Necessity, as the saying goes, is often the mother of invention. And that is how the Wahoo Club came into being.
In 1962, Cleveland and all of professional baseball was full of speculation that hard times at the turnstiles would force the Indians to abandon the only home they had know throughout their history. It was a history that dated back to 1869 when the Cleveland Forest City's were born. They, in turn became the Spiders (1889), the Blues (1900), the Broncos (1902), the Naps (1903) and our beloved Indians (1915).
Greener pastures, it was feared, might soon be found hundred of miles from the lakefront stadium and its millions of memories.
As 'save the Indians' stories multiplied in the local media and 'hot stove' conversations, local advertising executive, Leonard Axelband, envisioned grassroots support in the form of an adult boosters club.
With the cooperation of Gabe Paul, Indians President, and Nate Wallack, the public relations director for the ball club, Mr. Axelband contacted a group of former baseball players and civic leaders with close ties to the sport.
The list included all-star third baseman Al Rosen, pitching great Mike Garcia, and I.S.(Nig) Rose, a longtime backer of amateur baseball in the city, as well as John Nagy, Cleveland's nationally known Recreation Director. Hall of Famer Bob Feller and Gordon Cobbledick, long-respected sports editor of The Plain Dealer; and local businessmen Tom O'Connell, David Leahy and Ron Cohen also were early backers of the organization.
With guidance from these leaders, the organization took shape and grew rapidly. The club took its name from Chief Wahoo, the club's long standing symbol.From the initial 1962 membership of 175, The Wahoo Club had prospered through the years, reaching an annual membership in excess of 1,500 even in 'lean years' where a first division finish for the Indians was only a distant dream. Grassroots interest is real.
Luncheon meetings through the years have seen most of baseball's brightest stars shine at the speaker's platform, including Pete Rose who was given a special 'Charlie Hustle Award' in 1979. When Bob Feller and Lou Bordreau were elected to Baseball's Hall of Fame, record numbers attended the luncheons to honor the former Tribe heroes. The Wahoo Club is proud of the role it played in helping Bob Lemon into The Hall of Fame. In 1976, the year Bob was elected, they sent fresh lemons to all baseball writers who were eligible to vote.
Among the proud traditions that have continued through the years is the Gordon Cobbledick Tomahawk Award, given since 1963 to the member of the Indians ball club who has made the most outstanding contribution to his team during the preceding season. It caries a special significance because it is the only award of its kind where the winner is elected by his teammates.
A second great tradition is a scholarship given each year to a baseball player at Cleveland State University in memory of Luke Easter, former Indian great and longtime member of The Wahoo Board of Directors.
As the first such booster club in the nation, The Wahoo Club and its members are also proud of the support and guidance they provided in the formation of similar organizations in other major league cities. We also point with pride to the many Wahoo Clubs scattered throughout the country which were formed by rabid Indian's fans who closely follow the Tribe's fortunes from hundreds even thousands of miles away.
We're proud of this history. Back in 1962, The Wahoo Club was dedicated to a premise: To Further Interest In Baseball On All Levels. Our goal remains the same today. We hope you will join us so that we can further that goal.