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A Tribute To Omar

Believe it or not, there are 24 other players on the Cleveland Indians who AREN'T named Jody Gerut. And while we all know of my obsession with Joseph Diego

I actually DO like several other players on the Indians (though we know Brussard is not one of them). And this is my tribute to one of them: Omar Vizquel.

In the history of short stops, there has NEVER been one with a better glove than Omar. This is not an opinion of an Indians fan, or an Omar fan, it's a straight out statistical fact. In my opinion (and this IS opinion) with his range, skill, and flash, he is the greatest gloveman of his generation. Barehanded grabs b/c the leather would show the progression and make it less likely to get the runner out. (And for those lucky enough to see him and Robby Alomar in his prime turn the double play, there are no words for the two of them together...)

Cleveland is the home to the movie Major League. But more than that, Omar is the last throwback to the days of 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, (even 2000 when all we needed was Seattle to lose!) and 2001. Back when the Browns were gone (damn you Art Modell!) and the Cavs sucked (wait, was that past tense I used?) A throwback to the days of Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome (who, yes, all walked away and broke our hearts.) The last link to Cleveland's rebirth of baseball after years below mediocrity. The link that started the consecutive sell out record that still stands. (Insert any "Cleveland is so desperate for a winner" joke here.) For 11 years, Omar has been a staple in Cleveland. He has won 9 Gold Gloves. (Last year he was injured. The year prior it was somehow given to A-Rod, who is nowhere near the defensive player that Omar is but was gyped out of the MVPO that year playing for Texas. This year, a weak April (after not playing all last season) may cost Omar his 10th gold glove this year - despite how well he has played since.

I can't explain to those of you who only see Omar maybe 10 games a year how good this guy really is. How amazing the plays he makes look routine are. And he doesn't have the power of the recent shortstops, so sometimes he's overlooked. This guy can flat out field. The best ever. And he's got range better than anyone I've ever seen, so he covers so much ground - even at 37 - and makes plays that few other could even get to. You can't teach that. You can't even see that on the fielding percentage. Not only does he make fewer errors, but balls that would be hits anywhere else are outs here in Cleveland, and have been for over a decade. (And his hitting this year has been great as well. At age 37, he's batting .29o with 79 runs, seven homers, 58 RBI and 17 stolen bases.)

Anyway, I went to Sunday's game. Cleveland's last home game. Probably Omar's last game at Jacobs Field as an Indians. I had great seats - I was 5th row behind the on deck circle. When Omar came up to bat in the first and third innings, the crowd was on its feet cheering for him. Even after he got out both times, the crowd continued its standing ovation. We weren't clapping for that at bat. We were clapping for 11 years, for 1700 games (other than injuries and days off), for seven thousand at bats. For being part of our run in the 90s. For being personable. For answering every reporters questions on his 4th game as a Cleveland Indian when he made 3 errors that game (the only time it ever happened in his career) and people were wondering how this hell this random new guy had won the gold glove the year before. This was for being one of the last classy athletes remaining in sports. This was for Omar for being Omar. When he came up in the 6th, the crown was again on its feet cheering. (He got a hit that time, and it was just as loud as it was earlier this season when he got hit number 2000.) This was Omar's day. 22,000 fans were there not because it was a nice Sunday afternoon, not because there wasn't anything else to do, and not because the game mattered at all to the standings. The 22,000 fans were there to say goodbye. And they were emotional.

But they weren't the only ones. In the 8th inning, Omar was up again, and everyone in the stadium realized it would be Omar's last at bat of the season, and likely, of his career as an Indian. The fans knew it. Omar knew it. Everyone was on their feet. Signs are out. There is mad cheering. Omar raises his hand in acknowledgement. I'd like to think that it was in appreciation as well. People would not stop. Omar steps into the batters box and tries to get ready, but the crowd just will not stop cheering. Will not dull to a deafening roar at least. So Omar steps out and looks at the crowd a second time.

You know that forced stiff smile you have when you are desperately trying not to cry? 5 rows back, I could see, that was the smile on Omar's face. And that was the feeling in everyone's hearts watching him acknowledge the crown one final time. He got out, and still Omar got a standing ovation. (I heard him on the radio after the game saying that was the toughest at bat of his career. It was tough to be a part if it, knowing what it was.)

He took his place at shortstop for the top of the 9th. Since Jacobs Field reopened in 1994, few other than Omar have played that position. Shortstop at Jacobs Field truly is HIS position in every sense of the word. Manager Eric Wedge replaced him with Johnny Peralta (the 22 year old kid who was the AAA International League MVP and is the reason that Omar probably will not be back next year with the Indians) to start the inning. And the crowd was again on its feet. Cheering. Calling. Everything. Omar tipped his hat before disappearing into the dugout for the final time.

And the crowd was not satisfied. We wanted Omar. Fuck the game (which was already out of control at like 5-1 anyway.) We just wanted Omar. The Minnesota batter had to step out of the box and the umpire had to turn to the Indians dugout b/c the crowd was so loud. 22,000 people screaming from their hearts. Hoping maybe the cheers would convince the Indians to resign him maybe? Omar stepped back onto the field. He waved to the fan and then touched his heart before going back into the dugout. The message was clear: I love you all.

Omar's Top Five Golden Moments

And as an aside, I was wearing a Yankees Suck t-shirt. Some mother (who looked at least 5 years younger than me) walked up to me and said that she didn't appreciate my language at a ballpark where children were around, I was was dressed more appropriately for a bar. For the record, I don't think that teen mother hood is a good thing for children to see, nor her shirt ending somewhere around the end of her bra and her low riding jeans. Not that she looked trashy, b/c it wasn't quite as bad as I made it sound, but she'd be more likely to be in a bar than I would dressed in our respective ways.


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