Wednesday was supposed to be a celebration for the Cleveland Indians and their manager, Terry Francona. An exciting day as pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training in Goodyear, Arizona.
It was none of that. Terry's father, the original Tito Francona, passed away at the age of 84. A 15-year Major League outfielder, John Patsy 'Tito' Francona spent six seasons with the Indians, from 1954-1964. In his time with the Tribe, he batted .284 to go along with 85 home runs and 378 RBIs. He was named as one of the Tribe's Top 100 players of all time during their 100th anniversary celebration in 2001.
As Jim Donovan put it in his excellent 'Jimmy's Take,' Tito and Terry Francona are Cleveland's own 'Field of Dreams' father-son story. Like his dad, Terry became a solid, major league ballplayer, using that as a launching pad to becoming one of the finest managers of his generation with the Red Sox and the Tribe.
John Patsy Francona's nickname was passed down to his son. Tito Francona never missed an Indians' opening day and was there to throw out the first pitch against Boston to open that magical 2016 postseason.
I'll never forget when Terry Francona was hired by the Indians in 2012. Tito was there and spent the whole press conference beaming. "Cleveland was always my home team," Tito said that day. "It was always hard when we came here when Boston played the Indians, because this was my roots right here."
Terry added, "You can't take a job because your dad was a good Indian. But it's a great story."
The word 'family' comes to mind when you think about the Indians. Terry and Tito Francona. Larry and Paul Dolan. Front office and staff members that have been around for 15 years or more like Bob DiBiaso, Brandon Koehnke, Tom Hamilton, Bart Swain, Chris Antonetti, Curtis Danburg, Dennis Lehman, Tony Amato, and so many more.
There is stability. There is continuity. There is a family atmosphere.
Think about the hated Pittsburgh Steelers. They have been owned by the Rooney family, Art Sr, his son Dan, and grandson Art II. They've had three head coaches since 1969.
Jimmy and I discussed the Francona legacy and how the Indians have managed to build a family atmosphere during Wednesday's Donovan Live Postgame Show. I also stuck in a Valentine's Day question for Casanova Donovan as well!
Watch the Donovan Live Postgame Show in the player above