The Indians of 1948 get all the press for being the club’s last World Series winner, but it was the 1920 Indians — led by the legendary Tris Speaker and a rotation anchored by Stan Coveleski, Jim Bagby, and Ray Caldwell — that gave the city of Cleveland its first baseball championship.
Wednesday night, a little over a century since the final game of the series, the Century Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research reflected on the win with a virtual conference. Among the panel guests were authors Mike Sowell and Scott Longert, SABR’s Director of Editorial Content Jacob Pomrenke, and Indians team historian Jeremy Faedor.
(Start at 14:17 to skip introductions and get into the Q&A with panelists)
The 1920 Indians defeated the Brooklyn Robins (who would later become the Dodgers) in a tense seven-game series, where four of the seven games were decided by three or fewer runs. Stan Coveleski pitched the final game 100 years and one month ago, going the full nine innings and striking out one batter.
Nineteen-twenty was also Tris Speaker’s finest season as a member of the Indians. The Hall of Famer finished with a .388/.483/.562 slash and was worth 8.7 fWAR. Over his brilliant 22-year career he accumulated 130.6 fWAR and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1937. His 72.6 fWAR earned as a member of the Indians is second in franchise history behind only Nap Lajoie.
Among the many stories presented in the panel are the acquisition of Tris Speaker changed the Indians forever; the history of Larry, the Cleveland Baseball Dog; and the legend of Bob Feller’s Babe Ruth bat, which still sits in Progressive Field to this day; and more.