For this Cleveland native and lifelong Indians fan, the news of the pending switch to the name “Guardians” came Friday morning after I’d finished loading the car for the long drive home from my daughter’s home in suburban Detroit. I did a quick check of Twitter and the news was at the top of my feed.
My reaction was instantaneous: All right! This is great!
I’d long ago encouraged the retirement of Chief Wahoo and applauded the sun-setting of the “Indians” brand. As I saw the new logo on the Tom Hanks-narrated video, I liked it instantly. It was clearly derived from the design the Tribe has long used, retaining red as the primary color and tweaking the font just enough to freshen it while paying tribute to the past.
What sold me fully on the logo was the connection to the Guardians of Traffic statues, which are carved into four enormous stone pylons flanking the east and west entrances to the Hope Memorial Bridge, which crosses the Cuyahoga River not far from Progressive Field.
Those carvings are highly symbolic. With images of covered wagons and 1930s-era cars and trucks, they evoke Cleveland’s origins as a frontier settlement in the late 18th century and its booming industrial power from the late 19th and most of the 20th century.
The bridge was for years known as the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge, linking two major east-west thoroughfares, Lorain Avenue on the West Side and Carnegie Avenue on the East Side. I commuted to high school from my East Side home in Cleveland Heights to the near West Side. Whether I got a ride or drove myself, or whether I took the charmingly named “rapid” trains, I passed the Guardian statues daily. That was in the early 70s, when the Guardians were blackened with decades of soot and grime belched from the Cuyahoga valley’s smokestacks. The pillars have since been cleaned and restored, and they are magnificent.
Clevelanders on the east and west sides of town are semi-joking, semi-serious rivals. (East-sider that I am, I may or may not have cried in shame when, while doing family history research, I discovered that my mother had spent some of her childhood on the West Side!) The Hope Memorial Bridge, well, bridges those two sides of town and is a powerful emblem of unity.
Unity is what the ball club’s management has stressed in its rollout of the new name. The video making the announcement was skillfully done, although I must admit I was initially puzzled at why Oakland-born Tom Hanks handled the narration. I had a vague memory in my head of some association he had with Cleveland, so I googled “Tom Hanks Cleveland” and was reminded that he got his start in acting there.
As I was driving the Ohio Turnpike toward home yesterday afternoon, I turned on WTAM radio south of Cleveland and caught the last few minutes of the team’s news conference. Indians’ owner Paul Dolan mentioned the difficulty of the renaming decision and noted that many fans were not happy with it. But he rightly conveyed that the club embraces its history and that the Indians name is an indelible part of the team’s and the town’s heritage.
He also spoke with Tribe announcer Tom Hamilton during the game broadcast last night when the Indians — yes, I know, typically — lost in frustrating fashion to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Win or lose — and I always hope for the former — as soon as Guardians merchandise is available, I will buy a new cap with the new logo. I will wear it with pride.