Clevelander Sportswriter Talks City's Shot At World Series
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
There's been so much emphasis on the historic 108-year-old losing streak of the Chicago Cubs. But the Cleveland Indians have their own story to tell. And right now, of course, they're ahead two games to one in the World Series - no one better to tell that story than Terry Pluto, the great columnist at the Cleveland Plain Dealer and author of a forthcoming book "Comeback: LeBron, The Cavs & Cleveland." Terry, thanks so much for being with us so early today.
TERRY PLUTO: I'm glad to do it, Scott.
SIMON: Help us understand the mentality of Tribe supporters.
PLUTO: Well, here's the deal. The Indians right now feel like, you know, they're supposed to be the Washington Generals to the Harlem Globetrotters...
PLUTO: ...Of the, you know, the Cubs. The Cubs are entitled to this title because 1908 and that. In fact, you know, it's really strange. Since the Cavs turned around and won that title - broke that 60 - you know, the drought going back to the 1964 Browns. People are now calling the Indians - now it's the Windians (ph). You know, there's this powerful - at least, in northeast Ohio - feeling of confidence.
SIMON: Oh, my.
PLUTO: Take that. So the Cubs may have won their 103 games, Scott. And they may be there in the World Series. But I think the Tribe looks at themselves, really, as - maybe a cliche - but kind of the little engine that could. You know, keep going up the hill. We'll just bring in 15 more relievers as sort of the...
SIMON: Well, that's what they had, almost, last night. I stopped counting Cleveland pitchers 'cause I was beginning to fall asleep. And, you know, this wasn't...
PLUTO: That's what they do every game.
SIMON: Yeah. I know. I know. It's not just the great guys like Kluber. They have a great bullpen. Let me ask you about this...
SIMON: ...Whole idea about curses. I mean, as you know, my family blood runs Cubby-Bear blue.
SIMON: But I think, as you also know, my father spent a year as the field announcer of the Tribe.
SIMON: And it happened to be right before they traded Number 7, the right fielder, Rocco Rocky. And that - and I - didn't you even write a book called "The Curse?" That's considered to be a curse in Cleveland.
PLUTO: Right. It was actually - yeah, "The Curse of Rocky Colavito" - 'cause they traded him right after the 1959 season, which was the last year they actually contended. And then they never played another meaningful game in September until 1994. And then the baseball strike came. So basically, '95 - they came back and won.
It wasn't quite as powerful as the - you know, the Curse of the Bambino. But let's face it, Scott. When you go 34 years without even a sniff of contention, that doesn't do a whole lot for the baseball fan base. I mean, it's not the billy goat. But we had the Rock.
SIMON: Well - oh. The Rock. Don't knock the Rock. Don't knock the Rock.
SIMON: Now, let me reach this next matter carefully. Cleveland, a city I have grown to love and spend much - you know, and spend time there...
SIMON: ...And love Clevelanders. Cleveland, it must be said, has had tough times. Now, so has Chicago. But I wouldn't begin to compare what the two cities have been through. What's the effect of Cleveland in a World Series on the town, do you think?
PLUTO: You know, I think it really - it comes basically right after the - of the improbable win in the NBA Finals. You know, they're down 3 to 1 - became the first team in NBA history to come back and win it. And you can even drive it all the way back to LeBron James coming back in 2014.
Suddenly, you know, the loser city - the city where the Browns moved - the city where the Indians, you know, hadn't won a title since 1948 - the city where the Cavs had never won a title since 1970 - suddenly has one championship, is on the verge of another.
And then, you know, they're supposed to be just - bow down. That's their look at - for the Chicago Cubs because of all their little blue bears and their forlorn fans and all the misery they had. And the Cleveland fans...
SIMON: I know I'm supposed to go, ouch...
PLUTO: We know misery.
SIMON: ...Every time you say that, right?
PLUTO: Yeah. I'm just being a little annoying because - let's face it - I've been surrounded by Cubby blue for about 36 hours now.
SIMON: (Laughter). Yeah. Well, so have I. And I love it. But...
SIMON: So yeah, I - but I'm impressed by the fact that neither team is saying we should win this Series because we've suffered more than the other. They both - I mean...
PLUTO: Right. That's left to the fans.
SIMON: ...These are genuinely great teams.
SIMON: Pardon me? Yeah.
PLUTO: Yeah. It is left to the fans. I mean, the interesting thing is the fact - Terry Francona has this whole thing. By the way, he's 10-1 as a manager in the World Series now.
SIMON: I'm shaking like a leaf. But go ahead, yeah.
PLUTO: Yeah. And he would say, you know - but he has this whole thing. Win the game in front of you. And that's why he's, you know - the strength in numbers thing of all the pitchers and things he's doing. But...
SIMON: And, you know, Joe Maddon, the Cub manager, says, try not to suck, which...
PLUTO: Yeah (laughter).
SIMON: I think was originally said by Abraham Lincoln here in Illinois, wasn't it? Yes.
PLUTO: Well, one of the theories - and this actually comes from Orel Hershiser...
SIMON: We've got 15 seconds left. Yeah. Go ahead, please.
PLUTO: Yeah. If you can play your normal game while everybody else is panicking around you, you'll look pretty good.
SIMON: Oh, yeah. Well, that's what happened last night. Terry Pluto, thanks so much for being with us - of the Cleveland Plain Dealer - forthcoming book "Comeback: LeBron, the Cavs & Cleveland." Thanks so much, Terry.
PLUTO: You're welcome, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.