Hudson — The late 1920s and early 1930s were eventful years in Cleveland Indians history, even if the team wasn’t winning big. Municipal Stadium opened while League Park survived. Pitching legend Bob Feller made his debut as a teenager. Indians games started being broadcast on the radio.
Baseball historian Scott Longert will discuss those topics, which are part of his latest book, “No Money, No Beer, No Pennants: The Cleveland Indians and Baseball in the Great Depression.” The book is available at book stores and at amazon.com.
Longert is scheduled to speak Oct. 25 at 7 p.m. at the Hudson Library & Historical Society. For reservations, call 330-653-6658.
Longert, a life-long Indians fan, said the book spans late 1927, when Alva Bradley bought team, through 1936, the year Feller made his debut with the Indians at age 17.
“It’s a story about how folks were able to survive during the Depression, about baseball and America,” he said. “It shows the American spirit.”
Longert said even during the Depression, the Indians had “a loyal core of 3,000 to 4,000 fans.”
“Attendance was definitely down, but they still had fans show up,” he said. “The Indians had to cut salaries right and left to keep the franchise flowing.”
A highlight was the building of Municipal Stadium, where the Indians began playing in July of 1932. It seated about 78,000 fans back then.
Interestingly, Longert said while Municipal Stadium was being constructed, a local citizen filed a lawsuit to stop it from happening.
“He thought the lakefront was set aside for health and relaxation for the general public,” he said. “He took the case to the Ohio Supreme Court. So one guy held up the building from being finished for more than a year.”
After the 1933 season, Bradley’s Indians began playing most of their games at League Park, the team’s previous home which seated about 22,000 fans, while Municipal Stadium was only used for occasions like when the powerful New York Yankees came to town and a larger facility was necessary.
“Bradley didn’t think he could make any money at Municipal Stadium,” he said.
The Indians returned to Municipal Stadium on a full-time basis starting with the 1947 season.
Longert said there were other notable events during that era.
In 1928, WTAM radio began broadcasting Indians games with Tom Manning serving as the announcer. Manning had previously been the first public address announcer at Tribe games, shouting out the names of the players into a large megaphone.
In 1932, WHK radio acquired the Indians contract and Jack Graney, a former Indian, became the first ex-player to become a radio announcer for big league club.
“Wideman’s Soda had contests where if you sent in the most pop bottle caps, you got to go to the World Series with Jack Graney,” Longert said.
The legendary Feller, who never pitched in the minor leagues, made his big league debut in the summer of 1936. He had not yet started his senior year of high school, but he was already dazzling the baseball world.
Another Indians standout during that time was center fielder Earl Averill, who wound up in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and had his uniform No. 3 retired by the team.
“Averill was a tremendous ballplayer,” Longert said. “He was really a superstar, but he played in the shadow of guys like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.”
Other top Cleveland players of that era, including pitchers Mel Harder and Wes Ferrell, and first baseman Hal Trosky, “were all interesting guys,” he said.
Also, all-time great pitcher Walter Johnson managed with Indians from 1933-35 after his playing career was over.