CLEVELAND — Last Tuesday night represented the biggest single sports night in the history of a city where, granted, the bar had not been set all that high.
The Indians hosted Game 1 of the World Series for the first time in their history and, concurrently, the Cavaliers received their championship rings from last June’s NBA title, Cleveland’s first championship in 52 years. Even better, the Indians shut out the Cubs that night and the Cavaliers routed the Knicks.
Now a victory in Game 6 of the Series Tuesday night very well could supplant that Oct. 25 evening. The Indians, who lead the Cubs three games to two in the World Series, could win a championship at home for the first time since 1920.
The opportunity to win a title in front of their fans did not present itself to the Cavaliers, who beat Golden State in Game 7 in Oakland after falling behind 3-1 in the series — just as the Cubs fell behind the Indians 3-1 in this series.
Fans here haven’t celebrated a title won within the city limits since the Browns upset the Colts, 27-0, in 1964 at old Municipal Stadium on the lakefront. The Indians clinched the 1920 World Series at the long-ago-demolished League Park, a downtown facility then called Dunn Field.
“I dreamed about it, but I haven’t really thought about it yet,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said Monday of anticipating such a moment. “I want to make sure I stay in the game. You think, ‘Wow, it would be cool,’ but I don’t want to think about it too much.”
Said second baseman Jason Kipnis, “It would be nice to finally do it in front of our fans.” He noted that when the Indians clinched the AL Central title, they did so in Detroit, then won the ALDS in Boston and the ALCS in Toronto.
Kipnis, who grew up a Cubs fan in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, noted that even though the Cubs’ drought of not winning a World Series since 1908 has commanded much of the nation’s attention, the Indians haven’t won one since 1948. And before the Cavaliers’ title, this city had it worse than any other that had the three major sports.
“These are people that have been waiting just as long as anybody. It would be a fun time, especially for a city that hasn’t had one in the longest time, to hopefully get two [championships] in one year,” Kipnis said. “This place will be nuts, and rightfully so. We’re looking to give them that opportunity [tonight].’’
A crowd estimated at 1.3 million clogged Cleveland streets for the Cavaliers’ victory parade June 22 and the Indians, who were to play the Rays that night at home, were caught up in it in a variety of ways.
Many players and club staff had difficulty getting to the ballpark through the crowd, but they were happy for the rough commute, swept up in the excitement that was 52 years in the making.
“I mean, it was hard not to get caught up in it,” manager Terry Francona said. “Shoot, the day of the parade, I know myself, and there were a lot of us, I went up to the upper deck just because I wanted to watch the parade. You saw how the city reacted. But then also you kind of saw how the Cavs reacted. I thought it was really cool all the way around.”
Andrew Miller, among more than a few players in the Indians’ clubhouse who were quick to call the Cubs a “great team” and not project too far ahead, recalled being in Cleveland with the Yankees just before the All-Star break, less than a month after the Cavs’ celebration.
“It seemed like literally 80 percent of the people were still wearing Cavs gear, and every time you hopped in a cab or an Uber, they talked about the parade,” Miller said. “Every time you bumped into somebody at a Starbucks, they were still talking about the championship and the parade. So we know that this city is excited and will have a blast if we go out and finish the job.”