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Name drop: Cleveland set to say goodbye to Indians for good

CLEVELAND (AP) — There’s no more debate or decisions forthcoming. There’s still some anger and disbelief, but also the excitement that comes along with change.

The Cleveland Indians are about to become history.

On Monday, one of the American League’s charter members will play its final home game of 2021, and also its last at Progressive Field as the Indians, the team’s name since 1915, when “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was the starting right fielder on opening day.

Much more than the makeup of a rainout against the Kansas City Royals, the home finale will signify the end of one era and beginning of a new chapter for the team, which will be called the Cleveland Guardians next season.

That’s going to take some time getting used to. The Indians are all Clevelanders have ever known.

“I’m not a betting man,” longtime radio play-by-play broadcaster Tom Hamilton said, pondering what’s ahead. “But I have to guess the over-under on how many times we’ll say Indians is one million.”

After the Oct. 3 season finale in Texas and with no postseason for a team that hasn’t won the World Series since 1948, there will be a transition period before Indians — a named deemed racist by some — is dropped and Guardians appears on new uniforms with logos that were unveiled in July to mixed reviews.

At some point, Guardians merchandise will go on sale and the massive script “Indians” logo crowning the ballpark’s massive left-field scoreboard will be taken down, a moment many Clevelanders could have never imagined possible.

And while the end of Indians has been known for a while, it still seemed to sneak up on some fans.

“It kind of hit us when we came in,” Kathy Wainwright of Elyria, Ohio, said as she and her husband, Mark, grabbed a bite to eat and a couple pregame beers before the Indians hosted the Royals.

Before entering the ballpark, the couple walked to the corner of Ontario Street and Carnegie Avenue to take a photo of the home plate entrance where a lighted “Indians” sign welcomes fans.

“I knew it was the last time I’d get to see it that way,” Mark said.

The team is not planning any ceremony to honor the Indians’ final performance at home. Unfortunately for many Cleveland fans, it’s happening at the same time that the Browns are hosting the Chicago Bears just one mile away at FirstEnergy Stadium.

The Indians’ last home at-bat has been another delicate line to navigate for the club, whose decision to change the name elicited heavy criticism from fans who felt the team caved to a small, vocal minority.

Others thought it was long overdue, and probably should have happened when the team ditched the contentious Chief Wahoo logo a few years back.

The name change became inevitable last year when owner Paul Dolan announced his intention to examine the use of Indians after being moved by the social unrest sweeping America in the wake of the George Floyd murder in Minneapolis.

Cleveland’s steps toward the change don’t really matter at this point. There’s no turning back. It’s happening.

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