ESPN The Magazine


In watching the Indians go on a historic streak, it became clear the most remarkable thing about the team wasn’t the wins.

The Cleveland Indians return home in the middle of the night, winners of 15 straight and counting, and the feeling on the plane is something like an army or a rock band marching across a continent, exhausted but connected on a soul level: brothers in arms. The next day, the players head back into work. A light breeze blows across the stadium’s empty concourses, which smell like popcorn and butter. They haven’t lost in two weeks, pounding down the season’s back-stretch, playoff-bound. Their manager, Terry Francona, makes the two-block trip from home on his scooter, waving at cops and other working men. In the clubhouse, he swims to help the circulation in his injury-ravaged legs. He had heart surgery two months ago and missed only six games, the son of a pro ballplayer and the father of a combat-hardened Marine.

An old security guard named Bill, who brought his lunch in a plastic sandwich bag, sits outside the clubhouse doors. A sign on the doors says private. It specifies no wives, no agents, no attorneys, just “immediate male family members”—listing as appropriate fathers and grandfathers, brothers and sons. Nothing in pro sports is quite like a baseball clubhouse. Not merely a place for dressing and undressing, it’s a shadow opponent—more akin to a golf course than a football locker room. Individual games might be won or lost on the field, but seasons are won or lost in the endless hours between, 162 games in 183 days, the grind itself as difficult as any other physical aspect of the sport. Ballplayers are famous for superstitions and hardwired routines, for talking to bats and pissing on their hands, for destroying coolers and screaming at reporters and at each other. All those things are outward reflections of the inner anxiety that grows day by day, series by series. They often publicly mock their fragile attempts to impose order on chaos, whistling past the graveyard of broken baseball dreams.

This brings us to the shrine in the back left corner of the Indians’ clubhouse.

The centerpiece is a large statue of Jobu, the Voodoo god from the movie Major League, which is of course about a winning streak. It’s evolved over the past two seasons to include the main Jobu plus three smaller satellite Jobus. Two cigars rest beneath the large idol, and another stands upright in

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