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Scott Ostler

Cleveland: Unbelievable Place to Be in October--or Anytime

May 13, 1986|Scott Ostler

As long as the Indians remain in the thick of the American League East pennant race, the Tribe's hometown is sure to be taking some cheap shots from the nation's media, and it's not fair.

Cleveland isn't Maui, I'll grant you that.

But the colorful little Ohio city kissed by the waves of Lake Erie isn't the dull, grim place it's often made out to be.

Since a lot of us, fans and sportswriters, may wind up spending a good portion of next October in Cleveland, and since we all like to plan well in advance, I did some research. What is there to do in Cleveland between ballgames? What are the tourist attractions, natural wonders and hot activities?

In other words, what kind of time will we be having in Cleveland during the World Series?

In a word: Unbelievable.

Did you know, for instance, that Cleveland has a Fun Phone? It's a 24-hour hotline with recorded information on what's happening in town. If you were in Cleveland this week, for instance, you could catch the Muppets, jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, or Simple Minds, which is either a rock group or a baseball manager's convention.

The Fun Phone recording referred me to the Convention and Visitor's Bureau of Greater Cleveland, where I spoke to a young woman named Nina.

"What's the one thing every visitor must see or do in Cleveland?" I asked.

"That's hard to say," Nina replied.

"Thank you," I said.

"No, I mean there are a lot of things you should do and see," she said.

Indeed, from talking to Nina and reading a special section in the Cleveland phone directory, and from personal experience, I have compiled a partial list of some must activities for every Cleveland visitor. The city has museums and zoos and ballet and a wonderful orchestra, but you can see that kind of stuff anywhere.

If you're looking to really discover the heart and soul of Cleveland, be sure to see:

--Lake Erie. There's really not much you can do on the Lake. By October it will be closed down, maybe frozen over. No moonlight barge cruises. No surfing or water skiing, either, although I'm not sure I'd even want to swim in a lake named Erie, especially not at night. It's a fairly bleak-looking lake at all times, but my feeling is that if you're in the neighborhood of one of the Great Lakes, you should at least take a look.

--Terminal Tower. This is a landmark 52-story office building in the heart of town. It is famous city-wide for its architectural beauty and historical significance. Six or seven years ago, Ted Stepien, a local business tycoon who once owned the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, decided to publicize a softball team he owned. He had one of his players stand at the top of the tower and drop several softballs to the team's outfielders, positioned below on the sidewalk.

Unfortunately, tricky wind currents and the velocity gained during the 500-foot fall made the balls tricky to catch. One broke the arm of a woman bystander. Others crashed into parked cars. Where is Willie Mays when you really need him?

--Lake View Cemetery. The final resting place of President James A. Garfield, John D. Rockefeller and Myron T. Herrick. Open daily.

--The USS Cod. A submarine that is now a walk-through public monument. I'm not sure if this famed sub was named after a fish, or after the payment terms when it was crated up by the Navy and shipped to Cleveland.

--Municipal Stadium. The city will have a new domed stadium by 1990, which makes Municipal Stadium a doomed stadium. Clevelanders are proud that no ball has ever been hit into the center-field bleachers, which are located on the opposite shore of Lake Erie. This is an enormous, grand old relic of a ballpark dating back to 1932. It's also dingy and drafty, with peeling paint and wooden seats that date back to the days of Herb Score.

--Herb Score. The former great lefty pitcher is now the team's radio broadcaster and probably the only baseball name in town you'll recognize.

--The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Actually the Hall isn't built yet. Cleveland was recently chosen as the site, and no specific location has been selected, but it might be fun to wander around town and speculate on a likely spot for the the future home of memorabilia from such legends as Elvis, Jimi Hendrix and the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

I understand there will be a separate wing devoted exclusively to the rock and roll stars who were born, lived, performed and died all in the time since the Indians last won a pennant.

By the way, the weather in Cleveland in October, according to Nina at the Visitor's Bureau, should be pleasant.

"It might snow," she said. "But if it does, it'll be a light snow."

So if you're going to Cleveland by car, just bring the light tire chains.

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