Bob Feller was Mr. Cleveland Indian to a lot of fans. Maybe not with the real life-video game, internet in your cell phone gang but, for most of us lifelong Indians fans he was. Living in St. Louis as I do and going to Cardinals games and walking the bronzed, HOF, statue row outside of Busch Stadium, it has been apparent to me that these statues and the tradition they represent transcends the number of store-bought world championships (see 1997 Marlins) a team can manufacture.
Tradition is, in my opinion based on my experience in St. Louis and other towns, what establishes your fan base. What fills the remaining empty seats are fair-weather fans but that tradition fills enough to pay the bills, in my opinion. The fact that a 90+ man that very few of us ever saw pitch could even be considered the far and away leader in the Mr. All-Time Indian race is a testament to tradition and the power of just a little of that. Which Cleveland player in the years before Mr. Feller's passing or who passes in the next 10 years, for that matter, is even mourned will tell you that.
So, as we mourn Bob Feller and his passing, remember that statue out in LF that some of you pass on the way in. Imagine a row of statues like that where people can take their kids, grandkids or great-grandkids and say "I saw him pitch" or "I saw his 3000th hit", and fill their heads with stories of the exploits of these great players. That's what builds tradition.
This is not a plug for bringing back Jim Thome or Manny Ramirez. Travis Hafner's contract took care of that ever happening. Nor is it a plug for bringing back Omar Vizquel, although I have favored, at one time or another, bringing back each of them for tradition sake. I contend, however, that not making them a part of the past AND present of the Cleveland Indians makes it more likely that they will only ever be part of Indians lore, NOT Indians' tradition, even if they go into the HOF wearning Chief Wahoo on their bronzed bust in Cooperstown.
What I am pointing out here is merely an affirmation of the importance of Bob Feller on all Indians' fans and a request, in the future, when we have to choose between tradition and winning or cutting budget or even egos, we and the Indians' braintrust remember that statue of Bob Feller outside of Progressive Field and his continued, until his death, support of the Cleveland Indians...and that those in charge consider tradition more strongly in future negotiations.