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Cleveland Indians History: When Harry Carey gave Ross Grimsley a watch

(Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images) /

On August 19, 1980, Cleveland Indians pitcher Ross Grimsley left the Comiskey Park mound after 8.2 innings of work. And he left Harry Carey a little gesture as well.

Any time the Cleveland Indians got a “famous player” I was excited.

Growing up we didn’t have cable – and certainly not MLB Extra Innings. That meant there were two types of baseball players for me: Cleveland Indians and “famous players.” Guys that were on Game of the Week, the All-Star Game or the World Series.

Occasionally the Indians would trade for one of the famous players. In 1975 it was Boog Powell, then Blue Moon Odom. In 1980 it was southpaw Ross Grimsley.

Each of these players came with the one thing I wanted to have for all my beloved Indians: World Series experience.

Grimsley had been to the postseason multiple times, winning two games in the 1972 World Series against the Oakland A’s.

Grimsley won 20 games for the Montreal Expos in 1978. He pitched 19 complete games, and threw 263 innings. In 1979, he only threw 151 innings, going 10-9.

In 1980 Grimsley was dropped from the Expos rotation and requested a trade. On July 11, 1980, the Expos traded Grimsley to the Indians for cash and minor leaguer Dave Oliver. The Indians didn’t have room in the rotation immediately but getting a lefty who had recently won 20 games was a good move.

The Indians looked like they were headed in the right direction. They had a new leadoff hitter (Miguel Dilone, who hit .341 and stole 61 bases), Toby Harrah (scored 100 runs), Mike Hargrove (.411 on base percentage), Lenny Barker (19 wins), Dan Spillner (16 wins) and a rookie left fielder who had taken the town by storm (Joe Charboneau).

When John Denny went down with a season-ending injury Grimsley was promoted to the rotation.

I was listening on August 19 when Grimsley left after 8.2 innings with an 8-5 lead in favor of closer Sid Monge. Grimsley wasn’t great on this night, but he was good enough.

All of a sudden Joe Tait mentioned that Grimsley gave a gesture in the direction of (then White Sox announcer) Harry Carey, who had been riding him all game long.

This can only mean that Carey was doing it loud enough for Tait to hear in the next booth. In hindsight this isn’t hard to imagine.

38 years later I wonder “Did that really happen?”

So as the anniversary approached, I ask a mutual friend of mine and Ross Grimsley. (It’s not like I have a lot of mutual friends of former baseball players, but in this case I do.) She said she would find out.

What I found out from Ross was even better than I hoped:

“I thought I was with the O’s when that happened, but could be wrong. Harry Carey and his co-host Jim Piersall were riding my (butt) on the radio and I heard it when I went upstairs in clubhouse for something. I got taken out in the 8th inn and as I was walking off mound, I looked up at the booth and give them the ole up (yours) sign with my arm.

He called me the next morning and wanted me to be on the pre game show and I told him to go (and do something that is physically impossible yet somewhat hilarious to imagine). He said he was just trying to get fans and team worked up and hopefully come back and win. He asked again if I would be on show and again I replied go (do the same act).

He said he would give me a new watch and I said what time is the show and went on that afternoon.”

How this story plays out in the mind of a Cleveland fan:

1980: I hear about the gesture and think any player who can get away with that is pretty cool.

1990: I hear Harry Carey announce on WGN and think “Wow – I would give him that gesture on general principle.”

2016: The Cubs beat the Indians in the World Series and my hatred for all things Cub-related increases exponentially, almost eclipsing my hatred of the Yankees. Ross Grimsley becomes one of my favorite Indians ever.

2018: I hear the rest of the story and decide Ross Grimsley is my favorite Indian ever. I hope Harry had to give him a Rolex.

Just in case it ever comes up on HQ Sports:

Ross Grimsley is the only 20 game winner in Montreal Expos history.

Next. Indians make it official and retire Jim Thome’s number. dark

Two really useless pieces of trivial information:

  1. In 1973 Topps had different icons for left-handed pitchers (blue background for lefties, red background for right handers).
  2. They got Ross Grimsley’s background wrong.  He has a right-handed background on his card.