Dan Mendlik/Cleveland Indians Dan Mendlik
Tom Hamilton and Terry Pluto
Tom Hamilton (left) and Terry Pluto (right), authors of the book "Glory Days in Tribe Town," in the press box of Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.
“ Glory Days in Tribe Town” is a trip down memory lane that Cleveland baseball fans love taking. The road is worn with happy travelers who wish that every season could be like those precious few in the 1990s.
Sports writer and columnist Terry Pluto and long-time Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton, who will be entering his 26th season as the "voice of the Indians," discuss their memories of those golden years.
Throughout the years, Pluto has seen a lot of baseball played in Cleveland. As a boy, his father would take him to the old stadium for some summer ball. Unfortunately, the teams and the stadium were less than ideal at the time. “The Indians never played a meaningful game in the month of September from the year of 1960 basically until they moved to the new stadium. So you had a bad team and a horrible ballpark for about 30 years,” says Pluto. Once the new stadium was built, he says that people would come into the park just to be there. This not only filled the seats, but also attracted talent.
Sports can provide an escape from the toughest moments in life. Fans dive head first into each game, taking a break for just a few hours at a time. “I like [sports] as a part of life, it distracts me in a good way from things that can really be tough,” Pluto says. The escape into a happier time is something that he brings to the pages of his book. “Maybe dad used to take you to the game and now he has Alzheimer’s. But you read that book and you remember when you used to go to Jacob’s Field. Dad was 20 years younger, and it was just so much fun watching Omar play shortstop or watching Thome hit one over the center field wall.”
Casting his gaze back to those happy days, Pluto utilizes interviews he did at the time with players and the coaching staff, and new material he collected for the book. The combination of old and new captures both the excitement of the moment and a reflection after two decades of thought. Time changes us and for Pluto, he says this can be seen in the interviews with players. “You’re interviewing the same person, but they have a different brain. I write a different book at 59 than I did at 29, or even probably at 39.”
Players like Kenny Loften, who were reserved when chatting with the media in the 90s, now open up about those days says Pluto. “When you go back and talk to people 15 or 20 years after they’ve retired or after the most wonderful part of their life, they tend to be more open about it, more candid, because they’re looking at their life through the eyes of someone who’s 50, as opposed to someone who’s 25 or 30 and in the middle of it.”
They say that hindsight is 20/20 and for Pluto, that applies to the Indians during those years. “We didn’t realize how special the period was.” The winning spirit infected people with optimism and renewed hope that their team would be on top for the long-term. “I started to think, well we’ll just go to the playoffs every year. We’ll always be in the playoffs or we’ll be contending for a playoff spot. And the crowds will be big and the players will keep coming. It’s easy to take it for granted.”
Pluto and Hamilton worked on the book for about two years. Along with their conversations, Pluto also interviewed about 20 people, ranging from former players to executives. Together, all of these stories of summers at the ballpark allow readers to kick back and think about some great baseball.
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