So yes. The 1964 Cleveland Indians. They were a perfectly ho-hum 79-83, good for a sixth place tie with the Twins in the 10-team American League, 20 games in the rear view of the pennant-winning Yankees. It extended a remarkable run of mediocrity for the Tribe, whose won-lost records since 1957 went as follows: 76-77, 77-76, 89-65 (the one outlier), 76-78, 78-83, 80-82, 79-83, 79-83. In '64, the Indians won and lost at about the expected pace: their Pythagorean record (based on runs scored and allowed) was 81-81 for the second straight year. This sort of win-one, lose-one pace did not electrify the local fans, as Cleveland Stadium housed only 653,293 spectators all year for an eighth-place rank in the A.L. Manager Birdie Tebbetts suffered a heart attack in April, and George Strickland posted a 33-39 record in his stead. Tebbetts returned in midseason, faring slightly better at 46-44.
The Tribe bats were thoroughly middle-of-the-pack: fourth in runs scored (689), sixth in batting average (.247), seventh in on-base percentage (.312), sixth in slugging (.380), fourth in home runs (164). Seven players reached double digits in home runs, with left fielder Leon Wagner leading the way with 31 homers and 100 RBI. He batted just .253, however, and reached base at a .316 clip. First baseman Bob Chance led the regulars with a .279 average and drove in 75 runs in 120 games. Catcher Johnny Romano topped the team with an .806 OPS, partially due to his 19 home runs. Utility man Chico Salmon chipped in with a .307 average in 286 at-bats. The Indians did lead the league in stolen bases with a total of 79, as Dick Howser (20 SB) and Vic Davalillo (22 SB) did most of the work.
The Cleveland pitchers were uninspiring on the whole, totaling 693 runs allowed to place seventh in the league. Their 3.75 ERA was sixth-best, and the only category they topped was strikeouts, with 1,162. The bright spots were 21-year-old flamethrower "Sudden Sam" McDowell, who went 11-6 with a 2.70 ERA and a team-best 177 punchouts, and 29-year-old Jack Kralick, who was the team's only All-Star with his 12-7 mark and 3.21 ERA. Luis Tiant made his debut in midseason and went 10-4 with a 2.83 ERA. More impressively, he completed 9 of 16 starts and fanned 105 batters in 127 innings. The bullpen was anchored by veteran Don McMahon: 6-4, 2.41 ERA, 16 saves. He struck out 92 batters in 101 innings across his 70 appearances.
Sadly, the Indians are still looking for their first World Series championship since 1948, having lost in the Fall Classic in 1954, 1995, and 1997.They endured a frustrating stretch from 1995 through 2001 that saw them win 6 out of 7 A.L. Central titles without a single Commissioner's Trophy to show for it all. Of course they've come out of nowhere to win 22 of their first 33 games in 2011, taking command of a lackluster division. Is it finally "next year" in Cleveland? Time will tell.