It’s funny, but I don’t remember any of my childhood friends or classmates being Cleveland Indians baseball fans. Maybe it was too painful to admit openly.
When I was in high school, the manager was probably best remembered for charging the mound at an opposing pitcher, pathetically failing to land a karate kick. To add insult to injury, the pitcher dropped our manager with one punch. But this was my team, my lovable losers. I played in a world of possibility whereas nearly everyone else I knew played in a world of probability. Life is safer their way. But perhaps it’s with my mindset that I entered an essay contest by a Cleveland newspaper – “Why Do You Like The Indians?” At this age, I was reading the sports section daily so I wrote and sent in my essay.
Thinking back, I wonder if I was the only one who bothered with the contest.
Nonetheless, the prize was “dinner” with the Indians and a free ballgame. Dinner with the Indians meant I got to invite a friend to accompany me to the stadium for a luncheon that launched the team’s winter press tour. Only the manager and a couple players showed up to talk to the room full of reporters and afterward, I got to wait in line to shake the hand of a forgettable rookie infielder.
When we got there, Mom dropped us off and my friend, Steve, and I walked in. Immediately, we seized a plush booth. It was long – very long – and center stage. It was located in the back of the room next to huge windows high above the ground outside. It had our names all over it, so to speak. It was ours! Until some lackey in a suit scrambled across the room to us as some old guy and his entourage entered.
“Hey kids, you can’t sit there!” he said with alarm.
“Sure we can,” I said.
“We are,” said Steve, shooting a smile my way knowing he just slipped in a cocky remark under the radar.
The man demanded we move.
“But I won the contest,” I said matter of fact.
He looked dumbfounded. Then, he saw the entourage nearing and looked back to us in desperation.
“You gotta go, now,” he pleaded, reaching for my arm.
I pulled away and scooted farther into the wrap-around booth.
“What seems to be the problem?” asked the old man arriving next to the table. His entourage fanned out around it.
The scared looking man (lackey) sounded like he had diarrhea of the mouth so I explained.
Laughing, the old man said, “You boys have a good time,” and he left us to the enormous booth.
Then, he and his entourage pulled tables and chairs together in the center of the room, displacing some adults.
As they crowded around a hastily made large table by clustering together smaller tables right in front of us, we sat back and ordered meals fit for kings. I sat at one end of the long booth and Steve sat on the far end. You could have sat five adults on one side between us.
This was our day and nobody was going to take it away.
Later, the old man was introduced as the general manager of the Cleveland Indians. My natural instinct was to boo, but I bit my tongue. We all knew how the Indians were mishandled, but I couldn’t help but appreciate the kindness he extended toward us.
On the way out, Steve and I shared an elevator with a “rising star.” He had a giggling girl under each arm, thereby making him a bigger hero than just a moment earlier, even though he didn’t notice us in the tight space we shared going down.