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Indians Indians Archive A House With No Dog
Written by Jeff Rich

Jeff Rich

Tribe DogCleveland will always be my home, no matter how many miles separate me geographically or how many days I am removed from my last day as a resident of Northeast Ohio.  It's true that I have become somewhat of a tourist, as my visits back are fewer and farther between, but when I say "I'm going home", that means I'm Cleveland-bound.

Some things are the same, but it's more different than it is the same.  The Oldsmobile dealership that sold us our vehicles, the one at the corner of 21 and Rockside, is now a Walgreens.  The house and street just off West 117th, north of I-90, where I brought in more than one New Year, have been cleared to make room for yet another Target.  Of course, the ballpark at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario remains, but the sign out front has a different name and the atmosphere is certainly different.

It isn't like any of these things happened overnight, and this wasn't my first trip back, but there are some things that I like to hold on to, although I know the world back home didn't stop because I put it in the rear view.  Naming rights, big box stores, and strip malls aren't really the issue here; I suppose I accept that as evolution, however, I don't accept that my native land is a dying place, as many like to claim.

39,653 on a Thursday afternoon in DetroitA few days of this latest trip were spent, once again, leaving Cleveland, but only to explore nearby places.  It was for the sake of baseball, business and pleasure, if I had to define a purpose.  I had the chance to see games in various cites, one on the way up and one on the way down, while the Indians were on the West Coast. Regardless of the stark contrast between Pittsburgh and Detroit, once you were inside the ballpark, there was something electric looming in the grandstands, the vibe you would expect in the house of a contender in late August.

By the time the Indians were on their way home from an overall successful trip to California, I'd spent at least one night in each of my usual overnight stops, but something was different.  There wasn't an unwanted hair to be found or an unprovoked bark to be heard, but it felt somewhat empty.  At one house, the mutt had passed on, and in the other, man's best friend had departed with an old roommate.

Now, I like dogs, and love my own very much, but I had no particularly special bond with either of these pooches.  Still, more than the Target on the city's west side or the Walgreens in Independence, I was bothered by the absence of these canines.  For me, they were as much a part of the respective homes they lived in as the bar in the basement or the walk-in pantry. the first 10,000 thru the gatesIt hit me on Friday night, then again on Saturday; Progressive Field, or Jacobs Field if you insist, has lost its bark and maybe a little bit of its bite.  To set this up properly, I'll remind you that the Indians were returning from a 9-game road-trip with this 3-game weekend series sandwiched in between another 6-game trip that begins in Tuesday in Atlanta.  It's also worth mentioning that the Indians are in the thick of Wild Card race, and though this series is against the hapless, Joe Mauer-less Twins, the organization was offering two nights of fireworks, a night of $1 hot dogs, and 10,000 Nick Swisher replica jerseys.

From my seat in the right field mezzanine, I could see the empty sections in the upper deck along the left field line, not empty seats, but empty sections.  I could turn around and see the "455" dedicated to the fans that sold out the park for the same number of games over a decade ago, but what have we done for them lately?  On Saturday, we ventured to the team shop beneath the Terrace Club that hangs over the seats along the left field line.  From that vantage point, I could see the exclamation point on the embarrassment that I saw in those vacant sections on Friday; the seats above the mezzanine were all empty, except for the Circle K strikeout girl.

I recall a trip down to Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati in 2000 to see the Indians take on the Reds, stopping along the way for food, beverage, and/or bathroom usage, only to see bus loads of Tribe fans also taking the journey down I-71.  This was still a time that a ticket to a game at Carnegie and Ontario was still a tough get.  The friend I was traveling with was angry with this caravan of alleged bandwagoners, shouting "Where were you when they played at the Stadium?".

A lot of empty sections for a Friday night in AugustHow I'd love to have that bandwagon back!  Personally, I've stopped passing judgement on other fans a long time ago, and would recommend that others stop.  I'm just glad you're shelling out the cheese for a ticket, even if I'd prefer the game itself taking more relevance with your children than gracing the JumboTron or catching a free t-shirt.  It's like the pit bill that induced allergies I didn't even know I had, or mutt that barked up a storm, unnecessarily alerting my folks of my entry at 5 AM.  I do miss it, now that it's gone.

It has taken almost twenty years for me to learn that this thing called "Jacobs Field Magic" isn't real.  Don't get me wrong, I'd still like to put teeth under pillow at night and receive monetary compensation, but reality tends to hang out in the room with you more by the time you hit your mid-30s.  I like timely hitting and an offense so reliable that you have your closer loosening up when you're down a run or two in the bottom of the eighth, but let's not credit anything metaphysical for it.  That's not to say there isn't anything special about playing at home and winning late.

The team feeds off the energy in the stands.  You never want to accuse these guys of quitting or giving anything less than 100% on the field, but they turn it up to a new level when the crowd is fired up.  With 10,000 of the 26k in attendance wearing his name on their backs, Nick Swisher came up big in a de facto must-win (to salvage a series win) with an RBI double.

455And hey, the W is the most important thing, but it's difficult to ignore how low that 26k number is, considering the circumstances.  I can see it at PNC Park and at Comerica in Detroit; granted, that with one team going through a complete baseball renaissance and another with expectations of Championship or bust, but it is obvious that occupied seats fuel the product on the field a lot more than the empty ones.  I understand that "455" is an absolute thing of the past, but I was engaged in a conversation about putting a tarp over those unsold seats in the 500s this week.

If I could go back in time 15 years, I'm not sure I'd be able to convince the 1998 version of myself that tarping those seats was a real thing.  But, these days?  Sure, Cleveland could follow the Jacksonville Jaguars model, and maybe even put "Go Tribe" or the more current #TribeTown hashtag up there, for a real sense of irony.


Of course, given the technology of time travel, I wouldn't waste the time tormenting the young Tribe fan I was with the brutal truth about present-day attendance woes.  I'd have to remind myself to take more time to appreciate those darn dogs.

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