Tribe managers always manage to keep it interesting
Now that the Indians appear (hopefully) to have recovered from a lackluster stretch of ho-hum baseball while the pitching staff appeared to have forgotten how to pitch, we can once again return to dreaming of a World Series appearance, along with (maybe) a world championship.
Manager Terry Francona’s recent bout with chest pains got me to thinking about the first Indians manager I can remember, George “Birdie” Tebbets, who suffered a heart attack as manager of the Indians in 1965. Birdie, who had a degree in philosophy and was always good for an interesting quote, had a fairly decent team in 1965, but the team faltered in 1966 and Bridie was canned. He retired from managing, but scouted for numerous teams (including the Indians) until his death in 1999.
In 1967, the Tribe rolled the dice with a rookie manager, Joe Adcock, who will be forever remembered by yours truly as the guy who “invented” the 10-foot-high chair which he sat in (protected by netting from foul balls) so he could better analyze the ball movement by Tribe pitchers during spring training. Adcock was a fairly unpleasant fellow who only became more unpleasant while his team stunk out the joint in his only year with the Indians. Oddly enough, he never managed in the bigs again. Go figure.
In 1968, the Indians were thrilled to land Alvin Dark, who had an impressive managerial resume with San Francisco and Kansas City. The Indians shocked all of baseball in 1968 by winning 86 games, and the Indians rewarded Dark with the title of General Manager in 1969. The stress of wearing multiple hats wore on Dark and the Indians lost 99 games in 1969. He lasted until mid-1971, when he was finally fired. Naturally, he returned to the now-Oakland A’s and won a world championship. Dark made it to the ripe old age of 92, passing a couple of years ago.
The Tribe returned to a rookie manager in 1972, primarily because they couldn’t afford a “name” manager. The Indians, who were financially strapped as attendance had plummeted horrifically since the 1950s, were constantly involved in rumors about relocating to either New Orleans or somewhere in Florida. The Browns were still (as hard as it is to believe) an annual championship contender, and the Cavaliers were now in existence and competing for the sports buck. It seemed as if every payday the Indians were putting out a cash call to investors, and turnover in the front office – including ownership – was constant.
Ken Aspromonte was given the task of trying to patch a leaky ship, and considering the level of talent the Indians had, he did a reasonable job. They never finished over .500 in Aspromonte's three years, but the team was relatively competitive (think of the Browns going 7-9 compared to the norm, 4-12, as a reference point). However, being relatively competitive wasn’t good enough for a team desperate for a spark – in other words, injecting life into a comatose franchise – which we’ll examine next time.
Lifelong Westlake resident who dabbles in writing whenever the real world permits. My forte is humor and horror...What a combo!