Almost 30,000 people attended the Cleveland Indians afternoon game on Wednesday, Sept. 13. Why, you might ask, did 30,000 people take off work or school to go see a baseball game in the middle of September? Especially for a team that averages barely 25,000 attendees per home contest?
The reason, quite simply, is history. With their 5-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers, the Indians won their 21st game in a row, setting a new American League record for consecutive wins. The previous record of 20 was held by the 2002 Oakland A’s, made famous by the movie “Moneyball.” The team’s last loss was on Aug. 23, five days before the start of classes at Case Western Reserve University. The win also tied the Indians with the 1935 Chicago Cubs for the longest winning streak in baseball history, if you discount the 1916 New York Giants 26 game stretch that included a tie.
The atmosphere at Progressive Field was intense as the Indians tried for the record setting victory.
CWRU alumnus Andrew Aisen, who attended the game, said the place “had a feeling of urgency, like every out was a big deal.”
After starting pitcher Mike Clevinger gave up a run in the top half of the first inning, the Indians were in a rare position: trailing during the streak. In fact, the team has not trailed at the end of 185 innings (out of 189) during the streak: that’s 98 percent of the time. So, of course, Cleveland responded with three runs in the bottom half of the inning on a Jay Bruce home run, taking the lead for good.
The end of the game felt like the ending of a playoff series to the fans, who experienced quite a few clinching moments last season, as they “felt like they were somehow a part of it,” according to Aisen.
“People were cheering as if we had just clinched a playoff spot or a series,” he added. “To be honest it was almost funny that when you think about this game; it was just some meaningless game against the Tigers.”
Despite what Aisen said, the game was not meaningless, as the the Indians’ record breaking streak has propelled them to the top of the American League standings and brought them very close to clinching their second consecutive AL Central crown. Entering play on Wednesday, the Indians held a two and a half game lead over the Houston Astros for the best record in the AL and a 13 and a half game lead of the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. With the win on Wednesday, the team’s magic number for clinching the division dropped to four.
Despite the historical nature of the streak, the Indians and their fans are hoping the team sets another historical mark this October: ending the longest World Series drought in the majors at 68 seasons.