Picture-perfect memories of Tribe's triumph in '48

The last time the Cleveland Indians won a World Series was 1948, when they had to beat two different teams from Boston. Fans
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

 

The last time the Cleveland Indians won a World Series was 1948, when they had to beat two different teams from Boston.

Fans who remember that victory 59 years ago are ready for the Indians to beat a Boston team again and go all the way.

Mary Eloise Evans, 87, recalls listening to the Indians in 1948 as she worked at the Apex Electrical Manufacturing Plant along Sandusky Bay.

"We had the radio on," she said. "That's about all I recall, we had the radio in the personnel department."

Everyone was very excited when the Indians won the series, she said.

"I've been a fan a long time and I still am," she said. "I am hoping and praying they will make it this time."

The Indians defeated the Boston Braves over six games in the 1948 World Series, triumphing despite the fact Cleveland's ace, Bob Feller, lost both starts. To get to the series, the Indians had to win a one-day playoff for the American League pennant against the Boston Red Sox -- the team the Indians are playing today.

Since 1948, the Indians have lost three series: In 1954 (a four game sweep by the New York Giants, and a famous catch by Willie Mays), in 1995 (Atlanta won in six games) and in 1997 (an extra-inning, seventh game loss to the Florida Marlins sealed the Tribe's fate.)

In fact, during the long drought until the 1990s resurgence, the Indians were famously mediocre. When Cedar Point's paddlewheel boat would go past a group of Indian figures apparently pointing weapons at the passengers, the narrator would say, "Don't worry, folks. They're Cleveland Indians. They can't hit anything."

Erie County Commissioner Nancy McKeen was 11 in 1948. Her family lived in Perkins Township. Many neighbors went over to her house to watch the games on the family's new Philco TV.

When the Indians won, "everybody went crazy. It was huge," McKeen said.

Frank Kuchirchuk, a retired photographer who lives at the Ohio Veterans Home, remembers photographing the 1948 Series for Acme News Pictures.

Kuchirchuk's assignment included taking photos of celebrities in the stands, so he snapped pictures of Joe Louis, Lou Costello, Cyd Charisse and Tony Martin. He also took celebration pictures in the locker room, and photographed the downtown Cleveland parade after the Indians returned from Boston by train.

The parade down Euclid Avenue ended at Terminal Tower. The streets were "just absolutely jammed with people," Kuchirchuk recalled.

Although it was big news when the Indians won the series, the Oct. 12, 1948 issue of the Sandusky Register Star-News, an afternoon daily, ran only a small one-column story on Page One the next day. The lead story, under a big, black headline, was "U.S. SPEEDS REARMING TO HALT REDS," referring to an arms race with the Soviet Union. An ad on the sports page that day offered Cleveland Browns tickets for $3.60 and $2.40.

Indians fans hope for a repeat celebration this year and Sandusky Register editors promise to run a much bigger story this time if the Indians win the World Series.

But if something goes wrong, Assistant Prosecutor Gary Lickfelt has a ready answer for anyone who wants to taunt Tribe fans about the team's long championship drought.

The Chicago Cubs, Lickfelt observes, haven't won a World Series since 1908. Cleveland has won two since then (in 1920 and 1948).

The Cubs made the National League playoffs this year, but were eliminated in three straight games by the Arizona Diamondbacks.