No name invokes such utter, raw hatred among Indians fans as [General Manager] Frank Lane. If ever there was The Man Who Destroyed the Indians, Lane was it ....
Frank Lane was a wrecking ball ....
The sixth-place finish in 1957 hurt the Indians' owners where they lived -- at the bank. The Tribe drew only 722,256 fans, its worst gate since 1945 when there was a war on and the players were mostly graybeards or 4-Fs. Remember that the Indians were among the game's best draws. When Bill Veeck put more than 2.6 million fans in the Stadium in 1948 and 1949, the Indians were the first team to break the 2 million mark in attendance. So 722,256 was a problem.
Owner William Daley wanted to do something -- and that something became Lane.
"I'm sure that the Indians knew that Lane would keep the team in the newspapers and in the public eye," said [Hank] Peters. "Fans love trades, and Frank Lane loved to make trades. The bigger the deal, the more controversial, the more he liked it .... He made trades just to make them ...."
It took Lane just three weeks to grab a headline with a monster trade, sending Early Wynn and Al Smith to the White Sox for Minnie Minoso and Fred Hatfield.
....And the deals kept coming.
In his first season, Lane engineered thirty-one trades involving seventy-six players. He also made some that didn't happen. In early June 1958 he tried to trade star pitcher Cal McLish, Mike Garcia, and [Rocky] Colavito to Washington for Eddie Yost, Jim Lemon, and Pedro Ramos ....
Then Lane tried to deal Colavito to Kansas City for a package of Vic Power, Hector Lopez, Woody Held, Dave Melton, Bill Tuttle, and Duke Maas. That was seven for one. The A's decided it was too much.
Meanwhile, Indians fans were wondering, "Why trade the Rock?" In 1958 he hit .303 with 41 homers and 113 RBI. He was only twenty-five ....
While Lane never had a manager he liked or a player he wouldn't trade, the one player he simply couldn't stand was Colavito.
"It began when Frank was hired right after the 1957 season," Colavito said. "I had to talk contract with him. I had hit 25 homers and had 84 RBI in 134 games, and all Lane did was tell me how lousy I was. I wanted a $3,000 raise. He offered me $1,500. I told him I wouldn't sign for a rotten raise like that. We went back and forth, and finally he said, 'Take the $1,500 now. I'll give you the other $1,500 if you play well during the season. Don't worry, I'll take care of you.' I didn't know Frank Lane, but I will take a man at his word until I find out that he can't be trusted.