The Herald, Sharon,
PA Published Oct. 24, 1997


Cleveland Indians have tribe of loyal, long-suffering fans

By Kim Curry
Herald Staff Writer

They paint Chief Wahoo on pumpkins, hold onto 49-year-old ticket stubs and shiver at World Series games.

Diehard Cleveland Indians fans have gone up and down this week, with Tuesday's frustrating 14-11 loss to the Florida Marlins; Wednesday's win of 10-3; and Thursday's near miss at 8-7.

Gary Hinkson, Hermitage's city manager, has season tickets for a ``great'' seat along the third baseline and got home from frosty Jacobs Field at 3 a.m. Wednesday _ four hours before a meeting.

``It made for a long ride home,'' said Hinkson, 48. ``But the Indians will win the series.''

Hinkson's love of the Indians began when he was a Little League player in Hickory; it continued as he followed his father's loyal fan footsteps during those 40 lean years until 1995.

He remembers the games in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium when only 2,000 fans would gather.

``We'd call to ask when the game was to start,'' Hinkson said, ``and the guy would ask, `What time can you be here?'

``If you're an Indians fan, you're a baseball fan,'' he stressed. ``If I'm out of town I'll find a Little League game if I have to,'' said the four-year coach of Hickory High School's baseball team, which won the District 10 championships last year.

He's made it to about 15 games this season _ possibly the least amount in the five years he's had season tickets.

``The postseason is more festive,'' he said. ``You see people all decked out and almost costumed.''

Not him, though. Tuesday he wore an Indians hat and an old black winter coat. ``If I can just sit at the game and watch it I'm happy.''

And though Hinkson doesn't have a favorite player _ ``they're all overpaid'' _ he likes Jim Thome. ``He's kind of a throwback type player. I like any that work hard.''

Ninety-year-old Paul Lasky has been an Indians fan for 78 years, ever since he accompanied his older brother to Municipal Stadium and saw Babe Ruth hit balls far enough to break windows.

The Sharon native is the proud owner of an intact silver and gold ticket from the 1948 World Series _ one of 86,000 sold. It cost him $6.25.

He traveled to the former Municipal Stadium hundreds of times between the mid-1930s and the early 1980s with Louis Fornelli, Andrew Evans, Rudy Bitenz and Jimmy Black.

``I never gave up, even when they lost 111 games,'' said the spry Lasky, sporting an Indians hat and a shirt with two Chief Wahoo pins _ the old and new versions.

``I want to see him win another World Series,'' his daughter, Nancy Enoch said.

Robert Kilbert called The Herald about his 48-year-old son Donald of Sharon, a 25-year Little League coach whose rec room is decked out with Indians stuff.

``He suffered through all the bad years and still has the stats from games in the early '50s.'' Kilbert offered to pay $1,000 if his son could find tickets to the Series games in Florida. ``That'd be his Christmas present for the next six years,'' he chuckled. ``I like them but not as much as him. He's for anybody who can beat the Pirates.''

Katie Repko, 11, of West Middlesex, is in the next generation of fans. The daughter of Arlene and Raymond Repko, she remembers seeing her first game at the age of five.

``But I didn't know the players then,'' the sixth-grader quipped.

Katie, who has played on the winning Cougarettes softball team for three years, says Sandy Alomar Jr. is her favorite now.

Her grandfather, Frank Fortine of Hubbard Township, painted Chief Wahoo on a small pumpkin for her a couple of weeks ago.

``He's been an Indians fan from day one, forever,'' his wife Irene said, at least since the year they were married _ 1948.

Frank, who turns 69 on Halloween, ``gets a little rowdy'' when it comes to the Indians, she said. ``He has whatever they were selling.''

Another proud owner of a painted Wahoo pumpkin is Jim Sipe, of Clintonville Road, whose 22-year-old son Jeff bought a 130-pound pumpkin at a Grove City area patch.

After drawing the chief's likeness, they topped it off with a red, vinyl feather and put it next to their front door.

``It came home seatbelted in my wife's car,'' Sipe said Tuesday. ``Halloween is (Jeff's) favorite holiday so the two went hand in hand.''

Sipe, 56, grew up in Pittsburgh and was a fan of the Steelers and Pirates until the early 80s when Steelers management was ``less than kind'' to quarterback Terry Bradshaw when he had problems with his arm.

``We just automatically moved to their arch rivals,'' said Sipe who has collected team programs for about 15 years.

The family used to go to 10 or 15 games a summer at the old stadium and when Sipe coached his son's Little League team, ``we'd load up the van and make sure everyone got there at least once a summer.''

Though he hasn't wanted to face the crowds at Jacobs Field, he said he doesn't miss the games on television.

What will he do if the Indians win the Series?

``Probably spend most of the time trying to get my son down off the ceiling.''

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Updated Oct. 24, 1997
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