Old Time Baseball on the Streets of Cleveland

I was searching for something on the internet and came across this. I couldn't get the link to work so I'm making this a fan post rather than a fan shot.

(editor's note: here's the link to the document page - it's #400019tr)

It's an interview done in 2005 by a Cleveland State grad student, Patrick Miller and Jake Rosenheim a guy who grew up on E84th St. and Crawford - that's near Hough - in the late 40s early 50s. I thought some of you might enjoy this.

PM: Excellent. What are your basic memories of the neighborhood, as you were growing up?

JR: It was basically a middle-class, working man's neighborhood. Very few of us owned automobiles. We used public transportation most everywhere we went. We walked to school all the time and it was a very nice, safe neighborhood.

PM: What types of things did you do with the children in your neighborhood, with other kids in your neighborhood?

JR: We played ball as soon as the snow went away. We played baseball. We played football as soon as the school started in September, and if it snowed a lot and got icy we would play hockey in the middle of the street with a tin can and hockey sticks. (Laughs)


PM: Also, back to your childhood. You had stated that you had played ball in the neighborhood . . . (Unintelligible) . . . You mentioned baseball. What are your remembrances of playing baseball in the neighborhood?

JR: About a block over from our apartment was an empty lot. Actually it was two empty lots, with West (sic) 85th street cutting through the middle of the two lots. And we laid out a baseball diamond with a big willow tree as the backstop. And that's where we played ball, if we had enough players to get at least five or six on a team, then we would have, then we'd play that way. If not, there was a big wooden fence where we would paint a strike zone and play with a tennis ball and a bat or whatever. If we only had two or three or four, you know.

PM: Excellent. What other baseball experiences did you have growing up?

JR: Well, if the older guys were using the field and playing ball and they didn't have enough players, us younger kids would run the bases for them. (Laughs) So, that was a lot of fun. It was when I enjoyed running. (Laughs)

PM: Apparently the older ones didn't enjoy it.

JR: Well, they wouldn't let us play so they said, "you can run the bases for us"

PM: Did you do any. . . Did you play any organized baseball?

JR: Yes, yes. Fisher Foods, which was a precursor of what is now Tops, went through a number of name changes since then, sponsored organized baseball, primarily played at Gordon Park. And it started out, class F was the lowest, then class E, class D, and so on up the line. And we played a lot of class F and class E ball, but it was not as we look at organized baseball today. We got a t-shirt and that was it. You came with your own glove, your own ball, your own bat. And of course everybody wore tennis shoes, no spikes. Sometimes there would be an umpire, sometimes there wouldn't. But it was a good experience. Most of the teams we played, they were from neighboring neighborhoods. So we knew the kids, either from school or from the neighborhoods.

PM: When you were growing up, what were your experiences with professional baseball?

JR: Well the only experiences with professional baseball, was of course listening to, reading the paper and going to Cleveland Indians games. We were, all of us in the neighborhood were avid fans. We collected baseball cards. We would go around the neighborhood all week, and collect bottles. At the time, there were deposits on bottles. Some bottles had a one-cent deposit, two cent. The bigger bottles had a five-cent deposit. So we would collect all the bottles that we could during the week and cash them in for money. That would give us enough money to ride the bus or the streetcar down to the stadium to watch a doubleheader on Sunday. And we would go down at ten ‘o' clock in the morning, and get the first seats in the general admission. And we watch batting practice. We took our lunch. We'd watch baseball all day, get home about six o'clock and then play some more ball. (Laughs)

PM: Are you speaking specifically of League Park or . . .?

JR: No, this was Municipal Stadium. I attended one game in League Park. And it must have been, I can't remember, it had to be the last year they were there which was 1946. And as I recall they were playing the Yankees that day. I couldn't remember who was pitching or anything. At the time I was awed by it, it was really the first professional game I ever went to. My mother took me.

PM: How did you arrive at the stadium?

JR: Oh. We took streetcars and buses. I think we had to take two or three to get there. Although it wasn't that far from . . . I mean many times later as we got older, we would ride our bikes down there. But, by that time they weren't playing ball down there anymore.

PM: After the park closed, you just stated you used to ride down there. What were you and the other neighborhood kids doing?

JR: Oh. We would ride bikes. You know. Ride our bikes around and many times we would ride down to Gordon Park and then ride down. . . There was a road up on the cliff above the railroad tracks, prior to the freeway being built there. We would ride all over.

PM: You mentioned that you were a great Indians fan. What are your memories of the World Series Championship in 1948?

JR: Oh, it was the greatest season ever. At the beginning of the season, the Indians weren't expected to do much of anything. But it was a matter of Bill Veeck wanting to get rid of Lou Boudreau as the manager. And there was a big, human cry among the fans to keep him. And one of the newspapers ran a contest about, you know, write a letter to Bill Veeck to keep Lou Boudreau, and so he went along with it. Being the showman that he was, he went along with it and kept him. And I think Boudreau at the time felt that because of that he had to do something. And I feel personally, that he willed that team to win. He batted that year somewhere around .340 and hit a bunch of home runs and he just was . . . I saw him make a play I've never seen a shortstop make before. He fielded the ball in the hole, flipped it to Kenny Keltner and Keltner threw the runner out at first. (Chuckles) I've never seen another shortstop do that in the Major Leagues. It was just a very exciting . . . And of course it wound up in a tie with the Boston Red Sox and there was a sudden death one game playoff which the Indians won. And when they returned to town after that game and also after the World Series which they won, I believe in five games or six games. There were celebrations and parades in Cleveland that compared to the celebration and the parades with the end of World War II. This town really went crazy for the Indians that year. '54, was a little bit of a different story. The Indians had the greatest pitching staff, that year. They had four, I don't think they were all twenty game winners. But they were all . . . Three of them I know were at least. They were terrific. And we set a record number of wins in 1954 for a team. But, we lost the World Series in four straight games, that was kind of deflating.

PM: Did you attend games in either of those two seasons?

JR: In 1948, I probably . . . They played at that time, they played 154 divided by two is what . . . 77. I probably went to fifty games. Besides going on Saturday and Sunday with my friends, my mother and aunt and I used to go a lot.

PM: Did you get a chance to attend either the Boston playoff game or any . . . ?

JR: Well, the Boston playoff game was in Boston. But I was sitting in my science class in school and they had it on the P.A. system, and nobody was doing any kind of work in the school at all. Did go to the first game here in Cleveland of the ‘48 World Series. Sat in row Z in left field, up in left field, but it was an exciting thing to be there.

PM: In 1954, did you attend many games?

JR: ‘54, I had just graduated from high school and I was going to Fenn College in the fall. And I had to work during that summer and didn't get to attend too many games that year. Although, we did go at night several times and of course didn't get to a World Series game at all. They only played two here I think. Yeah, I guess it was two.

PM: After you finished with high school you said that you went to Cleveland State. What career did you pursue after college?

JR: Well, I started out in the engineering school at Fenn College, old Fenn College. I met a young lady and fell madly in love with her and decided that I . . . I had a very good job . . . It was a co-op school then . . . I don't know is C.S.U. still co-op? . . . I can't remember, but in any event it was a co-op school and after my first two semesters I think, I got a job with a surveyor. Now remember, this was 1955 and there was a lot of home building going on at the time. And I got a job through the co-op system at Fenn College with a surveyor, who very luckily got a business of a company that built most of the houses in Brookpark, Ohio. I remember going out on the crew to stake out a few houses in Brookpark, the first time we went out there, and the only thing that was there was the Ford plant. It was all bean fields, and if anybody drives through Brookpark now, you know it's just solid houses. So we worked out there for several years and I was making really good money and I just didn't feel like going back to college. I met a beautiful girl and we got married, we had children (Unintelligible) And I finally went back to school I think . . . I can't remember what year it was but, I finally got my degree in history in 1967.

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