Fultz, and Joe Borowski joined Rafael Betancourt in the Indians bullpen. The Indians improved significantly over the prior year and went into the All-Star break in second place. The team brought back Kenny Lofton for his third stint with the team in late July. The Indians finished with a 96–66 record tied with the Red Sox for best in baseball, their seventh Central Division title in 13 years and their first postseason trip since 2001.

The Indians began their playoff run by defeating the New York Yankees in the American League Division Series three games to one. This series will be most remembered for the swarm of bugs that overtook the field in the later innings of Game Two. They also jumped out to a three-games-to-one lead over the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series; however, the season ended in disappointment when Boston swept the final three games to advance to the 2007 World Series. Despite the loss, Cleveland players took home a number of awards. Grady Sizemore, who had a .995 fielding percentage and only two errors in 405 chances, won the Gold Glove award, Cleveland's first since 2001. Indians Pitcher CC Sabathia won the second Cy Young Award in team history with a 19–7 record, a 3.21 ERA and an MLB-leading 241 innings pitched. Eric Wedge was awarded the first Manager of the Year Award in team history. Shapiro was named to his second Executive of the Year in 2007. Now, I’m no fancy big city business tycoon, but from everything I just listed I would hardly say there’s any reason to shout conspiracy theories about a logo getting phased out, especially while a team is too busy winning. What is most interesting about the logo phase out theory are the hats that would introduced the following season, the one I’m wearing above.

I have yet to find or yet to hear any reasonable explanation as to why the Indians elected to shrink the size of the logo as dramatically as they did, but there is certainly one point chalked to the phase out theory. At the same time though, shrinking or making a slight modification to a log is also a really good way to boost merchandise sales. Take me, and other cap collectors for example. We all have the bigger logoed hats, so why not get the smaller logo as well? Some of you who aren’t keen on Indians caps might also not know that from 2003-2007 the Indians had brought out new caps in which the only change they made was a silver outline around the logo. I’m still looking for both of them.

I guess the only other thing to address is the theory that the Indians are using “alternate” logos on the scoreboard and around Progressive Field (The Jake!). Well, I was there last August, what do you think?

Even the employees still wear the Chief Wahoo logo on their shirts.

Can you spot me doing "The Shark?"

From everything I have researched, put together and seen in person I don’t see any evidence that the Indians are trying to phase it out. Yes, they certainly have introduced new hats which would also lead people to believe the theory, but they still use caps like this one as their road cap since 2008, and now as their alternate road cap since 2011. Wait a minute… alternate road cap!? They’re trying to phase it out! Damn you!!! ;)

In keeping with this oddity theme I am happy to say that I marked this cap up accordingly. Actually, prior to donning this cap in the photo I still had all of the stickers on it. Not even sure how I pulled that one off. Weird.

#48- Travis Hafner is one of the few people to make it to the big leagues having been born in the great state of North Dakota. Seriously, only 15 players, including Hafner, have come from The Flickertail State and the only other one you may have heard of is Rick Helling. Hafner attended college at Cowley County Community College in Arkansas City, Kansas (the town’s name doesn’t make sense to me either) where he was drafted by the Texas Rangers in the 31st round of the 1996 Major League Baseball Draft. He hit his first career home run August 11, 2002 while playing for the Rangers against the Indians. In addition to the home run, he had two doubles and a single in five at-bats, driving in three runs and scoring two. He nearly hit for the cycle in this game, but was thrown out at third base while attempting the triple. Greedy!

In the winter of 2002, the Rangers traded Hafner to the Indians along with Aaron Myette for catcher Einar Diaz and right-handed pitcher Ryan Drese. Hafner enjoyed moderate success with the Indians in 2003, splitting time between first base and designated hitter. On August 14, he hit for the cycle in Minnesota, the first Indian to accomplish the feat since Andre Thornton in 1978. In 2004, Hafner had a breakout offensive season. As the primary DH he finished the season in the top-10 in the league in on-base percentage (.410, 3rd), slugging percentage (.583, 4th), doubles (41, 6th), extra base hits (72, 7th), RBI (109, 9th) and batting average (.311, 10th). He also hit 28 home runs (16th in the AL) and scored 96 runs (20th in the AL). He topped the .300 mark in batting average each month of the season except August–when he hit a respectable .274–and was particularly hot in July, hitting .360 with 8 home runs and 28 RBI. He hit his first career grand slam in the Indians' home opener on April 12 against Kyle Lohse of the Minnesota Twins.

At the beginning of the 2005 season, the Indians signed Hafner to a three-year contract through 2007 with a club option for 2008. He responded by exceeding his offensive production of 2004. He was again among the league-leaders in on-base percentage (3rd, .408), slugging percentage (3rd, .595), doubles (5th, 42), walks (7th, 79), extra base hits (8th, 75), batting average (9th, .305), home runs (9th, 33) and RBI (9th, 108). He also scored 94 runs. The American League named him Player of the Month for June, when he posted a .345 batting average with 10 doubles, 8 home runs, and 29 RBI in 24 games.
In the first full week of July he was named Player of the Week after hitting .480 with 4 home runs and 12 RBI in 8 games. On July 16, he was hit in the face by a pitch thrown by the Chicago White Sox's Mark Buehrle and was placed on the 15-day disabled list on July 26. After returning from the DL on August 4, he hit .296 with 15 home runs and 45 RBI over the remaining 54 games of the season. To end the season, he hit home runs in six straight games from September 18–24, the second longest such streak in Cleveland history. After the season, the Cleveland chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) named him Indians Man of the Year and he finished fifth in the AL Most Valuable Player voting.

For the third straight season, in 2006, Hafner posted MVP-caliber numbers while anchoring the middle of one of the most potent offenses in baseball. On September 1, he was hit on the hand by Rangers’ pitcher C.J. Wilson. The Indians placed him on the disabled list for the rest of the season on September 9 after X-rays revealed a broken bone in his right hand. At the time of the injury, he led the league in slugging percentage (.659) and walks (100); was second in home runs (42), RBI (117), total bases (299), on-base percentage (.439) and extra-base hits (74); and was third in runs scored (100). He also batted over .300 (.308) for the third consecutive season. He finished 8th in the league MVP voting by the BBWAA.

On June 7, a section in the right field mezzanine at Jacobs Field was officially opened as "Pronkville." His nickname, "Pronk", was given to him by former teammate Bill Selby during spring training of 2001 when people sometimes referred to him as "The Project" and other times "Donkey" for the way he looked when running the bases. On July 7, Hafner became the first player in Major League history to hit five grand slams before the All-Star break and passed Al Rosen in the team's season record book when he homered off Kris Benson of the Baltimore Orioles. He joined Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks of the 1955 Chicago Cubs, Jim Gentile of the 1961 Orioles and Don Mattingly of the 1987 Yankees as the only players to hit at least five grand slams in a season. A little more than a month later, on August 13, Hafner tied Mattingly's single-season record when he hit his sixth grand slam of the season off Luke Hudson of the Kansas City Royals. His league-leading 13 home runs and 30 RBI combined with his .361 average in the month of August earned him AL Player of the Month—the second time he has been honored as such in his career.

In 2007, Hafner had a down year as he batted .266 for the season, compared to .308 in 2006 and .305 in 2005. He hit 24 home runs and 100 runs batted in, his 4th straight season of 100+ RBI. Some critics point to Hafner's disappointing performance being due to unfinished contract negotiations, but Hafner denied this. The Indians signed Hafner to a four-year, $57 million contract extension during the All-Star break, keeping him in Cleveland through the 2012 season. Then the injuries came. From 2008-2012 Hafner played in 429 total games, only playing for over 100 games once in 2010 (118). He never hit for more than 16 home runs during this time, nor did he bat in more than 57 runs (2011). On April 5, 2012, Hafner became only the 12th player in Cleveland Indians history to make at least 10 starts on Opening Day in a Cleveland Indians uniform. On April 15, 2012, Hafner hit a home run off of Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Luis Mendoza that was estimated at 456 feet. It was the longest homer hit at Kauffman Stadium since 2001. When Hafner was placed on the injured list in May for surgery to repair an injured right knee, it was his sixth appearance on the list in the last five seasons. Against the Detroit Tigers on August 5, Hafner a solo home run in the 10th inning, his 200th home run of his career. He was again placed on the disabled list in August with lower back inflammation. On November 1, the Indians declined on his option, making him a free agent.

#55- Signed by the Indians as a free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2000, Fausto Carmona was the original name given by Roberto Hernandez, a sinker specialist who spent seven years in the minor leagues before making his MLB debut on April 15, 2006. His first season was terrible, 1-10 with a 5.42 ERA; however, his sophomore season was Cy Young worthy. In 2007, his best year, Hernandez went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA and 137 strikeouts which was good enough for a fourth place finish for the AL Cy Young and 23rd place for the AL MVP. His teammate Sabathia took home the AL Cy Young that season.

In the years to follow Hernandez posted mediocre, bad and then solid numbers. In 2010 Hernandez went 13-14 with a 3.77 ERA and 124 strikeouts. That season he made the only All-Star Game appearance of his career thus far. In January 2012, Dominican police arrested Hernandez after he left the U.S. Consulate, accusing him of using a false identity to obtain a visa. Police reported his real name as Roberto Heredia Hernandez, and that he is three years older than he reported. The Indians placed Hernandez on the restricted list. Officials in both countries received assistance in the case by a woman in the Dominican Republic who claimed she falsified a birth certificate for Hernandez in exchange for $26,000, but when Hernandez's father failed to pay her, she contacted the authorities. The Indians brought Hernandez back for the 2012 season in which he lasted on three games, going 0-3 with a 7.53 ERA.

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