Tuesday, July 13

The Most Comical Indians of My Fandom (1986-Present)

The Indians have had their share of successes over the 25 seasons during which I've been a fan of the club (ever since Pops introduced me to hardball), and they've also had their share of colorful characters. Inasmuch as the Tribe hasn't managed to capture a World Series title during that span, it's a good thing that they've consistently been able to put out a comedic product, win or lose. With that, I give you the Cleveland Indians' All-Comedy Team from the past 25 years.

C - Lance Parrish
Old Lance gets the call here for two reasons. One, I gave my sister the nickname Lance some 15+ years ago, in part because of Mr. Parrish (as well as a fake name "Pappish" from NCAA Basketball, which can't use collegiate players' names) The name Lance sticks even today. Second, Lance (Parrish, not my sister) was the catcher the time the Indians tried to intentionally walk a guy and the 4th intentional ball got away and the winning run scored from 3rd. Awesome.

DH - Julio Franco
What's not to like about Julio? From his preposterous batting stance (any baseball fan to this day recognizes his exaggerated way-over-his-head bat position), to his enthusiasm, to the fact that he played until he was roughly 65, Julio was quite the enjoyably ecccentric character. I loved hearing him talk about hitting in Spring Training with donuts on his bat and extolling the virtues of various health foods - he was like an eccentric uncle.

1B - Rusty Branyan
I've spilled enough digital ink on Rusty already, but suffice it to say that he's the most polarizing figure in the history of the club as I know it, responsible for all sort of invective, heckling, and hilarious debates. He was just such an absurd figure that I couldn't help laughing at his approach to the game.

2B - Ronnie Belliard
Between Ronnie's chiseled physique, Jabba-like tongue, Predator-style dreads, and his defensive positioning out near the right-field warning track, Ronnie was a breath of fresh air during a fairly unproductive time in the Indians' recent history.

SS - Alvaro Espinoza
Two things get Alvaro the spot here:
1) Those dorky glasses.
2) The bubblegum-on-the-hat thing. He could have (and did) pull it virtually game and it never got old. Alvaro's been coming to the same party for years now, and in no way is that depressing.

3B - Roger Dorn
For whatever, the hot corner is also a comedy-free corner, as I couldn't find anyone worthy and had to dip into the Major League roster. At least I didn't spike myself.

LF - Albert Belle
Throwing a ball at a belligerent bare-chested fan. Chasing kids angrily on Hallowe'en in his SUV. Becoming so psychotic about ping-pong that the Tribe management banned the clubhouse games. "Joey." Cheating with a corked bat and making a big show of flexing his muscles afterwards. The Belle years were like having our very own Mike Tyson.

CF - Alex Cole
You have to go way back to 1990 to remember Cole. He was this speedy outfielder who stole bases, a poor man's Rickey Henderson. I still remember reading a game recap where they talked about the opposing chucker being in a "Cole Sweat" (get it?) because of AC's speed. The Indians went to far as to move the fences back in Municipal Stadium (no hitter's park to begin with) to build a club around Cole's fleet feet (40 steals in 63 games). Cole on-based .386 in his first full season but only notched 27 steals, then was shipped to Pittsburgh mid-year the following season after OPS+ins a robust 47 and swiping just 9 bags. Honestly, I can't remember if they moved the fences back in.

RF - Wayne Kirby
This is for purely personal reasons - I've always been fascinated with his strange name, and had his minor league card before he even made his debut with Cleveland. By a strange coincidence, I attended his major league debut (I only went to like two games a year back then), where he sported #73 and presaged much of his career by making an out.

I find it amusing now how he always managed to stick with the Tribe despite, well, not being very good (career OPS+ of 75 for a right fielder) while we were giving away guys like Brian Giles for nothing. He also placed 4th in the Rookie of the Year voting...in his third season, where he posted an OPS+ of 87. Weird staying power. Wayne's other claims to fame: collecting the game-winning hit in the first-ever game at Jacobs Field, and having his brother Terry play for the Browns.

SP - Dennis Martinez
El Presidente. I remember hearing that he was seriously running for president in his native Nicaragua; any time a pitcher of yours considers a bid for a nation's chief executive, that's funny stuff.

SP - Chuck Finley
Cue Whitesnake's "Here I Go Again."

RP - John Rocker
What a clown. How could you not find Rocker funny? Between his ridiculously un-PC remarks, fakey-sounding name, and comically awesome sprints from the bullpen, Rocker was the undisputed funniest player in the game during his reign. I'm just glad we got to experience some of it.

RP - Jason Grimsley
You crawl through a duct to recover an illegal corked bat, you're on this team, it's that simple.

Closer - Bob Wickman
Wick always came on looking like he'd just eaten like five bratwursts and/or returned forom a drinking bender, inevitably put at least two guys on base, sweated profusely...and then got the save. He was awesome. I'll never forget the time he intentionally balked the tying run from 2nd to 3rd just because he thought the guy was stealing signs.

Manager - Charlie Manuel
I thought we hit good...pitched good...fielded good...
In addition to his legendary pre-game chats, I love the fact that Charlie was a legend in Japanese baseball, where he is known as the "Red Devil."

Broadcaster - Herb Score
I'm as big a fan of Tom Hamilton as anyone, but Herb was a real original. His accent was always good for a laugh; his pronunciation of his own name ("Uhhhb") became his nickname in the Francis household. But I think what we'll always remember about Herb is him periodically forgetting what he was doing. If not for Uhhhb, Harry Doyle takes this chair.

Scalper - Hector Luna Guy
This is only peripherally related to the Tribe, but there's this ticket scalper on E 9th who insists on wearing a blue Hector Luna jersey. Of all the ridiculous, arbitrary jerseys, how on Earth did this guy end up with a Luna? Why was this article even manufactured? Amazing. Yet he still wears it, four years after Luna played the last of his 37 games in a Tribe uni.

Honorable Mentions
All of these guys were entertaining for essentially just one reason, but it was enough to make me chuckle when I saw their names on old team rosters.

Ernie Camacho
If I'm not mistaken, we used to call this fellow Ernie "Macho" Camacho.

Otis Nixon
This guy always looked like he's just arrived at the ballpark having left his 60th birthday party, but somehow he was still fast.

Ron Washington
It's simple: you get in trouble for cocaine use as a manager (albeit not with the Tribe), you make this list.

Oddibe McDowell
For self-evident name purposes.

Candy Maldonado, Marquis Grissom, Bip Roberts, Coco Crisp

Karim Garcia
The Indians' greatest contribution to the Reggie Cleveland All-Stars.

Eric Plunk and David Riske
What was your favorite hacky sportswriter pun for botched relief outings: "Ker-Plunk," or "Riske Business"? Those made "Austin [Kearns] Powers Tribe to Win" headlines look like child's play.

Keith Hernandez
I'm Keith Hernandez.

Carlos Baerga
I have never before nor since seen an individual run like this man. Very Looney Tunes-esque.

Carlos Martinez
To the best of my knowledge, this is the only Major Leaguer ever to hit a home run off of another Major Leaguer (Jose Canseco)'s head. I was watching that when it happened.

Einar Diaz
This man had one discernible skill at batting: doubles down the leftfield line. Why didn't teams just use a rover and place him right in that spot? Diaz would have batted .000 for the year.

Eddie Murray
For his utter and complete inability to wear a baseball cap correctly, preferring to perch it high atop his head.

Chris Perez and Marty Cordova
For fantastic hair, Cordova of the coiffed variety and Perez of the wild bad-ass strain.

Felix Fermin
Not only did we trade this cat straight-up for Omar, but my Dad always called him "Vermin," which made me laugh. Dad loves mispronouncing players' names: Thome becomes T-Home, Albert Belle becomes Al-Buhht (an homage to Uhhhb), Omar becomes Homer, and so on.

Omar Vizquel
For many things, but mostly that leather jacket he wore during his interview with Tom Hamilton on an old Indians VHS video we end up watching here every year.

Jason Davis
For feuding with the despicable Torii Hunter of the Minnesota Twins.

Scott Sauerbeck
If you want me as a fan, hiding from police in bushes with some random woman is a good way to start. Ridiculous!

Here's to more Cleveland Indians comedy in the future. Oh, and maybe a World Series title.

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