CLEVELAND, OH (AP) – Flash back to Oct. 12, 1920.
“An overjoyed crowd of nearly 28,000 fans blazed into a conflagration of hysterical excitement when the game was over and Cleveland had realized at last the baseball ambition of twoscore years,” The New York Times wrote the following day.
Stan Coveleski’s five-hitter led Cleveland over Brooklyn 3-0 that afternoon at League Park for a 5-2 win in that year’s best-of-nine World Series.
The Indians have not won the championship at home since, a streak they hope will end Tuesday night in Game 6 against the Chicago Cubs.
“We haven’t been able to celebrate in front of our fans once this postseason, so it would be definitely special to have the opportunity to do it in front of them,” first baseman Mike Napoli said Monday.
Cleveland’s only other World Series title was in 1948, when the Indians secured the crown with a Game 6 victory at Braves Field in Boston. The club then traveled home by train.
Eddie Robinson, the last living member from that team, planned to be at Progressive Field to watch Cleveland’s Josh Tomlin pitch against the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta with a 3-2 Series lead.
The 95-year-old Robinson was the starting first baseman on the ’48 team, which featured Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller, Larry Doby – who broke the AL color barrier – shortstop/manager Lou Boudreau and pitcher Bob Lemon.
Robinson is making the trip from Fort Worth, Texas, to see the Indians try to close out the Chicago Cubs. He batted .300 with six hits in the ’48 Series and drove in Cleveland’s fourth run in Game 6 when the Indians beat the Boston Braves to win the championship.
No Cleveland team has secured a professional title at home since the Browns won the 1964 NFL Championship Game at Cleveland Municipal Stadium, and the city missed this year’s big events, too.
First, the Cavaliers completed their NBA Finals comeback on the road, beating Golden State in Game 7 for the city’s first major pro sports championship in 52 years. Then, the Indians clinched the AL Central crown at Detroit, won the AL Division Series in Boston and the AL Championship Series at Toronto.
After winning Games 3 and 4 in Chicago to open a 3-1 Series lead, the Indians lost 3-2 Sunday at Wrigley Field.
“It’ll be ideal. We have a better situation to do it now,” second baseman Jason Kipnis said.
Chicago, which hasn’t won it all since 1908, is trying to become the first team to overcome a 3-1 Series deficit since the 1985 Kansas City Royals and the first to do it by winning Games 6 and 7 on the road since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates.
Arrieta, who pitched no-hit ball into the sixth inning to win Game 2, starts on five days’ rest for the Cubs against Tomlin, who will have had three days off since throwing 58 pitches in his Game 3 no-decision.
If the Cubs force Game 7, Kyle Hendricks would pitch on regular rest for Chicago against Corey Kluber, who would make another start on short rest and try to become the first pitcher to win three starts in one Series since Detroit’s Mickey Lolich in 1968.
Chicago delayed its charter flight to Cleveland until Monday night. In the Wrigley Field clubhouse, a message said: “Halloween costumes are encouraged on the plane.”
“We wanted them to have the opportunity to be with their kids today during the Halloween moment,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “After that game last night, believe me, man, I was in no mood to get up and travel today. I think it actually is working out pretty well. We’re going to get in at a really good hour, grab stuff to eat and go to bed.”
With the switch to the American League ballpark, the designated hitter is back: Carlos Santana for the Indians and Kyle Schwarber for the Cubs. Schwarber was out from April 7 until the Series opener after tearing knee ligaments. He has not been given medical clearance to play the field, so he was limited to one pinch-hitting appearance at home. He is 3 for 8 in the Series with a double, two walks and two RBIs.
“When I managed in the American League, I always thought it was somewhat of a disadvantage going to the National League, subtracting one offensive player, and probably even more pronounced for different teams that have really profound, legitimate DHs,” Maddon said. “But for right now, at this moment in time, the fact that Kyle cannot play defense but can still play offense and run the bases, it does work out well for us.”
At Wrigley, Santana made two starts in left field, a position he had not played since 2012, and one at first base.
“It helps keeping the body warm, and I like being out there in the field,” he said. “Being a designated hitter is a bit more complicated. I try to gather advice on how to do it better. I always ask David Ortiz, and he’s giving me good pointers, but there’s still room to improve.”
Both teams were among the big leagues’ best at home this year. Chicago led the majors with a 57-24 record, and Cleveland was tied for second with 53 victories in its own ballpark.
“When you’re on the road, one, it’s kind of you against the world, which is OK,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But the biggest thing of all is when you’re the home team, you hit last, so you get to use your bullpen differently, and that’s a huge advantage.”