When Cleveland Comes to Zion

sports

Cleveland is the city of oppression. Sordid, evil, satanic oppression. Billowing oppression with smoke so thick that it bogs down the flight of birds and raises important questions on genetic mutancy. A million people living under a smokestack. A helpless mayor and a cityful of businessmen controlling the smog from their air-conditioned suites. And a baseball team so hot and so cold that--for a few years, anyway--Cleveland is worth keeping on the map.

Always the city of prolific pitchers--even if the Indians' management trades them away before they blossom--Cleveland is the American League East's spoiler. The cellar team that comes to town and leaves it dirty, snapping triumph from the jaws of sure defeat. Ask the Red Sox. They've been frustrated by the Cleveland Indians since any Boston fan can remember.

When the Red Sox dropped a five-run lead to the Indians last August, to lose 8-7, Carlton Fisk said, "You have to expect it from them almost. They're as scrappy as a club can be. Of course, they always come here at the bottom of the standings, and when we play the Cleveland Indians, you know they've got nothing to lose."

Nothing, indeed. The Red Sox, on the other hand, have a pennant at stake this year, and if they intend to keep pace with the Baltimore Orioles--who seem to grind out one win after another with mechanical precision--they can not afford to drop the silly slouch games they always seem to blow when the Indians roll into town.

But perhaps some preternatural force rooted in history will take over again this coming week as the Sox take on the Indians for a three-game homestand from Tuesday through Thursday. If you're looking to see the Red Sox at their best or their worst, these are the games to see. An opportunity for a Yankee fan, and for a Red Sox fan.

Remember to watch for dropped flies, pop-ups, surprisingly bad performances by superstars, a bad throw from right field by Dwight Evans, and very probably a sprained ankle--or more likely--a fractured ulna or battered hip or broken tibia. These are the curses which blow in from Cleveland, land of the perverse and mindbending mysterious. These are the kind of things which only happen in conjunction with Cleveland.

Mysterious things. Like the late Thurman Munson wishing to be traded from his world-champion ballclub to the Cleveland Indians, where he could live near his family. So terrible and inhumane is Cleveland to anyone but Munson, that Don Zimmer and Haywood Sullivan traded their most hated players--the Buffalo Heads (Rick Wise, Jim Willoughby, Ferguson Jenkins, and Bernie Carbo)--to the Indians, sparking one of the most imaginative and bizarre player protests of recent lore.

Bill Lee--the last hold out of "the heads"--cleaned out his locker amd went home for a few days, leaving nothing but a lit candle on Zimmer's desk in memory of his friend and comrade Carbo.

The Red Sox are full of it," Lee said that week in a rage over Carbo's release. They give you all this nonsense about what a big, happy family we all are and how well they treat their fans. It's all lies. Lies. If we're so happy a family...I know a lot of parents where I live and none of them would even think of sending their kid to Cleveland."

So that's the kind of place that Cleveland really is--take it from here. Don't forget that the Indians gave Boston the likes of Louis Tiant and Dennis Eckersley over the past few years. And don't forget, either, that Rick Wise usually beats the Red Sox when his new management summons him to pitch. So it's an even tradeoff, Cleveland for Boston, mystery for excellence, and anyway it turns out, the loser is always logic.