We've got a no-hitter going, so far

I got a 1960 Rocky Colavito baseball card, with Rocky in an Indians uniform, halfway through the baseball season that year, long after he'd been traded away. 

I remember April 17, 1960. Part of it, anyway. I was standing in the tiny front yard of my house on Belmar Road when someone told me that the Cleveland Indians had traded Rocky Colavito to the Detroit Tigers.

It’s not quite accurate to say the Cleveland Indians traded him; the Indians’ general manager, Frank Lane, traded him. He traded everyone. He was obsessed with trading players. And even managers, once. And he was despised by everyone, all the time.

Rocky Colavito was by far the most popular player in Cleveland, and one of the best. There was no real reason to trade him, and everyone knew that. Plus, April 17 was just two days before the season started. The Indians opened the season on April 19, against the Detroit Tigers. (The Tigers won, 4-2.)

What made me think of this? Well, April, for one thing. And the fact that the baseball season opens so much earlier these days, in late March. And the other fact that, as of this writing, in mid-March, we don’t know when, or if, the baseball season will start at all. Spring training has been suspended, and if Major League Baseball decides to eventually start the season, it will need to reinstate some kind of spring training first. So if the season does begin, it will be very late, well beyond 1960’s April 19 opening.

Baseball starts much earlier now, and the season ends much later, because they have added more teams and, as a result, they need to play more games.

April 19, 1960, was a Tuesday. I was in the fifth grade at Coventry School, with one of the very few bad teachers I ever had. That reminds me that only four years later, in April of my ninth-grade year at Roosevelt Junior High, I was studying Shakespeare with one of the best teachers I ever had, Mrs. Bossinger, preparing to go with the class to the Hanna Theatre to see a Shakespeare play.

Mrs. Bossinger was one of two teachers in my life who encouraged me to actually do what I did well—in this case, writing; in the other case, music. She was also funny. That same year, she appeared in the Roosevelt parent-and-teacher talent show, performing in a skit based on the Ernest Lawrence Thayer poem "Casey at the Bat," wearing a full baseball uniform and a fake mustache. In comparison, the fifth-grade lady was kind of like the Frank Lane of teachers. I mean, she didn’t trade anyone, but, well . . . see above. About Frank Lane. (Hint: The part about being universally despised.)

Wednesday, April 20, 1960, all that anyone (that I knew) could talk about at Coventry School was The Trade. Baseball was a much bigger deal then than it is now; and other professional sports, like football and basketball, were nowhere near as popular then as they are now. People still talk about that trade. Books have been written about it. Really. Books.

Lane was fired from the Indians just a few months later. In his baseball career, as general manager of five teams in about 14 years, he made more than 400 trades. A more reasonable and logical number would have been, maybe, 40.

So Major League Baseball is in limbo, like almost everything else right now. If Lane were still here, I’m sure he’d be filling the time making unnecessary trades. But he’s not. Every year I complain that the Indians open at home too early, before the weather makes sitting through a game bearable. I always wonder why the Eastern teams don’t open on the West Coast or in the South. This year, I seem to be getting my wish, at least the part about opening at home later than March or early April.

If this happened in another year, a year that wasn’t experiencing a pandemic, I could substitute other activities for Cleveland Indians baseball—go to the gym at the Cleveland Heights Community Center, go to dinner and a concert at Nighttown, watch the Heights High baseball team. But I don’t have those this year, for the foreseeable future.

Some things don’t change. Or change a little, but at their core stay the same. Like, most teachers in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights school system are good. That hasn’t changed. Major League Baseball alters its rules somewhat every year, but you still have to throw the ball, hit the ball, catch the ball, run the bases and try to score. All of that hasn’t changed. Cleveland Heights has evolved, like every place has. But I still live here. That hasn’t changed. But no baseball in April, no school, no activities, restaurants shutting down. All of that is new. And I would trade that for a lot of things. I wouldn’t have traded Colavito, but I’d trade this.

David Budin

David Budin is a freelance writer for national and local publications, the former editor of Cleveland Magazine and Northern Ohio Live, an author, and a professional musician and comedian. His writing focuses on the arts and, especially, pop-music history.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 2:23 PM, 03.16.2020