By Brian Hoffman – Sports Editor
My wife and I just happened to be in northeast Ohio recently to see some baseball when the new name of the Cleveland franchise was announced. The team that has been known as the Indians for longer than anyone who is alive can remember will be known as the “Guardians” beginning next year.
My first impression was, “Why that?” I had heard several suggestions, among them “Rockers” and “Spiders.” Apparently Spiders was the name of the team long, long ago and “Rockers” was in reference to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame being in Cleveland.
I sort of liked “Rockers.” I could see a logo of a ballplayer swinging a guitar and it would be something that might appeal to younger fans. They could play “Cleveland Rocks” prior to the games and have concerts in the stadium and all kinds of tie-ins. The guy who comes to the game and beats a drum could dress up like Ringo Starr.
However, once I got a little history on the “Guardians” it didn’t seem as bad as it did at first. I discovered the bridge heading in the direction of Progressive Field is flanked by four “art deco statues” named the “Guardians of Transportation.” The statues are pretty cool and they’ve been there since 1932. Guardians doesn’t say much about baseball, but then neither did Indians. “Native Americans” played lacrosse in the spring.
I get it. The team had to do something because the term Indians was seen as offensive to many, just like the Redskins in Washington. Cleveland did away with the grinning “Chief Wahoo” a couple years ago and that logo is no longer found on the uniform or team merchandise, replaced by a block “C.” Of course, you don’t have to look far to find Wahoo as he’s still on most of the clothing worn by Indians fans.
The team kept the traditional red and dark blue colors and they can use the same hats, with the C. In fact, the font for the front of the artist’s rendering of the new uniforms is the same, with “GUAR” replacing “IN” in front of the “DIANS.”
My wife and I and my friends who live outside Akron attended a game that Saturday night and many people were taking photos of the Guardian statues that are easily seen from the walkways around the upper deck of the stadium. Progressive Field has a giant, lighted “Indians” logo above the scoreboard and I wondered aloud what they were going to do with that? My friend Craig’s wife, Debbie, surmised, “They’ll probably just knock off the I and the N and put GUAR there instead.”
That would work, but what about my friend from Roanoke College, Bob Bower, who grew up in Youngstown and now lives in Warren, Ohio? A life-long Indians fan, he had Chief Wahoo tattooed on his calf years ago and I don’t think long socks will cover it.
Then again, from the feedback I heard, most of the fans in Cleveland aren’t going to let go of the Chief that easily.