The Cleveland Indians sold out 455 games in a row from 8 June 1995 to 3 April 2001, a record likely to stand as long as baseball itself. But on Thursday of this week, having dropped ten in a row, only 22,665 showed up, only 52% of the park's capacity. Too bad, really, because the Indians tossed the Tampa Bay Rays into Lake Erie, 13-2, including a 7-run 8th inning with 11 at-bats.
I went to the game to chalk up Park #9 on the 30-Park Geas with a friend who works for Progressive. It turned out to be the first time she'd ever sat through an entire major-league ball game, this despite growing up in Boston. After this experience she might go to another some day.
(By the way, I thought it odd that the only deal Progressive gives their employees is for 2-for-1 tickets in two sections of the park. Every seat has great visibility, but still? After paying $56 million to put their name on the thing possibly they could have gotten a skybox? Not that I'm complaining. We sure got our $12 worth from those tickets.)
Almost as strange, the Cleveland fans seemed quite subdued. I'm used to Wrigley Field which sells out every game and packs us in a lot more tightly, but still: these fans hardly made a peep until the 5th inning. Even more disturbing, when a fan tossed back the home-run ball Tampa Bay hit in the 3rd, security ejected him. Tossing back the visitor's ball is part of baseball! What's wrong with these people?
Still, the home team won, my friend and I had really good beer from local Great Lakes Brewing Co., and the crowd worked up more excitement once it became clear the Indians had broken their streak.
That left us in a pretty good mood with an entire day to bum around the city.
Cleveland surprised me. The afternoon before the game my friend and I walked to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Great Lakes Science Center, both constructed in the mid-1990s as part of a massive redevelopment of Cleveland's waterfront.
Friday morning we hit the Cleveland Museum of Art which partially re-opened in June after a major renovation.
And Friday afternoon, before heading to the airport, we swung by Progressive's headquarters. (There's a story about why they moved to Mayfield Village instead of downtown Cleveland, but that will have to wait.)
I don't know whether I'll ever go back to Cleveland, but I left with a totally different impression of the city than I had 19 years ago.