The news that Chief Wahoo, the controversial Cleveland Indians logo, would be going away in 2019 tore a divide through the baseball world Monday. Many Indians fans were heartbroken, as they grew up with Chief Wahoo as the symbol of their team. Many Wahoo protestors, however, were thrilled as they saw the decision by MLB and the Indians as a victory against a racially-insensitive logo.
Somewhere in the middle of that, there was David S. Ward, the writer and director who gave us the classic baseball film “Major League.” Ward is one of those long-suffering Indians fans, of which there are many in the world. He’s a little different, though, in that he wrote a movie that turned his beloved Indians into baseball’s most lovable cinematic underdogs. And Chief Wahoo was very much a part of his movie, front and center in the uniforms his fictional Indians wore and in the banter of announcer Harry Doyle.
“I grew up with Chief Wahoo,” Ward told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday. “It’s been a part of Indians lore for a long time. But it’s probably time for Chief Wahoo to move on.
“I might have my own little mourning ceremony for Chief Wahoo,” he said. “But, Chief, it’s time to move on. Take a hit of Jobu’s rum and chill out.”
After a couple years of discussion, initiated by MLB and commissioner Rob Manfred, the league announced Monday that the Chief Wahoo logo was “no longer appropriate.” The Indians ultimately agreed with the league. Although the on-field logos will change for the 2019 season, Indians fans still will be able to buy merchandise with Chief Wahoo on it at Progressive Field or in the Cleveland area. So Chief Wahoo isn’t being yanked out of the hands of Indians fans altogether.
“I know there are some fans who think they’ve been dictated to, but I don’t feel like that way,” Ward told Yahoo Sports. “Looking at that image, I say it’s from a bygone era, so let bygones be bygones. As Indians fans, we’ll all adjust. If the Indians are good, we’re happy and if the Indians aren’t good, we’re not happy and it doesn’t matter who’s on the sleeve. That’s what sports are about. You root for the team. You don’t root for the logo.
This might surprise some Indians fans, who look at “Major League” as another part of their team’s lore. Ward said he and some of the cast of “Major League” discussed the issue when the news was announced – and like the greater baseball community — the opinions were split down the middle. But Ward says he doesn’t think this is an issue worth digging anybody their heels into.
“We’ve got a lot more important things to do in this country,” he said.
Like many Indians fans, Ward has a jersey with Chief Wahoo hanging in his closet. He said when he heard the news, he looked at his Indians jersey and was satisfied with the notion that it was time for this decision to be made.
“The time has come where you just sort of have to re-examine,” Ward said. “When you grow up with it, you just accept it. You just feel like it’s part of the fabric of the Indians. From that point of view, you don’t even think about what someone else might think or feel about it.”
“It’s time,” Ward said, “to go off to where ever ex-logos and mascots go.”
At least the Chief will get to hang with Jobu.
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