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First World Series victory & a new park

By 1920, Speaker led a distinguished baseball squad. The 1920 Indians led the A.L. in runs scored, doubles, triples, RBIs, walks and batting average (.303). Speaker, outfielder Elmer Smith, and third baseman Larry Gardner each drove in over 100 runs. Jim Bagby led the A.L. in wins (a club record 31), winning percentage, games, starts, CGs and IP. Stan Coveleski became the first of many Tribe pitchers to lead the A.L. in strikeouts. Coveleski won 24 games, plus three more in the World Series, and former Yankees ace Ray Caldwell added 20 victories.

The talented club was put to the ultimate test when its star shortstop, Ray Chapman, was fatally beaned by pitcher Carl Mays of the Yankees on August 16 at the Polo Grounds in New York. Rookie Joe Sewell replaced Chapman and remarkably began his own Hall of Fame career. Late season call-up Duster Mails was a perfect 7-0 and helped hold off the Yankees and White Sox.

Tris Speaker
Tris Speaker (Cleveland Indians)

Cleveland's five games to two win in the best-of-nine games World Series against Brooklyn was punctuated by Elmer Smith's grand slam (the first in World Series history), Bagby's home run (first by a pitcher in World Series history), and Bill Wambsganss' unassisted triple play (the only unassisted triple play in World Series history), all in the fifth game, October 10, 1920 at League Park.

The Speaker/Dunn era featured two other contending teams (1921 and 1926). George Uhle, a relief pitcher in 1920, emerged as Cleveland's star pitcher and led the A.L. in wins twice (1923 and 1926). Uhle joined Speaker and Sewell as mainstays of the Indians as the 1920s progressed. The Gray Eagle departed abruptly following the 1926 campaign amid an ultimately unproven gambling scandal. Dunn passed away in 1922, but his estate maintained ownership of the club through the 1927 season.

The two decades following Speaker's departure brought some great stars and memorable moments. This period saw the arrival of Earl Averill, Mel Harder, Bob Feller and Lou Boudreau (the first four Indians to have their uniform numbers retired), a new stadium, and new ownership. A syndicate led by John Sherwin and Alva Bradley purchased the Indians from the Dunn estate on November 17, 1927. The Bradley ownership would be the longest in franchise history, but would not yield a championship.

Mel Harder
Mel Harder (Cleveland Indians)

After playing all home games in League Park, the Indians began play at the mammoth new Cleveland Municipal Stadium on July 31, 1932 as Philadelphia's Lefty Grove edged Harder 1-0 before more than 80,000 fans. The grand stadium evidenced grand dreams for Cleveland and its baseball club, but those dreams were not fulfilled during the Bradley ownership.

Joe Sewell
Joe Sewell (Cleveland Indians)

The Indians played home games exclusively at the lakefront stadium for the remainder of 1932 and all of 1933. High costs and the size of the stadium drove the club back to League Park for all but Sunday and holiday games in 1934 . Night games were played at the Stadium beginning on June 27, 1939 with Feller's one-hitter against the Tigers (lights were never installed at League Park).

Other highlights of the Bradley ownership period included Wes Ferrell's four straight 20-win seasons, Lew Fonseca's 1929 batting title, hitting heroics of Hal Trosky and Cleveland's sandlot star turned pro Joe Vosmik, temperamental Johnny Allen's 15-game winning streak in 1937 and the infamous shirtsleeve incident of June 7, 1938. Umpire Bill McGowan ordered Allen off the mound for wearing a uniform with a tattered sleeve. Allen was fined $250. Bradley pacified the pitcher by purchasing the uniform for display at Higbee's department store. From there, the uniform went to the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Five managers served the Bradley ownership, including Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson and former Tribe players Roger Peckinpaugh and Steve O'Neill. Ossie Vitt, fresh off a 109-win season as manager of the International League Newark Bears in 1937, replaced O'Neill. Despite an abrasive style Vitt guided the Tribe back toward the top of the A.L.

Read on:   Early Years | First World Series | Glory Years | Trying Time | Renewed Glory