There stands atop Cleveland Stadium an Indian 29 feet tall, all decked out in black and red and white. Early in each of the last three seasons the Cleveland team has stood equally as tall, leading the league in June and last year as late as July 7. As the seasons wore on, however, the Indians unfailingly fell from first place. No one knows why, although Manager Birdie Tebbetts offers an intriguing postulation on what has to be done to prevent a similar fate in 1963. "We have to build up our pride. What pride can you have when you fall from the league lead and end up sixth? It's not easy to gain pride. You don't say, 'Here, look at me, I'm proud,' after you've been clobbered." General Manager Gabe Paul adds another dimension. "Some teams learn to lose too graciously, and I say that one of the faults with this ball club last year was that it became satisfied with mediocrity. Perhaps this was a lack of pride. Early last year they looked in the mirror, I think, and they didn't believe how well they were doing. When they started losing [on July 12 the Indians lost the first of nine straight games], it seemed as if they were willing to accept defeat. They never stopped trying, but something was missing and they couldn't bounce back. That's why we got Joe Adcock; he's been on pennant winners." This spring it was already evident that Adcock might be the leader the Indians have lacked for years, the teammate they can look up to in times of need. Players both young and old sought out Adcock for advice and criticism. Tebbetts, an experienced manager, was hired for similar reasons. Club officials speak of "immature managing" in recent years. They are also aware that the high turnover of managers (Tebbetts is the seventh in eight seasons) may have been damaging. "That," Paul explains, "is one reason why Birdie got a three-year contract. Our boys know he'll be around for a while." In summation, Tebbetts says, "You can't be proud of what you don't do. We have plenty of talent on this club. Now we have to add the pride, and that comes only by winning."
Cleveland's hitting produced a lot of smoke last year, but that's about all. Whenever an Indian homered at home the scoreboard let loose a salvo of sky bombs and smoke. The Indians hit 180 home runs (a club record) but the team gave up more runs than it scored, and only the Mets had a worse batting average in the majors. Tito Francona's .272 was the best mark on the team, and no one ever led the club with a lower percentage. John Romano's 81 RBIs were the lowest for a Cleveland club leader since 1955. The team may get help from rookies Vic Davalillo (his .346 led the International League), Tony Martinez (.287, 72 RBIs for Jacksonville) and Max Alvis (.319, 25 HRs, 91 RBIs for Salt Lake City), and former National Leaguers Adcock (29 HRs for Milwaukee) and Fred Whitfield from the Cards. Willie Kirkland (21 HRs) and Gene Green (.280) are strong reserves.
Manager Tebbetts is trying everything. Despite an abundance of young, strong-armed pitchers, the staff was eighth in the AL with a 4.14 ERA. To prevent batters from reading pitches, Birdie has ordered his youngsters to keep the ball in their gloves until they begin their delivery. Why such talented right-handers as Barry Latman (8-13, 4.17 ERA), Gary Bell (10-9, 4.25 ERA) and Jim Perry (12-12, 4.13 ERA) have been unable to match their success of earlier years is one of the big Cleveland mysteries. So far, the only pitchers Tebbetts can count on are Jim (Mudcat) Grant, who appears set for a fine year after commuting from the Army most of 1962; Pedro Ramos, who during the final six weeks of 1962 was as effective as anyone in the league, and team leader Dick Donovan (20-10, 3.59 ERA). Sam McDowell, 20, lacks only maturity to be a winner.
Davalillo (23 and only 5 feet 7) is one of the most exciting players Cleveland has come up with in years. He is a graceful, speedy, bazooka-armed center fielder and should add greatly to the Indians' defense. The rest of the outfield, with Francona in left and Al Luplow in right, is adequate but that's about all. Outside of Adcock at first, the infield could be spectacular if the rookies make it so. Holdover Jerry Kindal's glovework around second has been the finest for Cleveland since the days of Nap Lajoie. Shortstop Martinez (22) ranges far and wide and augments his hustle with a strong arm. Alvis charges any ball that comes near third base, although his success doesn't always match his aggressiveness. If any of the rookies falter, Veteran Woodie Held, who plays third, short, second or the outfield equally well, will be ready to step back into a regular job.