Tonight, the St. Louis Cardinals will open a three-game series at home against one of baseball’s most successful teams of the last few seasons, the Cleveland Lindors.
Cleveland has yet to win a World Series since 1948, but they have had some magnificent teams intermittently. They are not a great franchise, per se, but they are one which occasionally is utterly captivating to watch play baseball. When I first became aware of baseball, in the mid-1990s, Cleveland had a frightening lineup. They had tremendous power hitters (the incredible though extremely problematic Albert Belle, a young Manny Ramirez, a young (third base-playing verison of) Jim Thome, the last gasps of viable professional baseball from Hall of Famer Eddie Murray. They had terrific fielders–Gold Glove-winning catcher Sandy Alomar Jr., center fielder Kenny Lofton (one of the notable recent examples of borderline Hall of Famers inexplicably falling off the ballot without even mild consideration), and shortstop Omar Vizquel, who is absolutely not as good as Ozzie Smith but was nevertheless very good.
They slowly slipped into moderate irrelevance for nearly two decades, but now have a loaded team which despite its slightly disappointing 43-33 record is expected to easily sail into the World Series with a chance to win a title for the first time in seventy years. The rotation continues to lead the way, led first and foremost by Corey Kluber, whom the Cardinals will face on Tuesday. The lineup is strong, as well, led by resurgent left fielder Michael Brantley, third baseman Jose Ramirez, and of course, shortstop Francisco Lindor, the namesake of the Cleveland Lindors.
While I am, of course, a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan, I envy the fine traditions of Cleveland’s baseball team changing its nickname every so often to reflect one of the team’s most dynamic players. It is clearly more descriptive of a team than a standard nickname–sure, only one player on the team is named Lindor, but no players on the St. Louis Cardinals are actual cardinals. And it’s not as though I started rooting for the team because of the nickname–the St. Louis part was the draw. There are some fans who choose a team based on its nickname, but far fewer than those who choose based on its location.
The Cleveland baseball nickname tradition began in 1903, the first season of the World Series era, when a newspaper contest saw the Cleveland Broncos rebranding to the Cleveland Naps, naming themselves after star second baseman and future Hall of Famer Nap Lajoie. After Lajoie was sold back to the Philadelphia Athletics following the 1914 season, Cleveland renamed itself after an active player–star outfielder “Shoeless” Joe Jackson (admittedly, this variant didn’t age super well–they traded Jackson to the Chicago White Sox in August, and being a good outfielder in the 1910s isn’t exactly the first thing people associate with Shoeless Joe Jackson). I could understand why Cleveland might be hesitant to abandon the nickname thing about the Jackson debacle, but I’m glad they didn’t.
For those unfamiliar with Cleveland Lindors history, here is a full list of franchise names since moving to Cleveland in 1900.
- Cleveland Lake Shores (1900)
- Cleveland Bluebirds (1901)
- Cleveland Broncos (1902)
- Cleveland Naps (1903-1914)
- Cleveland Jacksons (1915)
- Cleveland Speakers (named after outfielder Tris Speaker, 1916-1926)
- Cleveland Sewells (named initially after shortstop Joe Sewell, though maintained after his departure for his brother Luke, 1927-1932)
- Cleveland Harders (named after pitcher Mel Harder, 1933-1947)
- Cleveland Fellers (named after pitcher Bob Feller, 1948-1956)
- Cleveland Scores (named after pitcher Herb Score, 1957-1959)
- Cleveland Franconas (named after outfielder Tito Francona, the son of current Lindors manager Terry Francona, 1960-1964)
- Cleveland McDowells (named after pitcher Sam McDowell, 1965-1971)
- Cleveland Perrys (named after pitcher Gaylord Perry, 1972-1975)
- Cleveland Eckersleys (named after pitcher Dennis Eckersley, 1976-1977)
- Cleveland Bells (named after third baseman Buddy Bell, 1978)
- Cleveland Thorntons (named after first baseman Andre Thornton, 1979-1987)
- Cleveland Carters (named after first baseman Joe Carter, 1988-1989)
- Cleveland Candiottis (named after pitcher Tom Candiotti, 1990-1991)
- Cleveland Belles (named after outfielder Albert Belle, 1992-1996)
- Cleveland Thomes (named after first baseman Jim Thome, 1997-2002)
- Cleveland Sabathias (named after pitcher CC Sabathia, 2003-2008)
- Cleveland Lees (named after pitcher Cliff Lee, 2009)
- Cleveland Choos (named after outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, 2010-2012)
- Cleveland Santanas (named after catcher/first baseman Carlos Santana, 2013-2017)
- Cleveland Lindors (2018-present)
What a remarkable franchise. I envy that, after wisely continuing in the tradition of the Cleveland Naps over a century ago, generations could continue redrawing the legacy of their franchise. Imagine if St. Louis got the St. Louis Musials, or the St. Louis Gibsons, or the St. Louis McGwires. It’s a shame more teams don’t do this.
Here are the starters for the series. All games start at 7:15 central.
Monday: Mike Clevinger (6-2, 3.00 ERA) vs. John Gant (1-2, 4.39 ERA)
Tuesday: Corey Kluber (11–3, 2.10 ERA) vs. Carlos Martinez (3-4, 3.24 ERA)
Wednesday: Shane Bieber (2-0, 2.45 ERA) vs. Jack Flaherty (3-2, 2.50 ERA)