Name drop: Cleveland to say goodbye to Indians for good

CLEVELAND – There is no further debate or decision to come. There is still anger and disbelief, but also the excitement that accompanies the change.

The Cleveland Indians are about to be part of history.

On Monday, one of the founding members of the American League will play their last home game of 2021, as well as their last at Progressive Field as the Indians, the team’s name since 1915, when “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was the right of departure fell on opening day. .

Much more than the lineup of a rain against the Kansa City Royals, the home final will mean the end of an era and the start of a new chapter for the team, which will be called the Cleveland Guardians next season. .

It will take some getting used to. Indians are all residents of Cleveland.

“I’m not a gamer,” longtime radio host Tom Hamilton said as he reflected on what lies ahead. “But I have to guess how many times we’ll say Indians make a million.”

After Oct. Season 3 finale in Texas and with no playoffs for a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1948, there will be a transition period before the Indians – a name deemed racist by some – are dropped and The Guardians appear on new uniforms with logos that were unveiled in July to mixed reviews.

At some point, Guardians merchandise will go on sale and the massive ‘Indians’ script logo crowning the stadium’s huge left-field scorecard will be removed, a moment many Clevelanders never imagined possible.

And while the Indians’ end has been known for some time, it still seemed to sneak up on some fans.

“It hit us a little bit when we walked in,” said Kathy Wainwright of Elyria, Ohio, as she and her husband, Mark, had a bite and a few pre-game beers before the Indians did. welcome the Royals.

Before entering the stadium, the couple walked to the corner of Ontario Street and Carnegie Avenue to take a photo of the entrance to the home plate where a lighted “Indians” sign greets fans.

“I knew this was the last time I could see it that way,” Mark said.

The team is not planning any ceremony to honor the Indians’ final performance at home. Unfortunately for many Cleveland fans, this is happening at the same time as the Browns host the Chicago Bears just a mile away at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Indians’ last home game was another tricky line to walk for the club, whose decision to change their name drew sharp criticism from fans who felt the team had caved in to a small vocal minority. .

Others thought it was long overdue, and probably should have happened when the team ditched the controversial Chef Wahoo logo a few years ago.

The name change became inevitable last year when owner Paul Dolan announced plans to examine Indian use after being moved by the social unrest that swept America over the murder of George Floyd. in Minneapolis.

Cleveland’s steps towards change don’t really matter at this point. There is no going back. It happens.

For Sandy Alomar Jr., the end is conflicting.

Six-time All-Star catcher and current Cleveland first baseman, Alomar has a personal attachment to Indians, the name he has worn on his chest for 23 seasons – 11 as a player, 12 as a coach.

He respects the team’s decision and understands the logic behind the change, but that doesn’t make it easy for him.

“It’s an emotional time for me,” he said. “All I know is to be a Cleveland Indian. I am an Indian forever. “

Alomar was a driving force behind the mighty Cleveland teams in the 1990s, when after leaving their lakeside stadium, the Indians went from underdog to dominant and won five straight division titles.

“These moments are irreplaceable so I guess it won’t hit me as hard as when I have to wear the new uniform,” said Alomar, who plans to keep the one he wears in the last game of this season as a souvenir. .

“I can’t wash that one,” he said. “I’ll just take him home as he is.”

Hamilton, who called his Indians game debut in 1990, isn’t sure what kind of reaction to expect from Cleveland fans on Monday. He believes the name change will have a bigger impact next season – when the Indians don’t take the field.

“I think it will be a bigger deal on opening day, the home opener,” he said. “The first game won’t be in Kansas City as the Guardians, it will be here. It’s going to be more interesting. “

Before the summer wore off completely, Don and Julie MacDonald of Fairview Park, Ohio took one last family trip to the ballpark this week. It was their son Josh’s 10th birthday, and they made sure to purchase some new Indian merchandise, at least until the Guardians were available.

As his kids ate slices of pizza along a railing in the right corner of the field, MacDonald reflected on how things might be different in the future, and how they might stay the same.

The Indians could have a new name. Their fans don’t change.

“It’s going to be hard not to say Indian for a while,” he said. “It’s been so natural for so long and I don’t see Chief Wahoo leaving anytime soon. There are still so many fans wearing it. The name could be Guardians, but I think people will always say Indians.”

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