Last year I told you about my “mancation” (men only) to a city to check out its Jewish community and major league team and ballpark. Last year it was Pittsburgh and Cincinnati; this year’s first “mancation” destination was Cleveland.
Actually, it was a two-parter. We left Detroit and headed south on I-75 and one hour after we’d departed from my dugout we arrived at Toledo’s beautiful downtown Fifth Third Field, the home of the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens of the International League. After watching the late afternoon game, we headed east on the Ohio Turnpike and arrived in Cleveland about two hours later.
The Cleveland Indians were part of my childhood in the early 1950s. Cleveland was the closest big league city to Detroit and I could pick up their ballgames on the radio and listen to their play-by-play man, Jimmy Dudley, one of the best ever to sit behind a microphone.
The Indians were the team of Al Rosen, the slugging Jewish third baseman, and general manager and part owner Hank Greenberg. My yeshiva classmates also followed the box scores daily to see how Rosen was doing, especially in 1953 when Rosen was trying for the triple crown (leading the league in three categories, batting average, home runs and runs batted in). Rosen finished the season with 43 homers and 145 RBI, good enough to top all others, but his last at-bat of the season was an infield out, leaving him with a .336 average for the year, a fraction of a point behind the American League batting champ Mickey Vernon of Washington. Vernon’s teammate was conveniently picked off base before he could bat. Who said life was fair?
The Rosen era ended when he retired after the 1956 season, but the soft spot for Cleveland remained. My first two trips to Cleveland were not to see ballgames, but to see Telshe yeshiva. Our yeshiva took us for visits on Thanksgiving weekends in the ’50s. Forty years later my daughter would marry someone in the Telshe Kollel and Cleveland became a regular destination and I got to see several games in Cleveland’s huge lakefront Municipal Stadium before the Indians moved to a new home on the other side of downtown.
Municipal Stadium saw the Indians’ last game in 1993. The big stadium also hosted the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. The stadium was eventually razed for a new football-only stadium after the Indians moved to a baseball-only park called Jacobs Field, after the owner of the baseball team. Under new ownership, “The Jake,” as it was fondly called, became Progressive Field.
Our first stop on this “mancation” was to a suburban kosher eatery before checking into a Beachwood area motel. The following morning we davened at the imposing Young Israel of Beachwood on Green Road. After a full breakfast in one of the area’s bakeries, it was one to Wickcliffe for a quick visit to the Telshe yeshiva campus.
Then we motored back to Cedar Road, which connects the suburbs that house Cleveland’s Orthodox communities (Beachwood, University Heights and Cleveland Heights), and headed to Progressive Field, only a few blocks from the heart of downtown. The three of us agreed that not only is Cleveland a nice place to visit but a good place to live as well. Good shuls full of nice people, good places to eat and affordable housing. Plus, the city boasts good museums and medical facilities.
About three hours after the last out was recorded we were back in our Oak Park, Michigan homes.
Cleveland is a much longer drive for most of you, but you’ll find it’s worth it.
Author, columnist, public speaker Irwin Cohen headed a national baseball publication for five years before working in a major league front office where he earned a World Series ring. The president of one of Detroit’s leading shuls, Cohen may be reached in his dugout at email@example.com.