In “Classic Tribe: The 50 Greatest Games in Cleveland Indians History,” author Jonathan Knight provides an in-depth look at the glorious and gruesome past of the Cleveland Indians baseball team. As the Indians have been plagued with overall losing season after losing season since the late 1940s–a fact made even more painful with the cursed Boston Red Sox winning yet another World Series earlier this month–it can sometimes be difficult to see any sunny sides to the Cleveland sports situation. Nevertheless, as it covers a span of years from 1901 (when the Cleveland Blues came from behind to score eight runs in the ninth inning at League Park against the Washington Senators) to 2007 (when the Indians defeated the Yankees in Game 3 of a best-of-five series for the division title, costing Yankees manager Joe Torre his job), “Classic Tribe” is a heartening read after the disappointing conclusion to the Indians 2013 playoff run.
The overall tone of the book is greatly helped by Knight’s evident fondness for the team as he reminds readers that it doesn’t always take a blowout victory or a playoff crush to make a game great. Sometimes–in true Cleveland spirit–it just feels good to give another team a hard time. His roots as a Cleveland sports fan are wonderfully apparent in his frequent assertion that wins over the New York Yankees are always just a little bit sweeter than against any other team. (Yes, they are.) “Classic Tribe” remembers great moments in the history of the team that have been otherwise lost to the general despair that comes with judging the Indians by season records alone. Each entry on his list provides context for the game, the game itself, and the game’s box scores. Knight covers bittersweet games of recent memory that plenty of Cleveland fans remember, from the playoff runs of the mid-1990s to the more recent bids in 2001, 2007, and yes, 2013. Fortunately for those of us to whom those wounds are still just a little bit too fresh, there are plenty of entries on the list that give an inside look into parks and players long forgotten.
“Classic Tribe: The 50 Greatest Games in Cleveland Indians History” is–more than anything else–an uplifting book. Nothing short of a tome of magic spells will be able to incite any overwhelming optimism for the oft-burned Indians fans, but it is impossible to read this book and come out of it without at least a little bit of hope for the future.
Unless, of course, you’re a Yankees fan. In that case, this book will just annoy you.
“Classic Tribe: The 50 Greatest Games in Cleveland Indians History” is available in both print and eBook from Amazon and and the Cleveland Public Library System.