We’ve seen how this plays out before. When the Cleveland Indians are featured on a Sports Illustrated cover, all hell breaks loose. It is the foreshadowing of a doomed future, an inescapable fate that lays waste to entire seasons and players’ careers. The pain inflicted upon the Cleveland Indians at the hands of Sports Illustrated dates back to the 1950’s and brings us all the way to today, as the Tribe’s Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley grace a regional cover of the magazine’s latest issue.
This was supposed to be the year the young Indians broke through and made a deep run in the postseason. Now…may God have mercy on their souls.
Just look at what SI has done to this team throughout the years:
April 18 & May 30, 1955
In 1954, the Cleveland Indians won a then-record 111 games, but lost in the World Series to the New York Giants (adding insult to injury, this World Series has been immortalized by that iconic play by Willie Mays). So it seemed only fitting to have two Indians grace some 1955 covers of Sports Illustrated. This, of course, was the beginning of the madness. Al Rosen had his worst season as a pro in 1955 and while Cleveland won 93 games, it was only good enough for second place to the New York Yankees.
Herb Score had a solid rookie season in 1955 and an even better sophomore season in 1956, going 20-9 with a 2.53 ERA and an MLB-best 263 strikeouts, but his cursed fate was more of a slow burn. In 1957, Score took a line drive to the face, which effectively derailed his once-promising career. Though he continued to pitch until 1962, he was just never the same on the mound. All because he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
April 6, 1987
Prior to the 1987 baseball season, Sports Illustrated tabbed the Indians as “the best team in the American League,” featuring both Cory Snyder and Joe Carter on the cover. The promising team had won 84 games in 1986 and everybody’s engines were revved, because the Indians hadn’t made the playoffs or even won 90 games since 1955. That’s an absurd level of ineptitude, but this 1987 season was going to break the streak! That is, until the Indians went 61-101, making them the worst team in baseball.
April 1, 1996
Nine years later, the magazine couldn’t resist featuring the Indians on the cover of its 1996 baseball preview. The Indians lost the World Series in 1995, but still had a prolific and obscene offense, led in part by the young, slightly-less-insane-at-the-time Manny Ramirez. Sports Illustrated claimed the Indians would roll over everyone – everyone! – including the Atlanta Braves, who beat them in the Series the season before. One small problem, though. While the Braves returned to the Fall Classic, the Indians were sent home in the ALDS by the Baltimore Orioles.
May 6, 1996
Less than a month later in 1996, SI featured Albert Belle on its cover, practically daring the maniac to do something that would prove he really was baseball’s most explosive player. And, naturally, he obliged. On May 31 of that season, Belle trucked over Milwaukee Brewers second baseman Fernando Vina, who was standing in Belle’s way on the base path. Belle had another fantastic season in 1996, but as you know, it was all for naught.
October 3, 2005
The magazine learned its lesson for a while, until 2005 rolled around and the Indians were a surprise team trying to make the playoffs. But the race for a Wild Card spot was incredibly close and the season came down to just one final series with the Chicago White Sox. Since Indians second baseman Ronnie Belliard was featured on the cover, Cleveland promptly got swept at home by the White Sox (the eventual World Series champions) to miss the playoffs by two games. The Indians finished that season with 93 wins, which appears to be their most cursed win total (see: 1955).
May 14, 2007
Back in the mid-2000’s, the Indians had themselves a real superstar a-brewin’ in Grady Sizemore. He was one of the most exciting players in all of baseball, which warranted a Sports Illustrated cover and hyperbole that would knock you right out of your chair. Sure, the Indians made the ALCS that year, but they blew a 3-1 series lead to the eventual World Series champion Boston Red Sox and, despite Sizemore’s great regular season, he hit just .222 (6-for-27) against the Red Sox in the playoffs. Sizemore had perhaps his best season of all in 2008 – a completely lost season overall for the Indians – but injuries completely annihilated his career, forcing him to miss multiple seasons and somehow wind up on God’s bad side, because he now plays for the Philadelphia Phillies.
March 30, 2015
And now here we are. The bastards aren’t even going to give the Indians a fighting chance this season. Not only did SI feature reigning Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and superstar-in-the-making Michael Brantley (who finished third in the AL MVP voting in 2014) on a regional cover, but Cleveland is the magazine’s pick to win the World Series. The whole freaking thing! How bad is this season going to get now? Will Progressive Field’s renovations collapse? Will Kluber and Brantley have their talents stolen from them in some sort of baseball-themed Space Jam scenario? Will the Indians even win 40 games? It’s impossible to imagine what kind of hell awaits this team.
You are one sick puppy, Sports Illustrated. I don’t know what Cleveland did to hurt you, but you’ll have to answer for this decades-long torture someday, in this life or the next.