The Cleveland Indians are an American professional baseball team based in Cleveland, Ohio. The Indians compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League (AL) Central division. Since 1994, they have played at Progressive Field. The team’s spring training facility is at Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona. Since their establishment as a major league franchise in 1901, the Indians have won two World Series championships: in 1920 and 1948, along with nine Central Division titles and six American League pennants. The Indians’ current World Series championship drought is the longest active drought.
The name “Indians” originated from a request by club owner Charles Somers to baseball writers to choose a new name to replace “Cleveland Naps” following the departure of Nap Lajoie after the 1914 season. The name referenced the nickname “Indians” that was applied to the Cleveland Spiders baseball club during the time when Louis Sockalexis, a Native American, played in Cleveland. Common nicknames for the Indians include the “Tribe” and the “Wahoos”, the latter being a reference to their logo, Chief Wahoo. Also, the team’s mascot is named “Slider.”
The franchise originated in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1894 as the Grand Rapids Rustlers, a minor league team in the Western League. The team moved to Cleveland in 1900 and changed its name to the Cleveland Lake Shores. The Western League itself changed its name to the American League while continuing its minor league status. One of the American League’s eight charter franchises, the major league incarnation of the club was founded in Cleveland in 1901. Originally called the Cleveland Bluebirds, the team played in League Park until moving permanently to Cleveland Stadium in 1946. At the end of the 2017 season, they had a regular season franchise record of 9,293–8,897 (.511). On September 14, 2017, the Cleveland Indians won their 22nd straight game. It extended the new American League record they set the previous game, while also becoming the longest winning streak with no ties in Major League Baseball history.
Cleveland baseball prior to the Indians franchise
“In 1857 baseball games were a daily spectacle in Cleveland’s Public Squares. City authorities tried to find an ordinance forbidding it, to the joy of the crowd, they were unsuccessful. – Harold Seymour”
- 1865–1868 Forest Citys of Cleveland (Minor League)
- 1869–1872 Forest Citys of Cleveland
From 1865 to 1868 Forest Citys was an amateur ball club. During the 1869 season, Cleveland was among several cities which established professional baseball teams following the success of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first fully professional team. In the newspapers before and after 1870, the team was often called the Forest Citys, in the same generic way that the team from Chicago was sometimes called The Chicagos.
In 1871 the Forest Citys joined the new National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NA), the first professional league. Ultimately, two of the league’s western clubs went out of business during the first season and the Chicago Fire left that city’s White Stockings impoverished, unable to field a team again until 1874. Cleveland was thus the NA’s westernmost outpost in 1872, the year the club folded. Cleveland played their full schedule to July 19 followed by two games versus Boston in mid-August and disbanded at the end of the season.
- 1879–1881 Cleveland Forest Citys
- 1882–1884 Cleveland Blues
In 1876, the National League (NL) supplanted the NA as the major professional league. Cleveland were not among its charter members, but by 1879 the league was looking for new entries and the city gained an NL team. The Cleveland Forest Citys baseball team was then re-created. The National League required distinct colors for the 1882 season, so the Cleveland Forest Citys became the Cleveland Blues. They then had a mediocre record for six seasons and were ruined by a trade war with the Union Association (UA) in 1884, when its three best players (Fred Dunlap, Jack Glasscock, and Jim McCormick) jumped to the UA after being offered higher salaries. Cleveland Blues merged with the St. Louis Maroons UA team in 1885.
- 1887–1899 Cleveland Spiders — nickname “Blues”
Cleveland went without major league baseball for two seasons until gaining a team in the American Association (AA) in 1887. After the AA’s Allegheny club jumped to the NL Cleveland followed suit in 1889, as the AA began to crumble. The Cleveland ball club, named the Spiders (supposedly inspired by their “skinny and spindly” players) slowly became a power in the league. The next year the Spiders moved into League Park, which would serve as the home of Cleveland professional baseball for the next 55 years. Led by native Ohioan Cy Young, the Spiders became a contender in the mid-1890s, when they played in the Temple Cup Series (that era’s World Series) twice, winning it in 1895. The team began to fade after this success, and was dealt a severe blow under the ownership of the Robison brothers
Prior to the 1899 season, Frank Robison, the Spiders owner, bought the St. Louis Browns, thus owning two clubs at the same time. The Browns were renamed the “Perfectos”, and restocked with Cleveland talent. Just weeks before the season opener, most of the better Spiders players were transferred to St. Louis, including three future Hall of Famers: Cy Young, Jesse Burkett and Bobby Wallace. The roster maneuvers failed to create a powerhouse Perfectos team, as St. Louis finished fifth in both 1899 and 1900. The Spiders were left with essentially a minor league lineup, and began to lose games at a record pace. Drawing almost no fans at home, they ended up playing most of their season on the road, and became known as “The Wanderers.” The team ended the season in 12th place, 84 games out of first place, with an all-time worst record of 20-134 (.130 winning percentage). Following the 1899 season, the National League disbanded four teams, including the Cleveland franchise. The disastrous 1899 season would actually be a step toward a new future for Cleveland fans the next year.
- 1890, Cleveland Infants — nickname “Babes”
The Cleveland Infants were in the Players’ League. The League was well-attended, at least in some cities, but was underfunded and its owners lacked the confidence to continue beyond the one season. There were eight teams who were star-studded; the Boston franchise won the championship. The Cleveland Infants finished with 55 wins and 75 losses. Their home games were played at Brotherhood Park.
Cleveland Indians. Progressive Field.
2401 Ontario Street. Cleveland, OH, 44115-4003.