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Terry Pluto, Poet Laureate of Cleveland

Friday, April 7, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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From his e-mailed column:

Opening Day: That’s what it’s all about

By Terry Pluto

Cleveland always has been an Opening Day town, even for Indians fans who don’t live anywhere near the city.

For some of us who grew up during the dark decades of Indians baseball, Opening Day was a time to dream. It was a time to walk down the West Third Street Bridge…

I have some friends from out of town who have moved to our area and are sick of stories about going to games down the West Third Street Bridge.

I understand.

That little walk is not a part of their lives, as it is to many of us.

They didn’t have a father who would put them on his shoulders, like my dad did. They didn’t have the joy of feeling on top of the world as I looked at the vast, never-ending sea of blue that was Lake Erie.

Or the massive old Cleveland Stadium, a baseball palace to me.

Or the old, neon Chief Wahoo sign on the roof of the ballpark. He stood on one leg, holding a bat and spinning around until he seemed ready topple over, much like the teams of our youth.

Or the first sight of the incredibly green grass as you came up the old, concrete stadium ramps and caught first sight of the infield. Remember, this was a black-and-white, three-channel TV world for many of us, which makes the colors of the ballpark so vivid in our memories.

There is no reason for people from out of town to understand this any more than many of us would relate to the passion of sitting in the bleachers at Wrigley Field or paying homage to the Green Monster at Fenway Park. That belongs to Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs fans, and they have been romanticized in movies, novels and countless magazine and newspaper stories.

Being a Cubs or Red Sox fan and reveling in your team’s losing long has been chic.

From the outside

To the outside world, being an Indians fan from 1960-93 just seemed stupid.

It’s kind of like feeling nostalgic for the era before indoor plumbing. Why would anyone feel like that?

Many of us know better, especially on this day when the Tribe plays its first home game of the season.

Some of us will spend this day thinking of players long gone, names we thought we’d forgotten: Fred Whitfield, Fred Beene, John Lowenstein, Sonny Siebert, Tom Veryzer, Charlie Spikes, Daddy Wags, Sugar Bear Blanks, Super Joe Charboneau.

All this can be set to an old sound track of Herb Score, Jimmy Dudley, Bob Neal and Joe Tait — those faint baseball voices of our past.

For so many of us, Opening Day is about bad teams and good memories. It’s about my aunt, who listened to every baseball game for 50 years — TV on with the sound down, the radio supplying the details. Aunt Pat never trusted Paul Shuey.

Maybe you had someone like Aunt Pat, an elderly, hardcore fan who hadn’t been to a game in 30 years, yet never missed one on television or the radio.

Baseball happening every day often becomes reason enough to help them get through the final days of their lives, when the pain of age and the edge of loneliness can seem unbearable…

At least until the first pitch.

Perhaps you came to the Indians later, or your kids did. It’s the Jacobs Field generation. They grew up with a sparkling ballpark, with winning teams, with packed stands and with the Bob Feller statue waiting to welcome them on East Ninth Street.

Read the whole thing. Send it to baseball fans everyhere, but especially to Tribe fans 45 years and older.

Favorite memory: My dad exasperated with Jack Kralick’s pace (glacial) and Larry Brown’s graciousness to a kid.

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