Heinz History Center/Sports Museum:
Before leaving Pittsburgh, we visited the Heinz History Center & Sports Museum right across the street from our hotel. It’s the biggest history museum in Pennsylvania with six floors of exhibits ranging from the French and Indian War to the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers and other western-Pennsylvania sports. Some really cool items are on display here, like the cleats Franco Harris was wearing when he made the “Immaculate Reception” to win the Steelers’ first playoff game in 1972. Also shown is Josh Gibson’s earliest known signature from 1930, on his Westinghouse Air Brake employment card, who he joined in order to play for their baseball team… which was where he was recruited by the Homestead Grays to become one of the greatest hitters in baseball history.
The home of the Cleveland Indians has a very unique style, with pretty much no brick or concrete on the exterior. From the outside, all you see are white metal support beams and some glass windows hidden between them. It’s a really modern style compared to most of the other stadiums built around its time (1994), like Camden Yards in Baltimore and Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
The organization moved from Michigan in 1900, but wasn’t called the Indians until the 1915 season – honoring Native American Louis Sockalexis who played just 3 seasons for them from 1897-’99 (when they were called the Spiders). This, along with other interesting facts and team records are displayed around the first-level concourse.
The coolest feature of the stadium is called Heritage Park, in the concourse behind the center field wall that used to just be a picnic area. In 2007 a $1.1 million project turned it into an area of monuments and plaques dedicated to the greatest players in the history of the organization. An entire wall pays tribute to Bob Feller, the best pitcher the Indians have ever had – and one of the best to ever the play the game. The timeline describes the highlights of his career, including being signed at age 16 for $1 and an autographed ball in 1935, striking out 15 in his first start and breaking the AL strikeout record with 17 Ks in the same year (at age 17), and throwing the only Opening Day no-hitter in baseball history.
Shortstop Ray Chapman is also honored with a bronze plaque. In 1920, he became the first (and only) player to die from an injury sustained during the game. He was hit in the head with a pitch by Yankee Carl Mays, apparently not even seeing the ball as it was coming – back then, pitchers almost always dirtied up the ball with spit and dirt, changing its weight and shape making it much harder to see. Chapman ranks 5th all-time with 334 sacrifice bunts, and led the American League in both walks and runs in 1918.
When we got to our seats on field level, a few Minnesota Twins were signing autographs by the first row. I couldn’t get Justin Morneau’s because there were too many little kids crowded around, but I got Denard Span’s! Yes, I still get autographs… we’re all little kids at heart. I won’t be selling it on eBay like those 10-year-old punks.
The Food Network has Signature Steak Sandwich stands at 9 ballparks now, serving two different kinds. The Signature is seared steak with Maytag blue cheese and a sweet and spicy peppadew pepper mayo on a rustic roll, which is served everywhere. But each city has its own signature that’s served too. The Cleveland Steak Sandwich is the seared steak topped with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard, which the city is famous for. We got one of each and split them, and they were both awesome.. the blue cheese one was my favorite, though. The steak was grilled and seared perfectly, still very juicy, and the rustic roll soaked up the blue cheese flavor.
Again we had some great seats on field level on the first base side, and they were much wider than any seats we’ve sat in so far, so we weren’t rubbing knees the whole time (unfortunate, I know). You can see the city right through left and center field openings, on either side of the big scoreboard.
Under the scoreboard sits the Indians’ number 1 fan. High up in the bleachers, this guy beats a drum that echoes throughout the whole stadium, getting the crowd into big moments of the game. It’s a stereotypical “Indian” drum sound, but it’s not as bad as doing the tomahawk chop in Atlanta.
We saw Indians pitcher Corey Kluber get roughed up in his debut in Kansas City last week – giving up 6 runs in the first – so the fans were anticipating a much better outing from him. And Cleveland has lost their last 10 games… 2 more losses would tie the franchise record of 12 straight. Kluber gave up 1 run in the first, and was pretty good through 6 innings. Going into the 7th the Indians led 5-1, but 2 errors in the inning led to 3 Minnesota runs to make it 5-4. This tight lead was held into the top of the 9th, until closer Chris Perez comes in for the save. After a single and stolen base, yet another error – this time by first baseman Casey Kotchman – allowed the runner to score and tie the game at 5. The fans were really angry at this point, having their first win in almost 2 weeks completely snatched away. Then a double by Ryan Doumit and a sac fly by Nishioka (shown below) gave Minnesota the lead, and they’d score one more to steal the victory right from the hands of the Indians. I can’t repeat some of the words that were being yelled from the crowd, but let’s just say they did not go home very happy.
Final score: Indians 5, Twins 7
Starting pitchers: Corey Kluber (ND) – 6 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 3 R (1 ER), 3 Ks; Sam Deduno (ND) – 4 IP, 5 H, 5 BB, 4 ER, 3 Ks
Home run: Shelly Duncan
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:
We decided to stay in Cleveland for another day so we could visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. It was a huge, 6-story exhibit with movies and displays that took us almost 7 hours to get through. The evolution of rock was described in such detail, with thousands of artifacts and stories to go along with it. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the memorabilia, but I snuck a picture of a couple of my favorite things: the couch from Jimi Hendrix’s childhood home where he sat and played guitar for hours on end almost everyday, and a sign from the Yasgur Dairy Farm in Bethel, NY where Woodstock was held in ’69. This is only 2 of the countless items on display, along with hand-written lyrics, clothing many artists wore, and even one of Elvis Presley’s first cars.
A couple of full-length films took up a lot of time, one of them being a 3-D U2 concert from Buenos Aires which was awesome, and the other went through each of the dozens of Hall of Fame inductees, starting in 1986 when it opened. If you’re a fan of any kind of music, I would definitely recommend stopping here if you’re ever in Cleveland.
Next stop: Detroit 8/9 (vs. Yanks)