Indians honor Boudreau, unveil statue

Indians honor Boudreau, unveil statue

CLEVELAND -- When the blue cover was removed, the surrounding crowd made up of Indians players, coaches, fans and loved ones of the late Lou Boudreau applauded the reveal of Progressive Field's newest addition. The statue of Boudreau was officially unveiled beyond the center-field gates before the Tribe's game against the Yankees on Saturday.

With 70 members of the Boudreau family in attendance -- all of whom wore matching red T-shirts with Boudreau's name and No. 5 on the back -- the Indians honored the Hall of Famer with a ceremony that not only recognized the shortstop as an all-time great player, but also as one of the game's best player-managers. The ceremony was capped off with the reveal of the bronze statue, which depicts Boudreau preparing to swing the bat.

"My father's stories of this player-manager Lou Boudreau leading our Cleveland Indians to the World Series was to me like me reading stories of Harry Potter to my children: magical, heroic and unbelievable," Indians owner Paul Dolan said. "But there is nothing fictional about the Boudreau magic."

Boudreau -- whose retired No. 5 sits in the upper deck in right field -- began serving as Cleveland's player-manager when he was only 24 years old in 1942, holding the dual role until 1950. To put it into context, the ceremony's emcee and Indians radio play-by-play announcer Tom Hamilton jokingly asked the team's current shortstop Francisco Lindor (23 years old) if he will be ready to take on the same role next season. Lindor shook his head no with a smile on his face.

"That's unbelievable," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "You're running the bases, and then you've got to think about a pitching change and guys are 10 years older than you. It's pretty incredible."

Boudreau led the Indians to the 1948 World Series after he went 4-for-4 with two home runs in a one-game playoff against the Red Sox. The Tribe then went on to defeat the Boston Braves in six games to capture the franchise's most recent championship, and Boudreau was later named that season's American League MVP.

Boudreau's son, Lou Boudreau Jr., and his son-in-law Denny McLain -- Major League Baseball's last 30-game winner and a two-time Cy Young Award winner -- spoke at the ceremony.

"Despite all of his accomplishments -- the Hall of Fame, the MVP, the World championship -- people never say or talk about his exploits," McLain said. "I will truly tell you that beyond his stardom, he was truly the greatest MVP of all in life."

The first 12,500 fans in attendance at the game received a replica of the newly unveiled statue.

It marked the second statue that the Indians have unveiled this season, and Progressive Field's fifth overall. MLB's first African-American manager, Frank Robinson, was given his own statue on May 27 in Heritage Park beyond the center-field wall. The statue of Cleveland's all-time home run king, Jim Thome, was moved inside the ballpark, allowing Boudreau's statue to join the figurines of Larry Doby and Bob Feller.

"It is fitting that Lou's statue stands alongside two of his teammates: Bob Feller and Larry Doby," Dolan said. "Their generation was known as the greatest. As such, these three men represent what the greatest generation stood for. Which is why we will be forever proud with these three men, who stand at the entrance to this ballpark, representing what we are as a community and franchise, and what we strive to be."

William Kosileski is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.