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  • Classic Tribe: The 50 Greatest Games in Cleveland Indians History
  • James E. Odenkirk
Knight, Jonathan. Classic Tribe: The 50 Greatest Games in Cleveland Indians History. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 2009. Pp. 248. $18.95 pb.

Author Jonathan Knight undertakes an awesome task in selecting the fifty greatest games in Cleveland Indians history. The question to be asked of the author is the following: were these games chosen as the greatest because the team won or because of their overall significance during a given pennant race, the fall playoffs, or a World Series? The Indians won forty-seven of the fifty games chosen by Knight and only eleven of these were played before 1950. There seems little doubt that Knight has been influenced by the Tribe’s success in recent years, and he does not appear to be as familiar with the Indians’ pre-1950 game-by-game history. This supposition likely explains one glaring error. Although Hall of Famer Bob Lemon batted left-handed, he was one of the few right-handed, not left-handed, pitchers to win twenty or more games in seven seasons during his illustrious career (p. 174).

One might debate for hours over which games are to be chosen as the most classic throughout the 109 years of Tribe history. In my opinion two alternatives could well be inserted into Knight’s plethora of exciting games as replacements. On September 27, 1940, the Cleveland Indians lost to rookie Floyd Giebell and the Detroit Tigers 2-0, and the hopes for their first pennant in twenty-eight years disappeared. The second game also involved Bob Feller, arguably the greatest pitcher in Cleveland team’s history. On August 24, 1945, Feller returned to the mound after spending forty-four months in the U.S. Navy where he earned eight battle stars. Feller defeated the Detroit Tigers and Hall of Fame ace Hal Newhouser 4–2. [End Page 307]

These personal choices do not negate Knight’s literary effort. He recounts exciting games in which the Indians provided wild ninth-inning comebacks, unexpected extra inning victories, memorable pitching duels, and gut-wrenching playoff encounters during the last score of years. Knight, with a journalism degree from Ohio University, has ranked World Series and play-off masterpieces alongside record-making individual achievements (the exploits of Elmer Smith, Bill Wambsgans, Stan Coveleski, Bob Feller, Rocky Colavito, and Lou Boudreau come to mind).

The author has a writing flair that allows the reader to know whether the game is being played in cozy and historic League Park, Cleveland Municipal Stadium, the behemoth of baseball parks, or the fans’ favorite, Jacobs or Progressive Field, as you prefer. He entertains readers with a capsule review of fifty of the great moments in the Cleveland team’s long history. Mainly a regional book, he provides Indian fans with enjoyable remembrances for cold winter nights as they eagerly await spring training in sunny Arizona.

James E. Odenkirk
Arizona State University


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pp. 307-308
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