Founded in 1902
|Minor league affiliations|
|League||International League (1963, 1998-present)|
|Major league affiliations|
|Current||Pittsburgh Pirates (1948-1951, 2005-present)|
|Minor league titles|
|Nickname||Indianapolis Indians (1902-present)|
|Colors||Red, black, silver, white|
|Ballpark||Victory Field (1996-present)|
|General Manager||Randy Lewandowski|
The Indianapolis Indians are a professional Minor League Baseball team based in Indianapolis, Indiana. The team plays in the International League. The Triple-A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Indians play at Victory Field in downtown Indianapolis. The team's mascot is Rowdie the Bear.
Founded in 1902, the Indianapolis Indians are the second-oldest minor league franchise in American professional baseball (after the Rochester Red Wings). The 1902 and 1948 Indians were recognized as being among the 100 greatest minor league teams of all time.
The first attempt at professional baseball in Indianapolis came in the 1870s, when a club called the Indianapolis Blues operated in the National League in 1878. After a hiatus, organized baseball began again in 1887, and the city has had pro ball almost every year since then. After 15 years of various franchises competing in various leagues (including four years in the National League and one year in the American Association), the current Indianapolis Indians franchise was founded as an original member of the American Association in 1902. That year's team won 95 games and the first of 21 pennants.
The ballclub played its early seasons at several ballparks, including two on Washington Street, before Norm Perry, who took ownership of the team in 1929, built a new stadium on 16th Street in 1931, the Indians playing their first game there on September 5, 1931. He named the park Perry Stadium in honor of his brother James who had been killed in a plane crash. That ballpark was renamed Victory Field in 1942, and Bush Stadium in 1967, and remained the Tribe's home until July 1996.
The Cleveland Indians purchased the team in 1952, but after losing $500,000 on the operation over four seasons, looked to move the team. The Indianapolis community rallied to save the Indians. Funeral director Robert E. Kirby, Chairman of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce Athletic Committee, obtained an option to purchase the franchise from Cleveland. A broad-based sale of stock in the team was organized. Stock was priced at $10 per share with a 100-share limit on individual purchases.
Kirby, William R. Kraft, David M. Lewis, Thomas A. Moynahan, and Thomas J. O'Brien got the ball rolling with investments of $200 each, and the certificate of incorporation for Indians, Inc. was received from the state of Indiana on November 9, 1955.
So successful was the drive that the original 16,000-share purchase authorization of capital stock was increased to 25,000 shares by the Secretary of State on December 5 following stockholder approval on November 30. Eventually the new corporation stopped accepting investments in February after a total of 20,488 shares had been purchased by 6,672 investors. Former Indians player, manager, and owner Donie Bush was named the first President of Indians, Inc. He held that position until January 1969.
In 1956, the Indianapolis Indians were 92-62. On May 18, they defeated the Louisville Colonels 24-0. The Indians went on to win the 1956 Junior World Series by defeating the Rochester Red Wings. In Game 2 of the Junior World Series, Roger Maris set a record by getting seven RBIs.
Max Schumacher joined the Indians front office as ticket manager in 1957. He added the duties of publicity director in 1959, and became the club's general manager in 1961--a post he held through 1997. Max was also named the team's President in 1969 following Bush's retirement. To this day, he continues as President and Chairman of the Board of Indians, Inc. Under his direction, the corporation has turned a profit for 35 straight years.
The team captured three straight pennants from 1961-63, including the International League championship in 1963. (The Indians competed in the American Association until it briefly disbanded after 1962. The Tribe joined the IL for one season before belonging to the Pacific Coast League from 1964 through 1968. At that point the Indians rejoined the American Association.) In 1969, Vern Rapp joined as manager of the Indians for 7 years. During that time, the Indians won two American Association pennants.
The Indians had been affiliated with several Major League clubs over the years including Cincinnati (1939-41, 1961), Boston Braves (1946-47), Pittsburgh (1948-1951), Cleveland (1952-1956), Philadelphia (1960) and the Chicago White Sox (1962-67). Beginning in 1968 they had a working agreement with the Cincinnati Reds that lasted through 1983. In addition to four first-place finishes and one playoff championship in that time period, Indianapolis fans saw numerous members of "The Big Red Machine" come through town. Players like Pedro Borbón, Bernie Carbo, Dave Concepción, Dan Driessen, George Foster, Ken Griffey, Ray Knight, and Hal McRae all donned Tribe uniforms.
The most glorious run in team history came in the 1980s after the team affiliated with the Montreal Expos. In a six-year period (1984-1989), the Indians won four division titles, four straight league championships (1986-1989) and two consecutive Triple-A Classic playoffs (1988-1989) over the champions of the International League. Delino DeShields, Andrés Galarraga, Marquis Grissom, Randy Johnson, and Larry Walker played for Indianapolis during those years.
The Indians affiliated again with Cincinnati from 1993-1999, leading to two more pennants and a league championship (1994). In 1998, Triple-A baseball expanded to 30 teams and consolidated into two leagues, with the Indians returning to the International League. After becoming the top affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2000, the Tribe won the league championship and went on to capture the Triple-A World Series in Las Vegas. But sub-.500 finishes during the next four seasons prompted the Indians to break from the Brewers and join the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system for the first time since 1951.
Perhaps the most significant change in Indians history came in 1996 when the team moved downtown to a new ballpark. Taking a name from the past, Victory Field, an $18 million project on the west side of downtown and part of White River State Park, opened on July 11, 1996 as the Tribe hosted the Oklahoma City 89ers. The open-air facility features 13,500 permanent seats and a lawn berm around the outfield that can seat up to 2,000 additional fans. The park also features 29 luxury suites. The ballpark was designed by the same architectural firm that designed Baltimore's Camden Yards and Cleveland's Jacobs Field.
The opening of Victory Field took the Indianapolis Indians to a new level. Attendance nearly doubled with more than 600,000 fans coming to the ballpark in each of the first five full seasons. In January 1999, Baseball America dubbed Victory Field "the best minor league ballpark in America." Those accolades were reinforced in 2001 by Sports Illustrated and minorleaguenews.com.
The national commendations and record attendance marks earned the Indians a share of the national spotlight. On July 11, 2001 representatives from all 30 Triple-A teams came to Indianapolis, and a national TV audience watched on ESPN2 as the Triple-A All-Star Game took place in front of a sellout crowd of 15,868.
In 2017, the Indians led all of Minor League Baseball in total attendance with 641,141 fans visiting Victory Field during the regular season.
Twelve Indians players and or managers have enjoyed enough success at the Major League level to warrant induction into baseball's Hall of Fame. Those players are: Samuel "Big Sam" Thompson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Luke Appling, Gabby Hartnett, Randy Johnson, Harmon Killebrew, Nap Lajoie, Al López, Rube Marquard, Joe McCarthy, Bill McKechnie, and Ray Schalk. Bob Uecker was recognized as a Ford C. Frick Award-winning broadcaster.
International League MVP
International League Most Valuable Pitcher
American Association MVP
Pacific Coast League MVP
Triple-A Championships The Indians have a perfect record when competing for the Triple-A Championship; they have won 7 Championships.
International League Championships The Indians have won the Governors' Cup, the championship of the IL, 2 times, and played in the championship series 4 times.
American Association Championships The Indians have won 12 American Association Championships; having won 4 titles when no playoffs were held, in addition to playing in the AA Championship Series 18 times and winning 8 times.
Howard Kellman is the long-standing "Voice of the Tribe", calling play-by-play for all but two seasons (1975 and 1980) since 1974. He is currently joined by Andrew Kappes, who entered his first season in 2015. Most games can be heard on WNDE 97.5 FM/1260 AM, and all home games air on Comcast channel 90.