Tribe treats fan to centennial celebration

Tribe treats fan to centennial celebration

CLEVELAND -- At the Sunrise Assisted Living Center in Parma, Ohio, Tribe games are written into the residents' daily schedules.

"I always have to put it on their sheets," said Beth Litz, the center's activities coordinator. "It's like exercise, card club, dinner, then Indians game. It's a big hit here."

So if the game is not on by first pitch, well, there's trouble. Just ask 100-year-old Charlotte Placek, who watches nearly every game of the team that has brought her joy for close to a century.

"I love them," Placek said.

So when Placek said she wanted to "be back in the limelight" for her 100th birthday, her family knew exactly what she meant. "Lottie" hoped to see her Tribe in person.

She got her wish -- and then some. On Thursday, April 26, a few dozen family and friends celebrated Lottie's 100th birthday from a suite along the first-base line.

Lottie simply smiled as she took it all in -- the cake, the visit by Slider, the scoreboard message, the three-piece band.

"Look how happy she looks," said Ron Schmidt, who helped take care of Lottie before she moved to Sunrise three years ago. "This means more to her than she probably realizes."

It was the ultimate celebration of her lifetime link to the Indians, a connection that ultimately began with her marriage to a one-time scout for the organization.

From 1947 until he died from a heart attack in 1961, Laddie Placek served as the chief Ohio scout for the Indians. Lottie called them "the best days" of her life.

She enjoyed nearly unlimited access at Cleveland Stadium, attended several games each year and hobnobbed with the game's bigwigs.

Asked who she knew, Lottie slowly rattled off a list of names: "Kenny Keltner, Hank Greenberg, Bob Feller, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Boudreau."

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"The organization treated her very well, and she always felt very close to them," said Larry Hendricks, Lottie's cousin. "It was kind of like an open-door policy. She felt like royalty."

Lottie still has box upon box of memorabilia from those days, including Laddie's 1948 World Series ring. And photos of Lottie, Laddie and their baseball friends line the wall of her room at Sunrise.

Golfing pictures also adorn the room. Of course, there's a baseball tie here, too. At Spring Training in Florida one year, Lottie says she learned how to play golf from comedian Bob Hope. A few years later, she became one of the nation's first female professional golfers.

As recently as five years ago, she frequently hit golf balls in the backyard of the Seven Hills, Ohio, home she shared with her niece, Linda Hendricks.

One time when Lottie was already in her 90s, she and Linda golfed nine holes. The result was predictable.

"She beat me," Linda said with a laugh. "And you know, she was giving me pointers."

In fact, now that Lottie's returned to the limelight, she said, "the only thing left to do is meet Tiger Woods."

Yet judging by the smile perpetually plastered across Lottie's face during her day at The Jake, the Indians' effortless win over the Rangers may have been more than enough.

David Briggs is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.