Recap - Indians 2, Reds 1
Day 3 of the roadtrip started with a super early morning 4:30 bus ride out of Detroit. I was honestly bracing for the worst since Detroit + Greyhound + 4:30AM rarely equals anything good. But, while the bus had its share of seedy characters, the trip was uneventful.
Within 30 minutes after checking into my Cleveland hotel room, news came on CNN about a Cleveland police officer being acquitted on the shooting of an unarmed couple from 2012. Shortly after, streets were being closed off and I could hear the sound of helicopters overhead. I was really concerned this would be a repeat of what Baltimore went through a few weeks earlier.
Ignoring this, I headed over to the Flats and went to the Powerhouse by the Cuyahoga River to board a trolley for a city tour. After getting back to my hotel – with things still relatively quiet on the streets – I walked down to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Lake Erie and spent about 3 hours there. Afterwards I grabbed a cab for a short ride to Progressive Field. The cab driver gave me the impression that things may get ugly before the day was over.
Downtown Cleveland has apparently come a long way is the last 25 years. Where once there were dirty, and dangerous streets, there now sit beautifully manicured landscaping, thriving local breweries, upscale restaurants, store fronts, and even a full-sized casino in a historic building next to Tower City mall.
Great eateries and bars in the neighborhood of the ballpark (which is between Ontario and 9th) include The Winking Lizard and Butcher and the Brewer . East 4th Street is the happening place just a short walk from the stadium.
For years, baseball in Cleveland was played in the cold, cramped, mammoth Cleveland Municipal Stadium. "The Mistake by the Lake," as they called it, had been the home of Cleveland baseball since it first opened in 1932. Like many stadiums of the era, this was multi-purpose and shared with the old Cleveland Browns and their ‘Dawg Pound’. With the raging success that the Orioles had after Camden Yards opened in 1992, other teams started hurrying their plans to open more fan friendly, baseball-only, downtown parks and the Indians were the first to do so 2 years later in 1994 when Progressive Field (then called Jacobs Field) opened. The park was an immediate success and sellouts were common. Coincidentally, the Tribe started winning a lot of games and made it to the World Series in ’95 and ’97 (losing both times).
The park has aged a bit since then and doesn’t have all of the gimmicky features other parks like Comerica have, but it is still a great place to watch a baseball game. It’s easy to get around, the sightlines to the field are great and the backdrop offers a nice view of the Cleveland skyline, including Quicken Loans Arena and the Terminal Tower.
Being one of the original charter American League teams, the Indians have a storied franchise and there have been many great moments in team history. Many of their great players are represented throughout the park in statues, plaques and photos, The retired numbers/names are displayed with greater prominence than any other ballpark. it is hard to miss Cleveland’s baseball story when walking the halls at Progressive Field.
Located in the center field area , Heritage Park hosts the Indians Hall of Fame, paying tribute to the greatest players in franchise history. One level is dedicated to players that are also inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, with the other dedicated to other Indians icons and exhibits.
The bullpens are on the same level as the main concourse, so those seated in the outfield and those walking by can stop by and watch both the home and away pitchers warm up at eye level during the game. The fans I met were all friendly and really into the game. The Tribe has mostly been a winning team for the last 2 decades, which does tend to breed a happier fan. The Indian’s mascot Slider is ever present, visiting kids and posing for photos while also poking fun at the visitors every game.
One of the traditions is the playing of the old McCoy's song ‘Hang On Sloopy’ during the 7th inning stretch which, during the singing of the chorus’ the fans all get up and sing “O - H - I - O” spelling the letters out with their arms (apparently they do this at Browns and Ohio State football games as well). It was one of my favorite songs as a kid and I had a pretty strong buzz on at the time, so I loved it.
There are lots of great places to hangout, eat, drink and watch the game if you don’t feel like staying in your seat and would rather socialize with the crowd.
In the ‘Right Field District’ is The Corner Bar which features an open-air fire pit on the roofdeck, nearly 40 beers on tap including plenty of local and craft brews and has concession areas representing all of the most popular Cleveland neighborhoods. In ‘Ohio City’, you'll find Great Lakes Brewing Company pouring plenty of their award-winning lagers and ales. ‘Tremont’ is home to Barrio, known for its inventive, fresh and flavorful tacos, in ‘Cleveland Heights’, you'll find grilled cheese goodness from Melt Bar and Grilled, etc. T
In the Infield District, there are a dozen local restaurants for fans' enjoyment including Happy Dog, Ohio City Burrito, Cleveland Pickle, Momocho, Fat Head's Brewery, Dante's Inferno and The Brew Kettle. Local eats can be found starting in the Right Field District all the way to the Budweiser Home Run Porch.
Archways seen in the Infield District near the local restaurants are a nod to architecture from the League Park era, and spotlight Tribe players and MLB players who excelled during that era. Featured players include Nap Lajoie, Tris Speaker and Earl Averill.
The game I saw was an inter-league matchup and the 'Battle of Ohio' - Indians vs Reds. Before the game, the Indians honored former CF and current broadcaster Rick Manning who was celebrating the 40th anniversary of his debut. Also before the game, for some odd reason, Reds Manager Brian Price got ejected while delivering the line up card. The fans were treated to some great pitching and defense. With the game knotted at 1 in the 8th, Jason Kipnis RBI double plated the 2nd and decisive run for the Tribe. Corey Kluber was masterful going 8 innings allowing 1 run and striking out 8.
After the game, on my walk back to the hotel up West 9th street, a small battalion of protesters carrying signs and chanting against injustice (some white but mostly black) started up behind me. Intrigued and maybe a wee bit drunk, I fell in line with them and took up the protest myself as someone handed me a sign. Several blocks later we ran into a blockade of about 100 or so police officers, many of them in riot gear, some on horseback. At this time, I decided I had had enough fun and walked off back in the direction of my hotel to call it a night.
Another early day tomorrow. Off to Pittsburgh.
Fans - B - Really into the game. The Tribe has been putting a quality product on the field and the fans have shown their gratitude and support
Features - B+ - Heritage Park, The player Statues, The 'Districts', Signing Hang On Sloopy, Slider the Macot - All really nice.
Location – A - Right in the heart of the action in Downtown Cleveland
Food – B - The Right Field District is a has lots of great choices and is a great place to hang out and watch the game. The Corner bar has many local brews including Cleveland's own - Great Lakes Beer.
Game - A - The ‘Battle for Ohio’ inter-league rivalry was a treat. Watching Kluber hurl a gem was nice too.
Overall Experience – B+ - Day in Cleveland, R&R Hall of Fame, A fun day at the ballpark and marching in a protest – A pretty satisfying day