Baseball season may seem long and arduous from time to time, but there are certain times of the season that would be considered a “milestone” like Opening Day, the All-Star Break, trading deadline and playoffs. For the Cleveland Indians, this Friday marks the Home Opener. Home Openers typically have some pomp and circumstance and this year is no different.
The celebrations include raising the AL Central Champs banner and the team will recognize some of the achievements from last season like Corey Kluber winning the Cy Young Award, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez winning Silver Slugger awards and the 22-game winning streak. Also part of the ceremonies includes Olympic Gold Medalist Red Gerard throwing out the first pitch and the Ohio State University Athletic Band will perform the National Anthem.
While this all sounds like loads of fun, there is something that I feel is missing from the docket and that is a mention (at the very least) of the passing of Tito Francona, a former Indians player and father of Manager, Terry Francona. Tito passed away on February 13th at the age of 84. For most of his career, he bounced around from team to team, except for the six seasons in his 15-year career he spent with the Indians.
I would like to be very clear, I’m not advocating that every time someone who used to play for the Indians passes away the Indians need to make a big deal out of it. I am not demanding an Oscar Gamble Day (although a big wig with Indians hat on top would be a cool giveaway) or suggesting the team retires Andy Marte’s number. What I am saying is that Tito is different.
As a member of the Indians from 1959 – 1964, Francona batted .284 with 85 home runs and 378 RBI. Using some of the newer statistics, he had an OPS+ of 117 and a WAR of 11.4 during his Indians tenure. In 1961 he was named to the all-star team for the only time in his career. But what he has meant to the team, especially since his son Terry took over as manager, is what makes Tito an Indians icon, not just a former player.
Some options of things that can be done include but are not limited to, putting a patch on the jerseys that say “Tito,” mowing “RIP Tito” into the outfield grass or putting up a plaque somewhere to memorialize his death and more importantly celebrate his life. Personally, when I would see pictures of Tito and Terry together on Indians Social Media posts, I would smile thinking about the uniqueness of the situation of having the son of a former player manage the team.
There is a possibility that management approached Terry and asked if they could do something to honor the memory of his father and he requested that nothing be done. If that is the case then I can respect that decision, but if not then it is blatant disrespect.
One last thought is this, many people feel the best way to honor someone who passes away is to see how their children act. If that is the case then the best memorial for Tito is sitting in the dugout chewing his bubble gum and hopefully leading the Cleveland Indians to a World Series title.