Tribe fans brave rain on Rally Monday
Crowd of 3,500 celebrates Cleveland's return to postseason
CLEVELAND -- Not even heavy rains could douse playoff fever in Cleveland.Despite rain that reached downpour level at times, an estimated crowd of 3,500 fans jammed onto Gateway Plaza next to Jacobs Field for Rally Monday to celebrate the Indians' appearance in the American League Division Series against the Yankees. Turning out in bad weather is nothing new for Indians fans. The home season began in a blizzard, which wiped out the entire opening series against the Mariners. Six months later, the fans were back with umbrellas, ponchos and anything else they could find to keep dry. "We started out in the snow and we're rallying in the rain," pitching coach Carl Willis told the crowd. "That's what Tribe fans are like," designated hitter Travis Hafner said during his turn at the microphone. "They turn out no matter what the weather." The Indians host Game 1 on Thursday with Game 2 on Friday. Judging by the spirit showed on Monday, the town is ready for the playoffs to begin immediately. The fans, adorned in a wide variety of Indians apparel, waved rally towels and cheered throughout the rally. Chants of "Pronk" for Hafner and "Fausto" for pitcher Fausto Carmona filled the air. And, of course, any mention of the word Yankees was met with boos. Indians announcers Tom Hamilton, Rick Manning, Mike Hegan and Matt Underwood were the emcees. Willis, Hafner and Carmona were joined on stage by pitcher Jensen Lewis, outfielder Ben Francisco and hitting coach Derek Shelton. Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson presented Indians president Paul Dolan with a proclamation for winning the AL Central title. Hamilton got the crowd going when he asked, "Who had the best record in the Major Leagues this season?" The answer, of course, is the Indians, who shared the best record with the Red Sox at 96-66. Also on hand were Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller and former Indians players Len Barker -- who pitched a perfect game in 1981 -- Joe Charboneau, Rich Rollins and Kevin Rhomberg. Hafner, a big fan of professional wrestling, also brought some backup. World Wrestling Entertainment announcers Jerry "The King" Lawler, a lifelong Indians fan, and Jim Ross drew big cheers from the crowd. WWE's "Monday Night Raw" was held at adjacent Quicken Loans Arena on Monday night. "I'm so proud of these guys," said Lawler, who grew up in Amherst, a Cleveland suburb. "I attended my first game back at old Cleveland Stadium. Bring on the Yankees!"
Slider, the Indians' mascot, and John Adams, who has gained fame by pounding on a drum in the bleachers for the last four decades, were also in attendance. Singer Michael Stanley, a Cleveland native, and his band, the Resonators, entertained the crowd.High school marching bands gave the event a true pep rally feeling. The crowd got pumped up over highlights from the season, which included walk-off wins, clutch hits, key pitching performances and sterling defensive plays, shown on the large television screens around the plaza. Fans of all ages enjoyed the festivities. The best sign, which read, "Pies In The Face Put Us in First Place," belonged to a young fan. That was in reference to the season-long ritual where the Indians' star of the game would get a whipped cream pie in the face from his teammates. The Indians, who clinched the division with a win over the A's at Jacobs Field on Sept. 23, are making their first playoff appearance since 2001. Shelton might have summed up the feelings if everyone when he told the crowd, "Who else is ready for Thursday? Because I'm fired up!"
Steve Herrick is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.