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Indians Indians Archive Tribe Game Vault: 7/27/78. Tribe 2B Duane Kuiper’s Monster Game (No - Not That One)
Written by Greg Popelka

Greg Popelka

duane kuiper cardWe continue to riff with some pleasant Tribe memories… Because sports are for what you want them to be for. I want them as a fun diversion. So what happens when your diversion becomes tedious- or even burdensome? If you are like me, you cherry pick your sports interests. A fine way to filter for the good stuff is to recall with fondness some of the memories of the sports of your youth. Sports, as a sanctuary from sports.

(But first, one rhetorical question, post-Browns-opener. And then we’ll move on. Is the installation of a substandard offense a requirement that is uniquely Cleveland? I’m talking all professional sports, here. At some point over the last couple years, it must have become a ‘rule’.)

Before this baseball season ends, I have intended to focus on one more piece of the Cleveland Indians of my youth. I don’t recall ever having a favorite player- for a time I assumed I must have had one; I played some third base in Little League and did like Buddy Bell. A lot, for a short time anyway. I also met him once; I believe I was not quite a teenager yet. But that didn’t last, and I didn’t mind when the Tribe traded him. Something had to change; those 1970s teams were duane kuiper tagging yankeegoing nowhere, fast. So I guess I was just more of a fan of the team.

A solid piece from that era was Duane Kuiper, the second baseman. Kuip fit the profile of fan favorite, as the Indians’ Man of the Year in 1977 and winning the Good Guy award in 1978. Tribe fans first got to know him as a personable rookie in 1975. He was among the wave of good young ballplayers that was washing ashore on the banks of Lake Erie during manager Frank Robinson’s historic season as Baseball’s first black manager. Other such players included pitchers Dennis Eckersley, Jim Kern and Eric Raich; outfielder Rick Manning; and catcher Alan Ashby.

(In later years, I learned of the bad vibes that developed between Kuiper’s predecessor, Jack Brohamer, and Tribe GM Phil Seghi. The short, scrappy, bowlegged “Hammer” had injured his hip early in 1975 and lost his job to Kuiper. Long after Brohamer’s hip was 100%, Seghi kept him stashed on the injury list. Brohamer publicly blasted Seghi, ensuring his trade by the GM that winter. As a kid, I just assumed all players and front office guys got along great.) 

Tribe fans know Duane Kuiper as a slap hitter who could run, at least early in his career. His best quality as a player was his defense- he led the American League duane kuiper blue unisecond basemen in fielding percentage twice in the ‘70s.

We also know that Kuiper spoiled a no-hitter three times- he had the only hit in games pitched by Andy Hassler, Nolan Ryan, and Ron Guidry. And during Dennis Eckersley’s Indians no-hitter in 1977, “Captain Kuip” stroked a triple in the first inning and scored on a squeeze bunt by Jim Norris for the only run of the game.

The most famous moment of Duane Kuiper’s playing career was the home run he hit on August 29, 1977. Prior to that game, his string of big-league at-bats without a home run was developing local interest. A radio station began a “Kuiper Countdown” to 2000 at-bats without him hitting a home run. But on at-bat number 1,382, he faced Chicago White Sox pitcher Steve Stone, a Cleveland native. It was in a rare, nationally televised game at the Stadium. With the bases empty, Stone grooved a 1-0 fastball and Kuiper hit it to right field (above where Yours Truly was sitting with his family)- and it sailed over the fence, hitting the fifth row of yellow seats! The crowd rose, and cheered in anticipation as the ball left his bat, and understood the significance of the home run as it was leaving the yard. Kuiper was greeted by his teammates at home plate, in a celebration duane kuiper gib shanleybefitting a walkoff homer. Kuiper would never hit another, over the final 1,997 at bats of his career. Famously, he commented that one was a lot better than none, but any more than that, and people would start expecting them!

Right, with sportscaster Gib Shanley.

For today’s Game Vault, we’re going to feature another time when Duane Kuiper was the hitting hero for Cleveland: July 27, 1978, at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees were good; the Indians were not. Hey, it was the late 1970s (part of the reason the Yankees were good was due to the former Indians who dotted their roster). I harbored a healthy dislike for the New York Yankees, but I do also have a story to share involving the Bronx Bombers from that era.

On that Thursday night in 1977, the Tribe and Yankees played a doubleheader. In the first game, the Yankees skunked ‘us’, 11-0. RF Reggie Jackson and (Akron native) C Thurmon Munson did the most damage for New York, and Eduardo Figueroa handed the defeat to the Indians’ David Clyde- the former Texas Rangers sensation who had been acquired in a deal that sent OF John Lowenstein to Texas. Nothing more to see here on that game.

In the nightcap, lefty Don Hood was to face ‘Catfish’ Hunter. It was looking like a sweep in the Bronx. “Hoodie” just wasn’t that good. (After at least one spring training with the Tribe, I recall him being kept on the roster due to him possessing athletic ability- which is fine, but no mention was made of his pitching ability.)

Well, something must have been wrong with Hunter. In the top of the 1st inning, the Indians sent to the plate RF Norris, CF Manning, LF Johnny Grubb, 1B Andre Thornton, DH Bernie Carbo and SS Tom Veryzer, and they went Walk-Single-Walk-Walk-Single-Single. The Tribe was up, 4-0, and Yankee manager (and former Tribe star) Bob Lemon lifted Hunter in favor of reliever Bob Kammeyer.

The Kamenator failed to offer much of an improvement (no, I don’t think he had a nickname. To be honest, I do not remember him. I just like the sound of it). 3B Ted Cox singled to load the bases, bringing up Duane Kuiper. Kuip ripped a triple to center field as the bases cleared. The carnage continued for a bit as the Tribe sent 13 batters total to the plate. After ½ inning: 9-0 Tribe. 

During this era, I was fortunate enough as a 16 year old to be given a trip by my parents, to anywhere (within reason, I’m sure). I chose to visit my Uncle Allan in New York City (he actually lived in Connecticut).

As I boarded the plane at Cleveland Hopkins, I glided past First Class. I did a double take at the smiling man I made eye contact with- it was Atlanta mayor (and future U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.) Andrew Young. Sitting next to him was political humorist Dick Gregory. Huh. (They were in the news enough then that even a teenager would have recognized them. At least I was pretty sure I knew who they were, and it was confirmed when we arrived at LaGuardia- we waited a looooong time to deplane. While we were standing after we parked, one guy commented in my direction that they needed to get the VIPs on their way.) 

Up 10-0 in the 5th, the Indians again went to work, again vs. Kammeyer. Norris and Manning singled, and Grubb moved them both up with a ground ball to the duane kuiper card blue uniright side. Thornton and PH Gary Alexander each recorded outs, but brought the runs home- Thornton on a fielders’ choice and Alexander on a sacrifice fly. Veryzer and Cox then singled and walked, respectively.

Bases loaded for Duane Kuiper- again.

And again, Kuip connected on a drive to center. Another three-run triple! Middle of 5, Indians up 15-0.

LaGuardia was… empty. At least the gate was. Unlike other cities (so far), New York had a policy of keeping non-travelers away from the gates. We walked a short time, and then the bustling crowd appeared. I spotted Uncle Allan, and he introduced me to whom would be my future Aunt Pam. 

We three had a great time in New York, just walking around. They’d lead us (in our casual clothes) through fancy hotels as we cut through on our walks. I was a sponge. ($20 to park in a garage for the day? Yikes. Remember, this was ca. 1978).Taking the elevator to the top of the World Trade Center tower was a highlight. 

Meanwhile, Don Hood was doing his job. He gave up hits in each inning, without walking a batter. That is, until the bottom of the 5th. That was when he also allowed two runs. After 5, 15-2 Tribe. 

Uncle Allan, Aunt Pam and I attended a Friday night Yankee game against the Boston Red Sox. Yankee stadium had recently been renovated, and we sat in the upper deck on the left field side. The angle of the incline was so severe, just standing was tenuous. About once an inning sections of the crowd would stand and look in the same direction. Each time, a fistfight was brewing. Occasionally, guys on the fringe of the mob would jump, and throw a punch into the middle of the fight. The crowd would cheer when those in the melee would tumble as one, down a couple rows of the upper deck. I noticed some older ladies near us, apprehensively peering up several rows from where they sat. They appeared very uncomfortable, making sure nobody was going to come falling down on them. When we later walked to the outer concourse of the stadium, we saw one of the gangs of muscle-bound, unarmed cops. Bouncers, basically. Walking together in groups, with a purpose. They were disheveled but confident. Determined. Nobody in New York was tougher. 

After the game, we remained in our seats, just relaxing and talking while the crowd had a chance to dissipate. Eventually, a police officer informed us that it was time to leave. We did- but we were ushered to a particular exit. When we walked outside, a cheer went up- this was the player exit, and the crowd (of a thousand or more, perhaps?) thought at first that we were part of the team. Cops asked us to step behind the wooden horses that formed a wide walkway for the team’s departure. We did- and a woman began yelling at us, that we’d taken her place! We said lady, we are just trying to leave. 

Soon, the Yankee players began to file out. Catfish Hunter. Reggie Jackson. All of them, in piecemeal fashion. The crowd hooted and clapped for all of them. As we were milling about at the fringe of the crowd, limousines slowly pushed through. Abruptly, Allan shouted: “There’s Henry Kissinger!!” We looked at the limo that was about six feet away from us, and there he was, at the window, smiling and waving with his hand near his face.

I know: in order to keep my Cleveland 'fan card’, I must wear my dislike for the large markets as a badge of honor. But man, come on! 

The Indians and Don Hood would win that nightcap, 17-5. 33 total runs had been scored in both games.

The hitting hero in Game Two was Duane Kuiper, who raised his average to .285. He went 3 for 5, with 6 RBIs and 2 runs scored.

In 1980, Kuiper severely injured his knee. The Tribe traded him after the 1981 season, to San Francisco for pitcher Ed Whitson. Kuiper had some solid seasons after the trade. Notably, he was one of a surprisingly large number of players from those bad Indians teams who were sorry to leave Cleveland and the Indians. 

Thank you for reading. Sources included The Cleveland Indians Encyclopedia, Schneider; Whatever Happened to Super Joe?, Schneider; Sports Illustrated’s online SI Vault; SI’s Joe Posnanski;

Below - fittingly, Kuiper said there was only one such shirt of its kind. "One home run; one shirt."

Duane Kuiper homer t shirt

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