I am no stranger to the power of nostalgia. Growing up in the Midwest environs of Northern Ohio, some of my strongest childhood memories to this day lie in my remembrance of watching Cleveland Indians baseball at the old Municipal stadium. I recall my awestruck attention at the sheer size of this cavernous stadium as grown men effortlessly attempted to hit a little white ball for a home run over a distant fence. I flashback to the pungent combination of stale beer and stadium mustard pervading my senses as I walked the dark aisles of this imposing amphitheater. I go back to my diligent attempts to spending my weekly allowance in collecting baseball cards of those great Indians heroes present from the rare games I attended. Most of all, I reminisce about the innocent dreams I experienced then at the ballpark to see my hometown win it all.
Moving to South Florida as a teenager in the mid 1960s, I intensely missed this close stadium experience that had defined my youth identity. While the losses piled up year after year in seasons of baseball futility, however, I stubbornly remained devoted to my Indians and the city it represented. Rejecting the sun and fun glitter of living near Miami , I would always find solace in disassociating myself from Cleveland’s “rust belt” urban chaos to embrace the more positive image of my former hometown as a blue collar place of hard working, family values.
When the Cleveland Indians experienced a brief period of winning in the mid 1990s, suddenly it became easier to relax into my role as a Cleveland supporter. I was able to attend a few games during those years as a tourist and became an avid collector of Indians memorabilia. These token efforts to relive my baseball dreams would never suffice, though, as my day-to-day game experiences from distant South Florida merely offered a morning box score of hitting, fielding, and pitching statistics. As the team resumed its losing ways in the new millennium, I grew cynical about the performance of my favorite team and increasingly concluded that I would never be alive to experience a Cleveland Indians moment as champion.
The success of the Cleveland Cavaliers as world champions of the N.B.A. in June, 2016 brought a timely end to these negative perceptions. For the first time since 1964, a professional sports in Cleveland had won a title, and it seemed logical now that my much maligned city was ready for more. I would optimistically notice that on the same day the Cavs won the title, the Cleveland Indians would begin a fourteen game winning streak. I would also observe that this team would follow the Cavs model and rarely lose in front of their home fans. In addition, I would see LeBron James embrace the Indians success as evidence that the city had finally turned the winning corner. I would thus euphorically watch my team of underachieving ball players play inspired baseball, that would ultimately lead them to win the American League Championship in early October. Their World Series opponent of either the Cubs or Dodgers would truly be a historic matchup for generations of Indians fans.
My intense loyalty to this franchise would be severely tested as my wife and I vacationed in the beautiful city of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. What sense would it make to cut off quality time spent in the majestic environs of the Rocky Mountains to travel to Cleveland now? Yet somehow, I knew I must be there now to mingle amidst the celebratory atmosphere of World Series glory. Never expecting to pay over $ 1000.00 for a game day ticket, I will nonetheless make my pilgrimage to Cleveland next week with full knowledge that I have come home again to a place where happiness reigns true in my heart.