Since their establishment as a Major League franchise in 1901, the Indians have won two World Series championships, in 1920 and 1948. The Indians’ drought of 62 years since their last Championship is now the longest in the American League, and second only to that of the Chicago Cubs in all of MLB.
The “Indians” name originates from a request by the club owner to decide on a new name, following the 1914 season. In reference to the Boston Braves (now the Atlanta Braves), the media chose “the Indians”. They are nicknamed “the Tribe” and “the Wahoos”. The latter is a reference to the mascot which appears in the team’s logos, Chief Wahoo.
The Cleveland team originated in 1900 as the Lake Shores, when the American League (AL) was officially a minor league. One of the AL’s eight charter franchises, the major league incarnation of the club was founded in Cleveland in 1901. Originally called the Cleveland Blues, the team played in League Park until moving permanently to Cleveland Municipal Stadium in 1946. At the end of the 2010 season, they had a regular season franchise record of 8,691/8,367 (.509). The Indians have won seven AL Central titles, the most in the division.
During the 1869 season, Cleveland was among several cities which established professional baseball teams following the success of the 1869 Cincinnati Red Stockings, the first fully professional team. In the newspapers before and after 1870, the team was often called the Forest Citys, in the same generic way that the team from Chicago was sometimes called The Chicagos.
In 1871 the Forest Citys joined the new National Association of Professional Base Ball Players (NA), the first professional league. Ultimately, two of the league’s western clubs went out of business during the first season and the Chicago Fire left that city’s White Stockings impoverished, unable to field a team again until 1874. Cleveland was thus the NA’s westernmost outpost in 1872, the year the club folded. Cleveland played their full schedule to July 19 followed by two games versus Boston in mid-August and disbanded at the end of the season.
In 1876, the National League (NL) supplanted the NA as the major professional league. Cleveland was not among its charter members, but by 1879 the league was looking for new entries and the city gained an NL team. The Cleveland Blues had a mediocre record for six seasons and were ruined by a trade war with the Union Association (UA) in 1884, when its three best players (Fred Dunlap, Jack Glasscock, and Jim McCormick) jumped to the UA after being offered higher salaries. The St Louis UA team replaced Cleveland in the NA in 1885.
Cleveland went without major league baseball for two seasons until gaining a team in the American Association (AA) in 1887. After the AA’s Allegheny club jumped to the NL Cleveland followed suit in 1889, as the AA began to crumble. The Cleveland ballclub, nicknamed the Spiders (supposedly inspired by their “skinny and spindly” players) slowly became a power in the league.
The Spiders survived a challenge for fans from the Cleveland Infants, an entry in the one-season Players’ League in 1890. The next year the Spiders moved into League Park, which would serve as the home of Cleveland professional baseball for the next 55 years. Led by native Ohioan Cy Young, the Spiders became a contender in the mid-1890s, when they played in the Temple Cup Series (that era’s World Series) twice, winning it in 1895. The team began to fade after this success, and was dealt a severe blow under the ownership of the Robison brothers.
The Robisons, despite already owning the Spiders, were allowed to acquire a controlling interest in the St. Louis Cardinals franchise in 1899. They proceeded to strip the Cleveland team of its best players (including Young) to help fill the St. Louis roster. The St. Louis team improved to finish with a winning record. The Spiders were left with essentially a minor league lineup, and began to lose games at a record pace. Drawing almost no fans at home, they ended up playing most of their season on the road, and became known as “The Wanderers.”
The team ended the season in 12th place, 84 games out of first place, with an all-time worst record of 20 wins and 134 losses. Following the 1899 season, the National League disbanded four teams, including the Cleveland franchise. The disastrous 1899 season would actually be a step toward a new future for Cleveland fans the next year.
Between June 12, 1995 and April 4, 2001, the Indians sold out 455 consecutive home games, drawing a total of 19,324,248 fans to Jacobs Field. The demand for tickets was so great that all 81 home games were sold out before Opening Day on at least three separate occasions. The sellout streak set a Major League Baseball record which was broken by the Boston Red Sox on September 8, 2008.
The team’s success during the late 1990s would even lead comedian and Cleveland native Drew Carey to quip, “Finally it’s your team that sucks!”The Indians honored their loyal fans by retiring the number 455.