Cleveland Indians' World Series History: Team Due for a Championship

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Cleveland Indians' World Series History: Team Due for a Championship
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Bill Wambsganss of the 1920 Cleveland Indians.

Over the years, the Cleveland Indians have seen some of the game's greatest players on their lineup cards, from iconic players such as Cy Young and "Shoeless" Joe Jackson to modern-day sluggers like Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.

Despite the great pool of talent, the Tribe have always struggled in the World Series.

The Indians' World Series history can be broken down into three distinct eras: one that no one remembers, one that some people remember, and another that fans can't forget.

World Series Titles: 1920 and 1948

Division Titles: 1920, 1948, 1954, 1995, 1997

1920: Who are the Brooklyn Robins?

This falls into the era that no one remembers. The Indians beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1920 World Series 5-2 in the best-of-nine game series. That season, the Dodgers went by the nickname the "Robins" as a tribute to their manager, Wilbert Robinson. The series is marked by the first and only unassisted triple play in World Series history, which was turned by the Indians' Bill Wambsganss in Game 5.

1948: A Tale of Three Pitchers

The Indians beat the Boston Braves in this series 4-2. This World Series falls into the category that some people remember. I don't remember this one personally, but I feel like I was there due to all the stories my grandpa told me when me when I was a kid fishing for Walleye at the lake.

In 1948, the Tribe featured three dominant pitchers. Bob Feller, Bob Lemon, and Gene Bearden had won a combined 59 games in the regular season, with Lemon and Bearden winning 20 games each. The Tribe had talent at the plate as well. Lou Boudreau, Dale Mitchell, and Larry Doby all had batting averages over .300 that season.

1954: The Catch

In Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, Willie Mays of the New York Giants made "the catch" that would later become an iconic image in baseball history. The score was tied 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth inning when Tribe slugger Vic Wertz hit a towering drive to center field that would have been out of most ballparks, but not the Polo Grounds. Mays sprinted back and made a fantastic over-the-shoulder basket catch on the warning track to make the out and retire the side.

Mays' catch was a beautiful play but it wasn't a deciding factor in the series. The Giants routed the Tribe in a 4-0 World Series sweep. The Indians would not appear in another World Series for 41 years.

1995: The End of the Dry Spell

No Indians fan can forget this World Series because it was the first time many fans had seen the Tribe go to the World Series since they had been born. The Indians' Eddie Murray would provide relief in Game 3 when his walkoff single in the bottom of the 11th provided the first single-game win in the World Series for the Tribe in 41 years.

The Indians came into the World Series with what is arguably one of the best lineups of all time. Guys like Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel provided speed for the meat of the batting order, which included Manny Ramirez, Albert Belle, and Jim Thome. Veterans like Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield were also on hand. The Tribe's talented lineup had their hands full with the Atlanta Braves' dominant pitching rotation of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and John Smoltz. Glavine would go on to pitch a one-hit masterpiece in Game 6 and turn the game over to the Braves' Mark Wohlers to close out the series.

The Tribe lost this World Series to the Braves, 4-2 but the series was much closer than that number indicates. Of the six games played in the series, five of them were decided by one run and the other game was decided by two runs.

1997: The Single

This is a World Series I would love to forget but will always remember. The Florida Marlins were an underdog in the series but managed to take the Tribe to the seventh game. The Indians had a 2-0 lead late in the game. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Indians manager Mike Hargrove sent out Tribe closer Jose Mesa to close things out.

I was living in Florida during this World Series, and what happened in the ninth inning of Game 7 is still a blur to me. Mesa allowed a lead-off single to Moises Alou. Charles Johnson also singled, pushing Alou to third. Eventually, Craig Counsell hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. In the 11th inning, Indians pitcher Charles Nagy faced a jam with two outs and the bases loaded. Edgar Renteria hit an unimpressive single up the middle, which zipped by Nagy's glove and brought in Counsell for the winning run.

Kristian Eberwein is a freelance journalist from Orlando, Florida. He was an English major at the University of Central Florida. He was born in Akron, OH and is a lifetime fan of the Cleveland Indians. Follow him on Twitter @KrisEberwein.

Sources:

All player statistics and standings from Baseball Reference

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