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Book Review: Our Tribe: A Baseball Memoir

Cleveland’s baseball team stinks, right? They are always not going to be any good, correct? There is absolutely no way they’re even going to make the playoffs let alone run of a streak of consecutive division titles. These were all things that many fans of the Indians thought in the early 1990s after experiencing decades of Tribe cellar dwelling. Long time Northeast Ohio sports journalist Terry Pluto was one of those fans and his father was another. In his 1999 book, Our Tribe: A Baseball Memoir, Pluto takes the reader through the first-person experience of what it’s like to be a fan who goes through so much losing, and what it’s like to see your father experience the same.

The book opens with the Indians in the World Series in 1997. As many may recall, they came oh so close to winning the title before the Florida Marlins came back and broke the hearts of the Wahoo faithful. The focus of this section, however, isn’t how heartbreaking it was to lose the World Series, but how unbelievable it was to be there in the first place. After so much losing and so much bad luck every year since 1954, the last time the Indians played in the Series, getting there, and having some sustained success was both hard to believe and hard to get used to.

There is no sport that brings on the feeling of nostalgia quite like baseball and Pluto’s book only certifies that. He and his dad’s relationship with the game, their favorite team, and each other carry the book with a heartfelt dynamic. Anyone who was raised by a father, or mother, who had a close affinity for a team knows what it’s like. In many ways, the team becomes a part of the family, and that’s what it was like for Terry growing up with his father.

Throughout the book, Pluto does a great job of telling the story of the Indians with much historical context while weaving in how it impacted himself, his father and their relationship with each other and the team. Very early in the book Pluto recounts a time that was rough for both he and his father; the time his dad had a stroke. Just as there isn’t a correct way to grieve, there probably isn’t a dictionary definition of the right way to react when a loved one has a stroke, but Pluto would likely argue he didn’t do the right thing. According to him, he ran from the situation instead of helping his father through it. While it seems like a sad way to start an ultimately uplifting story about a game so many love, it really does set the groundwork to the reader for their relationship and brings context to the feelings and emotions that come in the stories that follow.

What does follow is chapters focused on many significant people and times in the team’s history. Starting all the way back to the Cleveland Spiders, which was the first name of the team now called the Indians, and going all the way through the end of the World Series in 1997. In between, Pluto spends time on famous names such as Manny Ramirez, Joe Jackson, Bob Feller, Lou Boudreau, Larry Doby, Roger Maris, Rocky Colavito and Frank Lane. In addition to describing things such as League Park, being on the baseball beat, Jacobs Field, 1920, 1948 and 1954.

Pluto is extremely well known in Northeast Ohio and his books are always must reads for fans of the Tribe, but as baseball really is a metaphor for life, his books can be enjoyed by a fan of any team or any game. In fact, anyone with a close relationship with someone who helped raise them could relate to this book.

The work is 253 pages and was published by Gray and Company, Publishers in Cleveland, OH.

Baseball Reflections Rating: 4/5

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