Do any of you Cleveland Indians fans from the 1950s and maybe even before that, remember the flags that flew atop Municipal Stadium? This was years before the American and National Leagues were divided into divisions and the team that had the best record played in the World Series.
I recall the flags were changed on a daily basis, if necessary. The flags represented every team in baseball and the American League-leading team was placed in left-center field, with the remaining seven teams were set, in order back toward the left-field foul pole. The same was done with the National League teams down the right-field line. In those days, if there was a home game, a Chief Wahoo flag was placed on the flag pole of the Terminal Tower, and if there was a Sunday doubleheader, there would be two Chief Wahoo flags.
The people who lived near the Levine estate at Wilmington and Miramar roads in South Euclid didn’t need to be told if the Indians were still in the hunt for a pennant usually won by the New York Yankees, who dominated the '50s – except for 1954 when Cleveland set the record for most games won with 111 before being swept by the New York Giants and the Chicago White Sox in 1959.
Al Lopez managed each of those pennant-winning teams. What those people saw was similar to the swallows coming to Capistrano or buzzards to Hinckley. No matter how hot it was, as soon as my brothers, Stu and Billy, and I determined the Tribe was out of it, the football came out of the basement. Touch football games were a daily activity on the street.
I was reminded of this yearly routine last weekend when the Indians lost two of three to the Central Division-leading Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field, where more than 90,000 Tribe fans showed up for the festivities. This homestand, also featuring the hapless Tigers and Royals, was the last chance for the Indians to win back their fans and find some new ones before the Cleveland Browns open the 2019 training camp in Berea.
The atmosphere around the Browns has not been at this level since the Bernie Kosar era in the mid- to late '80s. And rightfully so. This year’s Browns are the trendy favorite to go far into the postseason, even though division foes Pittsburgh and Baltimore are still good teams, and Kansas City, the Los Angeles Chargers and Indianapolis are still legitimate teams standing in the way of the Browns. Oh yeah, the New England Patriots figure to be really good, too.
Know what I don’t hear much of over the years? The Patriots are in a division with Buffalo, Miami and the New York Jets, basically giving them five or six automatic wins each season since coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady became such good buddies. But I digress.
After the Indians finish the current homestand, they will have three more games in Minnesota. If this were in the '50s or '60s, the Levine boys wouldn’t think about breaking out the football until after that series. By that time, the Browns’ exhibition season will be underway, and the fun will be just beginning.