Screw it dude, let’s go to Cleveland (Part One)
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An ill-fated, yet still enjoyable, voyage to World Series Game Seven
By Drew Pelto, AKA *censored*

I’ve written a lot here about Cleveland.

For two decades I spent at least part of the year in the city’s eastern suburbs. From November 1985 to August 2002, I lived in Painesville, and then spent the time through December 2005 bouncing from my college in Boston back to Painesville, Mentor-On-The-Lake, and Fairport Harbor. So needless to say, that explains my Browns, Cavs, and Indians fandom despite living in Texas.

I missed the Cavs’ victory parade. I gave consideration to flying up, but doing so would have eaten up the vacation time that I wanted to use for a drive to Michigan and Minnesota a month later. I stayed in Texas, took a single day off, and watched on TV. As the Indians began their push toward the World Series, I figured I should look into a trip up in the event that we got a second victory parade. To my surprise, it was financially doable. I also had some vacation time stocked up.


If you look closely, you will see me... not there.

A swing and a drive...
I didn’t book everything right away. After all, this was still when the ALCS was at a 2-0 Tribe lead. There was plenty of time to blow everything. And knowing Cleveland, it was bound to happen. But I checked a variety of dates—anywhere from the next day to two weeks down the line, and the prices remained the same.

The ALCS came to a positive close despite Trevor Bauer’s finger blowing up. The World Series rolled on with Cleveland wins, and with the series sitting at 3-1, I knew it was time to finalize. A Game Five loss made me fearful though. The previous fifth starter who was now the number three due to injuries, followed by the ace Corey Kluber on three days rest for only the third time in his career (with the previous two being the only pre-World-Series loss for the Indians and a hard-fought win three days prior) made me think maybe this wouldn’t work out. This isn’t hindsight: I have co-workers who can vouch for me calling it.

As I sat down to watch Game Six, I asked my wife if she would mind if I went up for Game Seven. Sure, I wouldn’t be able to get inside the ballpark, but I wanted to at least be there, win or lose. I could visit my dad, see some old friends, pick up some Cleveland-specific items (Stadium Mustard, anyone?) and probably watch the game from outside the ballpark or in a nearby bar.

She approved. And as the Indians began getting shelled in Game Six—as I had predicted—I booked a flight, hotel, and car for the following day. I was headed home.

I had everything timed out to where I would miss only the first couple of innings: fly in, land at about 6:30, get my rental car by 7:30, park at the Brookpark train station, ride downtown, and get to the Stadium by 8:30, missing maybe the first two innings at most. I planned to meet up with my high school friends Ari, Brandon, Quinn, Brian, and Ben and watch the game with them on Gateway Plaza in between Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena.

Sprinting around second...
I got to Dallas-Fort Worth Airport at about 6 am, just me, a carry-on with a couple days of clothes, and my computer. This was about as minimalist as a trip gets that isn’t booked on Spirit Airlines. Dressed in my Indians jersey and hat, I did have some fears about what could happen when I connected in O’Hare—until United offered me the chance to change to an earlier departure, routed through Newark, that would also put me into Cleveland an hour earlier, all at no extra cost. I made the change and headed through security with every agent along the way talking to me about the game.

This was perfect. No having to deal with grief from fans in Chicago, maybe have time to check in to my hotel across town, and even ride downtown with Brian and Quinn instead of having to take the train.

The flight to Newark was uneventful, aside from the fact I got to share a flight with several members of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. The real fun began once I arrived in Newark. Checking the departure board to find my next gate, I saw the one-word bane of travelers everywhere: DELAYED.

Our plane was coming from Mexico, got delayed upon departure, and then would have to go through U.S. Customs checks and all that fun stuff before getting to us. Fortunately I encountered a number of Tribe fans at the gate, so we had a lot of talks about what we were expecting (not good; Cleveland fans have come to expect the worst), what the Tribe needed to win (power from the lefties to take advantage of the wind blowing out to right), and where we were watching (most at home, some at a local bar—one guy had actually gone to Game Six, slept two for hours, flew a red-eye that morning to Newark to put on a business presentation, and now was flying back to Cleveland to watch the game with his family).


My gate didn't even get the good view. We had this. MINUS THE PLANE.

Needless to say, my plans of getting checked in and riding in with Quinn were out at this point.

Finally after getting picked for a bonus extra sweep from TSA, we pulled away from the gate at 5:30 after expecting to be in Cleveland at 5:45. Things were looking good though: I was seated between an Indians fan and a Cubs fan who had tickets to the game. The plane got us there quickly and I would be able to make it for first pitch; I could see the Cleveland suburbs out the window, we were circling for our final approach… and circling… and circling… and circling...

At third, being waved around, here comes the relay...
Holding pattern for half an hour.

Apparently every private plane in the universe was ahead of us to land. Burke Lakefront Airport, where most of those flights would go, has only about 200 parking spots for planes, all of which were full by the early afternoon.

Finally at 7 pm local time we were on the ground. Had I kept my original plans through O’Hare I would have gotten in earlier. This was the first sign that the fickle middle finger of fate was flashing my direction. To make matters worse, once we landed we were at one of the furthest gates away from the place I needed to get to. I ran as fast as I could (not very: I’m a goalie after all) and got to the rental car shuttle, picked up my car, and took off to the RTA station, parking what felt like half a mile away. It was 8 pm. My original guess of missing two innings would prove accurate.

A thirty-minute train ride, a five-block walk-run through downtown, and finally I got to Gateway Plaza...


Okay guys, I'm here. Now where are you in this whole mess?

He slides...
...just in time to see the top of the third end as Kyle Schwarber was thrown out in an ill-advised attempt to turn a single into a double.

The roar of the fans on the Plaza was deafening.

I was home.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Drew Pelto considers himself a Cleveland native despite being born in Cedar Rapids, IA. He currently lives in Texas with his wife and two cats and has autographs from 30 of the 56 players and coaches to appear in a 2016 Indians uniform. He will have Part Two soon...