On July 11 the Cleveland fans pictured watched Roberto Perez homer in his first game and learned that LeBron James would return to their city. I spent a few days this week in the city that also won the Republican National Convention and drafted Johnny Manziel. The good times continued Saturday as Perez was at it again – driving a double off of future Hall of Famer Joe Nathan to help the Indians sweep the first place Tigers in a double header to pull within 4 ½ games of just their 2nd AL Central title in 14 years.
The city was abuzz as I enjoyed everything from St. Louis ribs (House of Blues) to shrimp quesadillas (Zocalo’s) to the bowling scene at the Corner Alley on famous East 4th Street this week.
The Indians were 8 ½ games behind the Tigers four games ago, and 6 ½ games back before Saturday’s double header. However, after winning the first game, they were able to chase Cy Young Award-winner Max Scherzer in the sixth inning and were tied 2-2 going into the ninth. It may have seemed like Perez would be no match in his seventh career at bat Saturday night against Nathan. But the rookie drove Nathan’s pitch into deep right center for a double, and later in the inning Carlos Santana did the same to clear the bases for a 5-2 win that brought the Indians within 4 ½ games of the Tigers.
Indians fans have enjoyed watching the Indians go 29-19 at home this season, the third best record in baseball, but this was a road game against the first place Detroit Tigers.
If ever a city and fans deserved it …
These are the residents who filled Jacobs Field for 455 consecutive games from June 12, 1995 to April 4, 2001 – but have only seen the Indians take the AL Central one time in 13 seasons since.
I was there when the Browns last made the playoffs with a win over the Atlanta Falcons on December 29, 2002 (see ESPN game story here). In the football Stadium, they are merciless to opposing fans. I was worried my two sons, seven and 11 years old, would be traumatized after the verbal abuse we took for wearing Michael Vick jerseys to the game. Instead, my seven-year-old said, “I want to move to Cleveland. These are real fans, they don’t let us walk into their city with visiting jerseys – they love their team.”
I was at their game against the Bills on October 3 when quarterback Brian Hoyer was injured after three promising starts. Despite the excitement and “Johnny Football” t-shirts I saw from Cleveland to Akron this week, it is Hoyer’s return that likely gives the Browns a chance to be much improved this year. LeBron James’ return and another No. 1 pick have made oddsmakers believe the Cavs could win the title this year.
No one is picking the Indians to win the World Series, but the playoffs seem a realistic goal after Saturday’s sweep.
At this rate, Republican National Convention delegates in 2016 could get to town just in time to see James playing for the NBA title, the Indians in a pennant race, and Johnny Manziel getting ready for training camp coming off a playoff run.
Republicans hope the city’s recent success will rub off them as they seek to take back Ohio in a quest to once again win the White House.