CLEVELAND — As they’ve done in countless ninth innings over decades, fans in Progressive Field stood to cheer during the final three outs.
It was different Monday. They chanted “Let’s Go Indians!”
One last time.
Cleveland won its final home game before becoming the Guardians, beating the Kansas City Royals 8-3 to close a run that started in 1915 and will continue next season with a new look and identity.
Amed Rosario homered and Cal Quantrill (8-3) pitched six strong innings to delight a Progressive Field crowd of 13,121 that came to see their team play with Indians written across their jerseys for the final time.
“Not all of us have been here for a long time, but we all respect what the Indians have meant to Cleveland for the last forever and I think we wanted to send people off on the right note,” said Quantrill, who is 8-1 since July 1.
“We’re very happy that this is how they will get to remember the Indians.”
Rosario connected against Jackson Kowar (0-5) and finished with four hits. Bradley Zimmer homered off his brother, Kansas City reliever Kyle Zimmer, in the eighth.
Salvador Perez drove in two runs for the Royals.
The home finale was the club’s final game in Cleveland as the Indians, ending a 106-year run in a city where the name will forever be attached to those of legendary players like Bob Feller, Larry Doby and Jim Thome.
But now the Indians are a memory, just not yet faded or distant.
The team announced the name change earlier this year in the wake of a nationwide reckoning over racist names and symbols. For some, the change was overdue. Others still aren’t ready.
When “Take Me Out to The Ballgame” was played during the seventh-inning stretch, Cleveland fans shouted “root, root, root for the Indians!” as if to send a message.
Following the game, Cleveland’s players returned to the field to salute the fans.
“I thought it was a nice touch,” said acting Indians manager DeMarlo Hale. “They were outstanding in the ninth inning, that last out. Both very nice gestures.”
Cleveland won two World Series (1920 and 1948) as the Indians, and came close to winning it all in 1995, 1997 and 2016 only to twice lose in heartbreaking fashion. Now, baseball’s longest current title drought carries on under a new name.
Monday’s matinee was a makeup from a rainout last week, pushing the Indians’ sendoff to a previously scheduled off day.
The adjustment allowed fans who wouldn’t have otherwise attended to catch history, and there were lines at the ballpark’s ticket office – an uncommon sight for a team that has struggled with attendance.
Ed Sosinski of Wickliffe, Ohio, nabbed a pair of seats in the upper deck, partly as a birthday present for his wife, Michelle, and to close a chapter.
“I was here for their first exhibition game in 1994, and I thought it was appropriate to come for the last game as Indians,” he said. “I had no excuse not to come.”
Once the Indians play their 2021 finale in Texas on Sunday, there will be a transition period before the name officially changes to Guardians, selected from over 1,000 entries submitted during a renaming process.
Cleveland fans have been understandably conflicted – and divided — about the change and expressed their wide-range of feelings as they prepared to say goodbye to the only name they’ve known.
It’s been a mixture of sadness, resentment toward owner Paul Dolan for making the switch and the anticipation of a new beginning.
Hale empathizes with those who might not be ready to see the Indians go.
“Years and years and years,” Hale said. “I know it’s different in a sense when you take on change. But I truly believe that it’s going to be embraced over the years.”
The game led to a late run on merchandise.
On Sunday, prices in the team shop were further slashed as fans bought T-shirts, caps – anything with Indians on it.
“It’s kind of cleared out,” said Gray Cooper, a high school English teacher from Lakewood, Ohio. “I’ve got enough Indians stuff that I probably won’t be wearing anymore.”
The switch to Guardians has begun.
For Monday’s game, there were 2022 schedules featuring the team’s new logo stacked in the back of the press box.
“It just doesn’t look right,” one member of a TV crew said as he passed by.
Beyond the team’s name change, it’s been a bumpy season for Cleveland on several other fronts.
An injury to reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber played a role in the club falling too far back to catch the Chicago White Sox, who clinched their first AL Central title since 2008 last week in Cleveland.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona had to step away in July to undergo two operations, clouding his future. And, it’s been a little quieter at home games as longtime drummer John Adams wasn’t around due to health reasons.
During Monday’s game, fans posed for photos, many using the giant scripted Indians logo above the left-field scoreboard as background.
“They are still going to be our Cleveland baseball team,” Cooper said. “I have a lot of memories as a kid and I was kind of hoping they would win another World Series as the Indians. I’m hoping the Guardians can get it done before I die. That would be great.”
Bradley Zimmer’s solo shot off Kyle was just the fourth time since 1900 that a brother has homered off his brother. The others were: Joe Niekro off Phil in 1976; Rick Ferrell off Wes in 1933; and George Stovall off Jesse in 1904.
Rosario is the first Cleveland player with six four-hit games since Joe Carter in 1986.
The teams head to Kansas City for a three-game series beginning Tuesday. Cleveland will start Aaron Civale (11-5, 3.90 ERA) while the Royals have yet to announce their starter.