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Season tickets take fans back in time

Season tickets take fans back in time

CLEVELAND -- A ball used by Bob Feller to throw his Opening Day no-hitter in 1940. The red Tribe jersey that Frank Robinson wore in his 1975 debut as baseball's first black manager. And the bat Sandy Alomar Jr. used to hit the game-winning homer in the 1997 All-Star Game.

The city's glorious baseball past was on display during a two-night season-ticket holder event the Indians put on earlier this month at the Great Lakes Science Center.

Of course, it also helps when this past is brought to life, so the Indians had Feller come in to chat with the fans.

One fan asked the Indians Hall of Famer when he first threw a curveball, certainly hoping for an answer that would discourage his young son from throwing the pitch.

"Well, I started throwing them when I was eight years old," Feller said.

Feller laughed. The crowd laughed. Even the father laughed.

Whether it was the "Baseball As America" exhibit on loan from the Hall of Fame, the chalk talk with general manager Mark Shapiro, the honorary contract signing by Tribe owner Larry Dolan or, yes, the question-and-answer session with Feller, this may well have been baseball heaven for a Tribe fan.

"This whole thing is terrific," said Jim Shawver, 62, of Lorain. "I got to meet Mr. Feller, see this exhibit. Everything's been exceptional."

The Indians' annual season-ticket holder event, which has been staged at Jacobs Field in years past, was shifted a few miles to the Great Lakes Science Center this year.

And why not? It's hard to look past "Baseball As America," an exhibit showcasing more than 500 artifacts from Cooperstown.

"We're always looking for ways to freshen the event up," said Mike Mulhall, the club's director of ticketing and premium sales. "So when we got wind of this exhibit, it was a natural."

The exhibition, which runs through Sept. 3, has everything from the world's most valuable baseball card -- the famous 1909 Honus Wagner T206 -- to the trophy given to Lou Gehrig in his Yankee Stadium farewell, to "Wonderboy" -- the bat used by Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs in The Natural -- to a wooden home plate constructed by Japanese-American internees during World War II at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona.

"This stuff is terrific," said Jerry Pubal, a season-ticket holder from Parma Heights. "I can't think of a better event."

The night didn't end in the museum, however. The club also held alumni talks with Joe Charboneau, Len Barker, Pat Tabler and Feller and presented chalk talks with Shapiro and Ross Atkins, the Tribe's director of player development.

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One night, a fan asked Atkins who he felt was better: Indians second baseman Josh Barfield or Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips, who the Indians traded away last year.

Barfield's coming on strong, Atkins said, but perhaps Phillips is more developed.

The woman took exception, explaining several reasons why she liked Barfield. Finally, Atkins relented with a smile.

"You are a true optimist," Atkins said. "That's what I like."

Then again, surrounded by the game's fascinating past coupled with this year's Tribe winning on the museum's big-screen televisions, perhaps it was hard not to be.

Fans are reminded that there is still time to purchase season tickets this year as the pennant race heats up.

The Indians are offering a stretch run, pro-rated package, which allows fans to attend the season's final 36 games at a discounted rate. For more information, visit Indians.com or call 216-420-HITS.

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

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