You’ve been studying the franchise your whole life. You structure your schedule around their daily rhythms, nine months out of every year.
Typical Cleveland Indians trivia questions? They add little to the catalog of knowledge you have cultivated. The top highlights of the team’s past are fine for the national media to discover every couple years1. But you have long moved past such ‘low hanging fruit.’
The history of the Indians franchise is rich with stories that are full of texture. Some are humorous, others are poignant, and still others hold intrigue as a sign of their times. The best trivia is rooted in such stories.
Expressed in terms of a radio format, you could listen to your local FM Classic Rock station. You’d hear some nice tunes- your Hendrix air guitar is well-rehearsed, as is your Grand Funk Railroad air drums. It may be natural for you, precluding the need for the “white man’s overbite.” But having heard those hits over and over, you may have long ago become tired of them. That’s why you favor a “deep tracks” approach, Sirius/XM-style. Those seldom-heard gems – from top-selling and unheralded albums alike – expand your experience and challenge your insight.
With this in mind, take a shot at some “deep tracks” Tribe trivia questions. Feel free to share your own thoughts below, or to disagree with mine.
1) An Indians manager is generally credited with being the first to tap his arm that corresponded to the throwing arm of the reliever he wanted to enter the game. Before he began this practice, he was known to employ creative signs to communicate to the bullpen. He performed these while walking to the mound.
Mike “The Bear” Garcia rarely pitched out of the pen, but when he did, this manager signaled for him by holding his arms out- as if he were fat. Garcia wasn’t exactly fat, but the sign was effective.
The manager signaled for Ray Narleski by drawing an imaginary “N” in the air.
He signaled for Don Mossi by cupping his hands over his ears, mimicking the big-eared Mossi.
Who was this manager?
2) When Frank Robinson came to the Cleveland Indians in 1974, Larry Doby was a coach on the team. Back in 1947, Doby had been the first black ballplayer in the American League. Tribe owner Bill Veeck hired him as the second black player in the big leagues, after Jackie Robinson.
Frank Robinson became the first black manager. His first season as Tribe skipper was in 1975.
Who became the second black big league manager?
Who was the owner who hired him?
3) More Doby. In the 1950s, the Indians were very good. There was no playoff system, and the Yankees typically won the AL pennant- but not in 1954, when the Tribe was AL champs.
Yogi Berra won the American League MVP Award in 1954. But Doby had very similar stats that season.
Besides Doby, who on the Indians garnered first place votes in the A.L. MVP award race?
(Hint: There were three, and the 1953 MVP – an Indian- was not among them. Another hint: One was a pitcher.)
4) In September of 1969, gifted left handed starter Sam McDowell was having a bad game in Baltimore. He complained to umpire Larry Barnett throughout. By the sixth inning, Sudden Sam said the words that automatically get a player thrown out of a game. He proceeded to throw the ball into the stands behind third base, for which he was fined by the league. How much did McDowell pay for his fine, and why?
- $205. A.L. president Joe Cronin called Barnett. He asked where the ball landed. Barnett said row 205, so Cronin fined Sam $1 per row.
- $216. McDowell was fined $205 all right, but insisted his throw made it to row 216.
- $216. The fine was for $205, but McDowell was from Pittsburgh, and exchange rates with foreign locales can fluctuate.
- $216: McDowell was just representin’ the C-town area code.
5) Superscout Cy Slapnicka famously signed Bob Feller out of Van Meter, Iowa. In fact, he was responsible for signing many of the Indians players of the post-WWII glory years. He—and other scouts—cut corners and skirted the rules in signing young ball players. Feller’s signing in 1937 was at odds with the rule that a team could not sign sandlot ballplayers directly to a big league club. He had been signed to a minor league team by the Indians, but never reported there. Baseball commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis decided Feller was to become a free agent, allowing any team to sign him. Feller insisted he wanted to remain with the Indians, who happily paid a fine.
Another player was signed by Slapnicka in 1937. This player was stashed in the minors for a time, effectively being shielded from other teams who could’ve used him on their major league roster. He jumped at his chance to become a free agent, signing with the New York Yankees. He is now in the Hall of Fame. Who was he?
6) In 1920, native Clevelander Bill Wambsganss performed an unassisted triple play in the World Series, at Dunn Field (League Park). He said he was ready for it, partly because his teammates had talked about another Cleveland player whom had pulled one off during the regular season in 1909, with the Cleveland Naps. It was the first unassisted triple play in major league history, and his glove is displayed at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
Cy Young was on the mound at the time of the 1909 play, and was confused- he asked this player why he was leaving the field. Once the fans realized what had happened, they rose for a standing ovation.
Who was the shortstop who performed this feat?
7) Of the following ball players, whom does not belong? Why? Also, name the player who is missing.
- Herb Score
- Chris Chambliss
- Kenny Lofton
- Sandy Alomar, Jr.
8) Kenny Lofton was traded by the Cleveland Indians in March of 1997. Tribe GM John Hart was afraid that he was not going to be able to re-sign Lofton, and feared he would walk a la Albert Belle the season before. Lofton returned in 1998. We love the guy, and he will always be remembered as one of the ‘core’ of the 1990s. From 2001 through his final season of 2007, Lofton played on ten teams.
Name them. Extra credit if you can place them in order.
9) By 1907, Bedford, Ohio native Elmer Flick was a star player for the Cleveland Naps. He’d had a great career, one that would eventually get him elected to the Hall of Fame. But the Naps almost dealt him. A deal was in place, and the Naps backed away.
Who was the deal to be consummated with, and who were the Naps to get in return?
(In retrospect, the Naps should have made the deal. In fairness, they could not have foreseen the physical ailments that would plague Flick in the future; he only last a couple more seasons in the big leagues.)
10) Vernon Stouffer owned the Indians from 1966 to 1972. Hank Greenberg was a Tribe GM and part owner in the 1940s and 50s. In their roles as owner, what do these two men have in common?
Here are the answers:
1) The manager was Al Lopez.
2) Larry Doby was the second black big league manager. The White Sox owner who hired him was Bill Veeck.
3) Getting first place votes in the 1954 A.L. MVP race were Doby, Bobby Avila and Bob Lemon. They were all top-five vote-getters. Sixth was Early Wynn; tied for 15th was 1953 winner Al Rosen; tied for 19th was Mike Garcia and 22nd was Jim Hegan.
4) The answer is 2).
5) The Hall of Famer is Tommy Henrich.
6) The shortstop who performed the first major league triple play was Neal Ball.
7) The play who does not belong is Lofton. The others each won a Rookie of the Year award while with the Indians. Lofton finished second, to Milwaukee’s Pat Listach. (I didn’t mind the competitive Lofton having this fire lit under him at the time.) The missing ROY player is Joe Charboneau.
8) Hoo boy. Indians/White Sox/Giants/Pirates/Cubs/Yankees/Phillies/Dodgers/Rangers/Indians.
9) The Detroit Tigers wanted to move Ty Cobb to the Naps, for Elmer Flick. Cleveland backed away at the last minute. Cobb was already a top star in the league, but the Tigers were weary of his volatile, confrontational personality.
10) Each of these men tried to move the Cleveland Indians to another city.
Greenberg was behind a potential move to Minneapolis in 1957. The other owners backed out at the last minute.
Stouffer had bought into the Indians in 1964, when it appeared they might be moved to Seattle. By 1970, after several years of mismanagement and money losses, Stouffer was being wooed by markets such as Dallas and New Orleans. He made a deal to have the Indians play 30 home games per season in New Orleans, but the league vetoed that.
(People lament Stouffer’s rejection of George Steinbrenner’s offer to buy the Indians, thinking that would have injected life into the franchise. We should be glad he wasn’t allowed to sell out to the interests of another market.)
- as in inhaaaaale theIndianswon111gamesin1954andweresweptinfourgamesandWillieMaysmadeagreatcatch… [↩]