Indians always worth a look

A show of hands, please, from all you diehard Pittsburgh Pirates fans in central Indiana.

Uh, huh. You two over there, please slide over to join these four. And, yes, you rocking the Kent Tekulve glasses, star-covered pillbox cap and tattered “We Are Family” T-shirt, feel free to sit next to them.

Surely there are more of you than that.

But how many more?

The purpose here isn’t to slam the Pirates organization or their fans. Rather, it’s to attempt to define the role the Triple-A Indianapolis Indians have had the past 12 seasons compared to previous years.

Since 2005 the Indians’ ageless ballpark, Victory Field, has been where numerous Indians players impressed the higher-ups enough to get a call from the parent club — the very same Pittsburgh Pirates.

Before that, Indianapolis enjoyed a five-year run (2000-04) as the final steps before possibly getting a spot on the Milwaukee Brewers’ roster.

But it’s the Indians’ four stints — and 37 total seasons — as part of the Cincinnati Reds organization in which the bond between the respective ball clubs, their fans and their cities peaked.

The Indians stopped using old Bush Stadium midway through the 1996 regular season.

But the echoes of what eventual Reds stars like Eric Davis, Ron Oester, Ray Knight, Ken Griffey Sr., Dave Concepcion and George Foster accomplished at 1501 West 16th St. can’t be drowned out by time.

Back in the day, Indians fans became Red fans, if they weren’t already — and vice versa.

If a particular pitcher or hitter was trending upward here, the locals knew it was only a matter of time until the player was driving south on Interstate 74 in the direction of Crosley Field or Riverfront Stadium.

And we genuinely cheered for the player to get that promotion.

Or, if a Reds player was struggling in the bigs, you had a hunch he would be back in an Indianapolis uniform relatively soon to work on his overall game.

And we genuinely felt bad for the player eventually demoted.

The third of the four Indianapolis-Cincy connections was arguably the best.

From 1968 to 1993, the Indians captured eight division titles and five league championships. The Reds over this same stretch picked up five National League and three World Series trophies.

Those mighty Big Red Machine squads of the mid-1970s are still considered among the greatest baseball teams ever assembled. Foster started in left field, Concepcion at shortstop and Griffey in right.

Cincinnati celebrated. To a lesser degree, Indy did, too.

For obvious geographical reasons, the connection this part of the state has with the Pirates isn’t nearly as strong. This also applies to the Brewers, Montreal Expos (1984-92) or any number of other MLB parent clubs the Indians have been affiliated with through the years.

Just maybe it’s Victory Field that’s the draw these days — and that’s OK.

Times, players and working affiliations may change, but an afternoon spent in the sun with a hot dog and cold beverage never goes out of style.

So let’s root, root, root for the home team.

Mike Beas is a sports writer for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at