The official game day program of the Indianapolis Indians, Curtain Call, is back in digital form for the Indianapolis Indians' 120th season! Packed with interactive content, fans can enjoy feature stories on past and present ballplayers, learn about upcoming opponents at The Vic and more. What are you waiting for? Dive in today!
By Anna Kayser
On Sept. 12, as Travis Swaggerty’s 2022 baseball campaign winds to a close in the waning weeks of both the Triple-A and major league schedules, his mind will instead be flurried with images of polka dots and mouse ears.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than one in every 10 infants are born prematurely each year – an estimated total of 15 million. For Travis and his wife, Peyton, their daughter is celebrating her first birthday following the baseball season with a Minnie Mouse-themed party for the ages.
On Sept. 12, 2021, Sutton Hollie Swaggerty was born six weeks early at 4 pounds, 14 ounces. Since, she’s grown to see her dad come back from a season-ending injury in 2021 to making his major league debut at PNC Park in Pittsburgh on June 7, 2022.
“I just can’t believe that we’re already planning [Sutton’s] first birthday,” Peyton said. “I feel like we have gone through a lot this past year, and I want it to be big. Travis keeps telling me she won’t remember it – I don’t care. I just want to celebrate.”
Brave Beginnings, previously named the Will Rogers Institute Neonatal Equipment Grant Program, is a subset of the Will Rogers Motion Picture Pioneers Foundation that helps provide hospitals nationwide with newborn intensive care unit (NICU) equipment vital to caring for preterm newborns. Preterm is defined as infants born before the 37-week mark of pregnancy is completed.
According to the Brave Beginnings website, the program distributes an estimated $1 million per year in grants to hospitals across the country to purchase ventilators, sonic equipment and other essential equipment for development and survival.
“It’s massive to see so much care going into NICUs across the United States,” Travis said. “To have things like ventilator shortages, that’s scary. There are so many premature babies that need help and need the care, it’s absolutely essential for them to have that.”
At 10:30 PM on Sept. 11, over a month from her due date, Peyton’s water broke at their home in Mississippi. With her mom out of town and her father reassuring that everything was fine, she was adamant on going to the hospital.
Following an emergency caesarean section in the early hours of the following morning, Sutton was born.
“They put her straight into a travel incubator – a machine that can often come from the money Brave Beginnings donates – and Travis went with her to a different hospital about 20 minutes away,” Peyton said. “Neither Travis or I got to hold her, I just got to see them wheeling her off and putting her in an ambulance.”
Read "One in 10" here or in the August/September edition of Curtain Call, and learn more about the Swaggerty family's story in the video below.
By Mike Lopresti
This was in the Victory Field press box earlier this season. A Cincinnati sportswriter, more accustomed to the often-pokey pace of major league baseball games, had come to town to do a story on the Reds’ Luis Castillo and his rehab start for Louisville against the Indians. Lost in his writing, the man didn’t realize it was the ninth inning until he looked up from his computer and saw the final Indians’ out.
“It’s over already?” he asked.
Welcome to the world of the pitch clock.
We know why it’s here. The pace of baseball games has begun to grow positively glacial. As Indians’ president Randy Lewandoski explained, “For the good of the game and the fan and the players, there just needs to be a better flow than what we’ve gotten used to with all the starts and stops and stepping out of the batting box.
“We do know that when games get to three hours, 3:15, 3:30 people will filter out because it becomes really long. In today’s society of go-go-go, to really attract the younger audience that pace of play is what’s going to be really important. I didn’t say time, I said pace of play.”
Indeed, it’s how some games crawl that has become a concern. And we know the clock is having an impact. Out of 103 nine-inning games last season, the Indians had 37 pass three hours and 61 – well more than half – go at least 2:50. In the first 24 nine-inning contests this season, only six went 2:50, and four of those were in the first two week when the rules were just being introduced. Meanwhile, the Indians beat Columbus in a speedy 2:05 and lost at Iowa in 2:06. Barely enough time for that third hot dog.
What we don’t know yet is how much everyone will be on board, especially the men charged with playing a game that is already hard enough, without a tick . . . tick . . . tick going off in their heads. Or if this experiment being tried in the minor leagues will ever make its way up the ladder to the Yankee Stadiums and PNC Parks of the world.
First, the basics. A pitch must be thrown in 14 seconds, or 19 if there is a runner on base. If not, a ball is called. The batter must be in the box ready to hit when the clock reaches the nine-second mark. If not, it’s a strike. After an at-bat, the next hitter batter has 30 seconds to get to the box, so no taking the slow, scenic route from the on-deck circle. Also, a pitcher can’t just make repeated throws to first base, to keep a runner close, while bringing the inning’s tempo to a screeching halt. On the third try, the runner must either be picked off or he gets another base.
All these rulebook tweaks are designed to keep the game snappy. The clock is always there in centerfield and behind home plate, silently nudging the players and managers and umpires to move things along. It must constantly be started, stopped, reset, tended to. Which means the guy upstairs pushing the button has no time for day-dreaming. “That’s the hardest job in the ballpark right now,” Lewandowski said. “There’s not a break.”
So, pitch clock. Good? Bad? Both? Neither? Friend or foe, inspiration of abomination? Let’s take the matter to the Indians’ clubhouse, where – at least early on -- views touched most every point on the compass, each man considering the idea from his own spot on the baseball landscape. Here’s an oral history of the pitch clock in Victory Field. All two months of it.
Read "Against the Clock" here or in the June/July edition of Curtain Call.
By Mike Lopresti
To understand what Cal Burleson and his 45 years meant to the Indianapolis Indians, maybe we should start with the sound of shattering glass at old Bush Stadium.
In a rush of emotion, the man broke a window. Turned it into shards. Not that it was in a fit of anger. No, no, this was because the Indians scored a run. Let Indians chief executive officer Bruce Schumacher tell the story.
“In the old press box at Bush Stadium, there were three or four feet of picture-type windows, and at the very top there were windows you could actually open to let fresh air in. We won a game in the bottom of the ninth and Cal was so excited he pounded on one of those upper windows and broke it. He was just so pumped.”
Marc Bombard, the team’s manager at the time: “I’d tell him, `C’mon, I don’t want you to have a heart attack.’”
Yep, that was Cal.
“Anybody or anything he became attached to,” Schumacher said, “he was all-in.”
After receiving an extremely rare diagnosis of small cell bladder cancer in December 2020, Burleson died last November at 71 years old, most of them spent loving baseball in general, and this franchise in particular. How long was he a part of your Indianapolis Indians? Long enough to be ticket manager… and publicity director… and business manager… and assistant general manager… and general manager… well, you get the idea. Part of the granite-solid nature of this franchise is how so many key figures have come to the ballpark to stay, becoming as part of the landscape as the scoreboard and lights. That takes passion, and you never talk to anybody who knew Burleson very long before that word pops up. Probably right down to the guy who had to clean up the broken glass.
So, time for some Cal Burleson stories, from those who worked by his side. Where to start? How about how he ended up here in the first place, at the winter meetings in 1974 when team president Max Schumacher was approached by an eager young man.
Bruce Schumacher: “Cal was working for the Jacksonville baseball team at the time and wanted to leave there. He got Dad in the hallway and Dad told him we didn’t have any openings. To hear Dad tell it, every time he came out of a meeting after that, Cal would be in the hallway waiting for him. Cal finally said, `What if I come as a salesman, almost entirely on commission, could you make room for me that way?’ Eventually he made Dad an offer he couldn’t refuse, and he came and started in ’75 working in the ticket office, and then from there became ticket manager and publicity director and business manager and assistant general manager and on up the line. But it would not have happened if Cal had not been relentless.”
A lifelong relationship between a man and a franchise was created that day. And those who came after would see Burleson’s passion for the Indians and the game in so many ways.
Read "Built for the Ballpark" here or in the April/May edition of Curtain Call, and learn more about Cal Burleson's life in the video below.