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Indians Indians Archive Remembering Your First Tribe Game
Written by Jonathan Knight

Jonathan Knight

first baseball gameLike your first car or your first kiss, Cleveland fans hold their first Tribe game close to their hearts.

Even if the specific date is lost to history or the details are as foggy as a spring night along Lake Erie, your first trip to League Park or Cleveland Stadium or Jacobs Field will always hold a special place in your memory.

As much as I’d love to have a charming, emotional story for my first Tribe game, in reality it was as bland as the era it was from.

On July 5, 1989, at the age of 12, with my passion for the Tribe stoked by the theatrical release of Major League three months earlier, I watched Greg Swindell mow down the Chicago White Sox in a 4-2 win that left virtually no impression on me, my dad, or the dozens of other people packed into bug-infested Cleveland Stadium on that cool summer night.

Probably the thing I remember most was trying to comprehend the sharp contrast between this trip to the stadium and the other times I’d been there to see the Browns - when the joint was packed to the rafters and there was a sharp intensity in the air even a little kid could feel. Seeing the Indians play in the same building was like hanging out at Blossom the morning after an awesome concert.

As my dad and I gradually upgraded our seats each inning (a laughable proposition at at Browns game), the Tribe took an early lead when the delightfully named Brad Komminsk - who I thought shared the same name as the White Sox’ ballpark - blasted a three-run homer in the first inning to give Swindell all the runs he’d need.

The only real significant moment of the evening came when Chicago catcher Carlton Fisk blasted a homer in the eighth to prevent a shutout. Programmed by the saccharine intro of NBC’s Game of the Week, I waited for him to start jumping up and down along the first-base line, motioning for the ball to stay fair. But since the game was utterly meaningless, the White Sox were still down two runs, and his homer went to right-center - a good 75 feet from the foul pole - I was disappointed.

Industrially moustached Doug Jones closed it out in the ninth, and that was that. Like most significant moments in our lives, this one was neither dramatic nor memorable. Not unlike the Indians of the 1980s.

Not surprisingly, many of my colleagues at The Cleveland Fan also remember their first trip to the ballpark to see the Tribe. And, as you’ll see, most of their stories are better than mine:


Demetri Inembolidis

I was 13 years old when my father took me to Detroit to see the four World Cup games at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1994. While at a match between the United States and Switzerland, we hatched a plan to have me stay in Detroit with relatives until my dad came back for the next match, which was six days later.  

My aunt, uncle, and cousins had tickets to see the Indians play Detroit at Tiger Stadium. They got an extra ticket for me and that ended up being my first Indians game. My immediate family was not big into baseball. There may have been previous Indians games that I attended, but this is the first one that I vividly recall.

I don’t specifically remember much about the game, but I do recall that the Indians won. Turns out it was June 20 and it marked the Tribe’s 10th straight victory in an incredible stretch that really marked their arrival as a contender in the Jacobs Field era.

My lasting impression of that night was that Tiger Stadium was run down. Even to my unobservant 13-year-old eyes, it felt utilitarian and not very fancy.  

We sat in left field and were not too many rows back from the field. I remember Tigers’ fans taunting Albert Belle with "Joey" chants and noticing that he was visibly irritated. 


Paul Cousineau

Unfortunately, I lack that great "first-game" story, since a lot of them kind of blend together for me.

I remember getting sick during the first game of a true doubleheader against the Milwaukee Brewers and begging my dad to stay for the second game as I vomited into a bag at my seat. Another game that stands out was an NBC Game of the Week on a Saturday afternoon against Oakland when the Bash Brothers were in their prime. I went with my grandpa and we sat right behind the visitors' dugout, with both of us marveling at the size of these guys.

I also remember going to Little Indians' Fan Club events behind the outfield wall, where me and my buddies could meet our "heroes," flawed as they may have been as I can see now with the benefit of hindsight.


Noah Poinar

My first Indians game was August 15, 1993, against the Texas Rangers, a 4-1 Tribe loss. I was three years old and don’t remember much other than a giant Marlboro ad out by the bleachers and the shoddy state of Cleveland Stadium. But the game had significance because it was the last time the Indians would ever face Nolan Ryan. I only know this because my dad, to this day, continually reminds me.

One day the following year my mom came home from work and told me we were going to another Indians game. Now four years old, I began throwing a hissy fit - there was no way I was going back to that grungy place with the giant billboard of the “smoking man.”  My mom consoled me by saying, “Don’t worry, we’re not going back there, we’re going somewhere new.”

Hours later, I made my first visit to Jacobs Field, where I immediately fell in love with the Indians, as well as the game of baseball. And yet, it’s scary to think how this might not have happened had there not been a 4,000-square foot Kids Clubhouse for me to play in.


Thomas Moore

I’m not sure of the exact date of first Indians’ game I ever attended (other than knowing that it was a long time ago). I do know that I saw Hank Aaron play when he was with the Brewers at the tail end of his career in 1975 or 1976, so I’m going to call that the first one.

The only specific memory I have of the game is that my friend, Greg, almost caught a foul ball hit by Hammerin’ Hank. Other than that, it was a typical mid-’70s Tribe game at Municipal Stadium.

While I’ve never been one to over-romanticize the notion of attending a baseball game in person - you’ll hear no stories from me about seeing “the luscious green grass as we exited the tunnel” (plus, let’s face it, the Cleveland Stadium turf was crap) - I do have fond memories of attending games as a kid.

Greg’s dad would take us to games each summer, usually Sunday doubleheaders (yes, kids, they actually scheduled doubleheaders back in the day), but he didn’t like to sit through two games so we wouldn’t arrive until around the fourth inning of the first game. There were no restrictions on what you could bring into the stadium in those days, so we were always loaded with enough hot dogs and drinks, as well as chips to keep us well-fed for an entire afternoon. The only thing missing was a couple of Sherpas to help us haul everything from the parking lot into the stadium.

One fun thing about going to Tribe games at the old stadium was you could slam the seats up and down to make a racket when the Indians would have a rally going. In those days it was easy to find a seat to bang on as the crowds were generally small...but hard to find a rally because the Indians were not very good.

In retrospect, there was probably a correlation between the two.


Al Ciammaichella

My first Indians game was on June 28, 1987, watching the (in)famous "Indian Uprising" Tribe with both my dad and grandpa - an impressive collection of Ciammaichellas indeed.

I remember the drive down to the stadium and the walk from the parking lot into the biggest building I had ever seen. I asked my dad how long before I got to see my favorite player, Cory Snyder. We filed in with several thousand other fans, and before starting the hike up the seemingly endless series of switchback ramps, we ventured up the tunnel to get my first-ever look at a major-league ballfield.

I remember it as the greenest grass and the darkest brown dirt I had ever seen, and - at the age of six - surely thought that I'd be playing there someday. Once we got to our seats, it didn't take long for that day's opponent (the Bash Brother-Oakland A's) to begin pummeling Tribe knuckleballer Tom Candiotti into submission in a 10-0 rout. I distinctly remember seeing someone give the umpire the one-finger salute after a close play at first that went against the Tribe.

I cajoled my dad into buying me a hot dog sometime in the first couple of innings, and since the hot dog vendor came without ketchup and Dad didn't want to hike up the concession stand to get ketchup, I consumed the hot dog plain. I have not eaten ketchup since. My parents insist it's because I'm just that stubborn and am still trying to teach my dad a lesson, but I think it's because there’s just no way any hot dog with ketchup would ever taste as good as the plain one I got that day at my first baseball game.

During the Indians’ defeat, Grandpa took me down to the souvenir stand and picked me up a Chief Wahoo baseball, batting helmet, and an ice cream because, well, that's what grandpas do. He's gone now, having passed away in 2004, but there's not a week that goes by that I don't think about that game and how I can't wait to take my kids and grandkids to their first game the way my dad and grandpa took me.


Nino Colla

I really don't remember my first Indians game - I just remember it was at old Cleveland Stadium in one of its final years. 

But the first Indians game I recall vividly still feels like it was yesterday. Many fans remember it simply as the game in which legendary Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera was made to look like a feeble human at the hands of unknown Bill Selby. But I look at it as the moment I became absolutely hooked on Indians baseball.

It was July 14, 2002. The Indians were down 7-0 to defending American League-champion New York after four innings. Tribe pitcher Chuck Finley was getting rocked, but there was a little magic in the air. It wasn't apparent at first as the team struggled to get runs on the board, but after some shutout work from the bullpen, the Indians started battling back and were close enough for the Yankees to bring in the indestructible Rivera in the ninth to close it out. 

Three singles and a double scored a pair to cut the margin to a run with runners at second and third and one out. Rivera intentionally walked Jim Thome, a no-brainer of a move with Lee Stevens on deck. Indians’ interim manager Joel Skinner countered by pinch-hitting Travis Fryman, who pretty much dashed the crowd's hopes with a strikeout.

Then Selby stepped up to the plate and did the unthinkable. For me, at the time, he was a name I didn't know. Before prospects and the knowledge of what was ahead, I only knew the names of the regular starters. But on that day, Bill Selby permanently etched himself in my memory by hitting a walk-off grand slam to deliver one of the most dramatic wins in Jacobs Field history.

While many fans had already filed out early, long before the Indians even began their comeback, Selby rewarded the ones who stayed. And in my case, got me hooked on Indians baseball.

Thanks, Bill.


Jesse Lamovsky

In my first Tribe game, I saw an opponent that would become a familiar adversary in the years to come: the Boston Red Sox. It was June 20, 1982, and I was just seven, so my memory of the particulars is a little hazy. What I do remember is Red Sox legend Carl Yastrzemski hitting a home run and the Indians winning. (Turns out, the Indians won 5-4 in 14 innings on a bases-loaded single by catcher Ron Hassey.)

Say what you want about old Municipal Stadium (and it’s all probably true) but there was something special about walking up the long tunnel in that big building and seeing the emerald-green outfield spread out below as you emerged from the darkness. Regardless of how cold it was or how bad the club was, that walk never lost its magic.

June 20 is my mother’s birthday, which leads to the one emotional memory I remember from that day. Mom’s favorite Tribe player in those days was Rick Manning. (Her favorite as a kid was Jimmy Piersall; later, it was Brett Butler. She likes her center fielders.) Manning came up to the plate early in the game and was booed lustily by the crowd. I was shocked. If Mom liked Rick Manning, how come other people didn’t? Wasn’t she always right?


While I hope you enjoyed these Chicken McNugget-sized memories, ideally they prompted you to reflect upon your own inaugural trip to the ballpark - not just what happened while you were there, but what you were feeling and who you were with.

For in those memories within each of us lies the true magic of baseball.

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