Remembering When Bob Hope Owned the Cleveland Indians

Ralph DiMatteo

Bob Hope and Bing Crosby

Whatever you think you know about native Clevelander Bob Hope, I am willing to bet that most of you, even native Clevelanders yourselves, probably didn’t know that Hope was at one time a minority owner of the Cleveland Indians.

You may not have even known that although Hope was born in England, he was raised in Cleveland beginning at age five through his early 20s.

During this time, he developed a love for the local professional baseball team, the Cleveland Indians.

In the 1940s, Hope’s Road to movies with Bing Crosby were a huge success and in 1946 while Crosby bought an interest in the Pittsburgh Pirates, Hope became part of the always interesting Bill Veeck’s group of investors that purchased the Tribe the very same year.

Tongue-in-cheek most likely, Hope was quoted at the time of the purchase as saying, “My interest in the deal was purely sentimental, as I am a former resident of Cleveland. I have no interest - ahem - in any money we might make out of the club." I can still remember seeing Hope’s image in game-day programs listed under ownership and thinking how cool it was; I only wished I saved a few.

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Hope and Crosby performed a comedy bit in 1947 during spring training in Arizona wearing the uniforms of the teams they had bought into and it became a short shown in movie theaters before the main attractions; it featured the two legends laughing and joking around while tossing a baseball back and forth.

Hope held his stake in the Tribe for 40 years, with the two biggest highlights of his time in ownership being Veeck’s determination to help desegregate baseball by signing Larry Doby and the fact that the team won its last World Series to date in 1948. Admittedly, there was quite a bit of bad baseball during his 40 years, but it never got Hope down, as his love for baseball as well as golf was deeply set in his life.

Sports Illustrated did a great piece on Hope in 1963, having him on the cover. The writer of the article, Jack Olsen, summed up Hope pretty well by saying:

“He is the kind of sports nut who will interrupt a visit to New Orleans to fly to Cincinnati to play a round of golf with some cronies. He’s been a fighter, a sprinter, a pool hustler, a four-handicap golfer, a professional football team’s mascot and a holder of substantial shares of stock in enterprises such as the Los Angeles Rams and the Cleveland Indians. He seldom misses a big fight, even if he has to rush over to the Pantages Theater in Hollywood to see it on theater TV. He has played something between 1,000 and 1,500 golf courses, in such varied places as Brazil and Greenland, in company with anteaters, monkeys and, sometimes, Presidents.”

Hope even sang his trademark song, “Thanks for the Memories” at the last game played at Cleveland Municipal Stadium in 1993. Even though he was 90 years old at the time, he demonstrated that he was still just a big Cleveland kid at heart.

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