Opening Day: Cleveland, the Indians, and a New Beginning
Praise for Opening Day
“Opening Day offers great players, high stakes, and the hinge of history turning as a new era in Cleveland sports begins.”
-Bill Livingston, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“I thought I knew everything worth knowing about the first game at Jacobs Field. But Jonathan Knight surprised me with his exhaustively researched account.”
-Bob Dyer, Akron Beacon Journal
“Jonathan Knight has navigated the recent history of ‘The Tribe’ in an engaging manner that can enlighten and be appreciated by even the non-baseball fan. For this book is as much about the Indian fans of Northeast Ohio as it is about the team itself.”
-Northeast Ohio Journal of History
“A great book for Cleveland Indians fans…”
“Reading Opening Day is like going to the game with a good friend.”
-Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Using the descriptive skills of his profession, the research efforts of a historian, and the enthusiasm of a fan, Knight has produced a highly readable account of a memorable ballgame and of Cleveland’s baseball and civic revival.”
“...it’s a quick and enjoyable read about a game that symbolized a drastic change in fortune for a moribund franchise.”
The Spiders arrived at 3 p.m. on a cable train as part of a sixteen-piece parade that swept through downtown and included a marching band and several circus animals. By then the ticket line was more than four hundred feet long, stretching all the way to Lexington. Meanwhile inside the park, another marching band played for an hour leading up to the contest as the Spiders (wearing their white flannel uniforms with “Cleveland” sewn across the front in black letters) warmed up and chatted with the Red Legs (dressed, oddly, in blue flannels). All the while the crowd continued to grow, and the overflow crowd stood in foul territory, roped off from the playing field.
By the time 4 p.m. rolled around, the stands were packed, and the dark coats and hats made up a sold ocean of black. Although there weren’t many policemen on hand, the crowd did its best to keep out of trouble. Occasionally a bystander in search of a better view wandered out onto the field and got in the way of the players, but no real problems arose. In all, more than nine thousand people settled in to watch the Spiders and Red Legs go to battle. Getting the huge crowd into the park only created a slight delay, and the first pitch was stalled a few moments longer when a photographer standing in center field took a few extra moments to snap a picture.
After holding Cincinnati scoreless in the opening frame, the Spiders came to bat for the first time ever at League Park. Youngstown native Jimmy McAleer ripped a shot into the gap in right center for the game’s first hit and reached second easily. However, with the roar of the mammoth crowd, he couldn’t hear his third-base coach advising him to stay there, and he was thrown out at third. It would be one of the few sour points in an otherwise sweet day for Cleveland. The Spiders broke onto the scoreboard a few moments later, following a George Davis walk and a Cupid Childs RBI double. Ralph Johnson followed with a single up the middle that drove in Childs to give the Spiders a 2-0 lead. It would almost be enough for Young, who was magnificent on this day. No Cincinnati batter got past first base during the first seven innings, while the Spiders added another run in the fourth.
Just before Cleveland batted in the bottom of the fifth, three wild geese flew over League Park, honking. Someone in the crowd yelled, “That means three runs!” And sure enough, the Spiders scored three times in the fifth, making the score 6-0. With Young pitching, it was all over but the shouting. Cleveland added a pair in the sixth, and when the Red Legs plated three in the top of the eight, the Spiders bounced back with four of their own to win going away.
By the time the dust had settled a mere hour and fifty-eight minutes after the game had begun, Cleveland had broken in its new park with style.