The Cleveland Indians have not frequented MLB’s front page regularly this offseason. GM Chris Antonetti seems to be holding out on big contract offers to players like Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza, and Bronson Arroyo until Spring Training edges closer. Instead, the Indians have been filling low-profile positions with players trying to make comebacks. So what brought the Indians into the headlines recently? The possibility of demoting- not eliminating- Chief Wahoo to the secondary logo.
Sports fans and non-sports fans alike have come together concerning racism in sports. I’m not going to argue what is or isn’t racist when it comes to teams like the Chicago Blackhawks, Washington Redskins, Atlanta Braves, Florida State Seminoles, our own Cleveland Indians, etc. That horse has been beaten far into the ground. It resembles politics in that the argument involves some people’s fundamental beliefs- it will take a huge campaign to change either way. We don’t even know if Chief Wahoo’s possible demotion is due to this anti-racism movement or not. I am here to say regardless of the cause, the Indians should take it a step further. Or in this case, in reverse.
All the way back to 1902.
This past season, I turned on the game to complete surprise. I would consider myself "with it" when it comes to the Indians. I’m active on Twitter, I read as many stories as possible, and I watch or listen to every game possible. Somehow, I missed the plan to wear the 1902 "Bronchos" throwback uniforms. I remember the first thing I saw was Jason Giambi getting hit by a pitch early in the game. It was an ugly throw, but even Big G looked good getting hit by it in his Broncho Blue.
We see endless throwbacks in a season- South Chicago’s "SOX" V-necks, the Astros’ awful multicolored uniforms, the Phillies’ powder blue… My point is that few throwback uniforms actually look good. Whether teams are looking to make some extra bucks in the team shop or just in it for fun, throwbacks are a novelty. Those 1902’s Cleveland wore, however, I believe could work.
I hear many complaints about the block "C" the Indians recently introduced. Fact is, that block "C" is also a throwback. It appears (from what I could find) as early as 1902 and was worn through the 1920 World Series win (you know, the 2nd-to-last time we won). Meshing a white block "C" on the 1902 Broncho blue uniforms doesn’t just look good, it heralds back to a time not so different than where we are today.
A quick history:
The Cleveland Bluebirds/Blues/Bronchos almost moved in 1902. The reasons, simply, were that funds were low, and they were not so good. That would all change with the arrival of future Hall-of-Famer Napoleon Lajoie (LAA-zhuh-way). The Philadelphia Phillies actually got a legal order preventing then-Phillie Nap Lajoie from playing for any team except the Phillies. Fortunately, that order was only valid in the state of Pennsylvania, and to punish the Phillies the league moved Lajoie to Cleveland. Lajoie gave Cleveland a boost to the point of Cleveland actually naming the team after him. The Cleveland Naps existed from 1903-1915, until they became the Indians we know today (named after Louis Sockalexis, a Cleveland player who was Native American). Cleveland went on to win it all in 1920.
So, not completely different from current times. The Indians were tough to watch after 2007. Sure, they’d flare up in 2011, but times were not so good. All of a sudden, we have an influx of life thanks to Ubaldo Jimenez, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, Yan Gomes, and Trevor Bauer, as well as our own products growing up like Jason Kipnis, Justin Masterson, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Michael Brantley. This product has worked so far, getting our first trip to the playoffs since 2007. So why not use a primary logo and uniform from 1902? A new influx of talent, hopeful times ahead, and a new team to believe in.
I am guilty of comparing everything the Indians produce now to the teams of the 90’s. What we had then was extremely special. Those teams were close to bringing home two World Series trophies under Chief Wahoo. Lately though, I’ve been reminding myself that this is our new team, setting its own benchmarks. Why not try to win some rings under a block "C" as a renewed, rebranded Cleveland Indians? We can do away with the white seams on the cap and the baggy pants, but it’s not just about leaving Chief Wahoo behind. It’s not just about looking fantastic in collared, navy blue jerseys. It’s about moving on from the 90’s and marking a new era of Cleveland Indians baseball.
Plus, maybe we could afford Ubaldo Jimenez AND Matt Garza with new jersey and merchandise sales…