CLEVELAND — Before the Indians won the 1948 World Series, another Cleveland baseball team earned a championship.
The Cleveland Buckeyes were an all-Black team playing in a segregated league, shut out from Major League Baseball. Two years before Jackie Robinson broke MLB's color barrier, the Buckeyes won the 1945 Negro League World Series over the Homestead Grays.
"Some people look at that and say 'That's one of the bigger World Series upsets that you can find,'" Leslie Heaphy of the Society for American Baseball Research told 3News. "It's amazing that people don't know more about the Buckeyes."
The Grays were one of the greatest Negro League teams ever, featuring a roster littered with future Hall of Famers like Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell. Cleveland sported no such players, but behind stars like center fielder Sam Jethroe and ace starter Eugene Bremmer, they swept Homestead in four games to take the title.
The Buckeyes' history lives on at the Baseball Heritage Museum at League Park, where they used to play their home games. Sadly, the players on this team aren't alive to see their legacy grow.
In December -- after decades of denial -- Major League Baseball added seven historic Black leagues to its records. That means 3,400 players and their statistics -- from 19201-948 -- will finally become a part of MLB history.
Reactions to the announcement have been mixed.
"Some people see it as something people should be proud of," said Negro League Baseball Museum Curator Dr. Raymond Doswell. "There are other who see this really as just a pompous gesture."
Freelance sports journalist Justice Hill says Major League Baseball struck out with its timing.
"Why do it now?" Hill asked. "What's so special about now that they couldn't have done it 20, 30, 40 years ago?"
Only four Negro League players from that 28-year window are still living, including Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays.
"Was it too late? Certainly," Heaphy said, "but you can never be too late to do something that corrects a wrong."
Overdue recognition for those on the wrong side of their country's history.