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Cleveland Indians

Tribe promotions help to keep crowds coming

By Sheldon Published: August 2, 2009

CLEVELAND: Walkup crowds of more than 4,500 descended on Progressive Field both Friday and Saturday, boosting attendance to 35,273 and 31,353, respectively.

What in the world was going on? Was there a sudden rush to the box office by Indians fans who were happy to see Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez traded?

Not likely.

"It was a regional rivalry, so some people came from Detroit,'' explained Dennis Lehman, the Tribe's executive vice president for business, on Sunday. "The weather was pretty good, and we think people were on vacation (but staying close to home), which is what we hoped they would do. And we have a consistent and quality lineup of promotions.''

Friday night, Tom Hamilton was honored for 20 years as the radio voice of the Indians. Also, every Friday at home includes a postgame fireworks show.

On Saturday, even though Martinez already was suited up in a Red Sox uniform, his bobblehead was given away to the fans at Progressive Field. In addition, there was a pregame ceremony to induct four honorees into the Indians Hall of Fame, including Sandy Alomar, the popular catcher who played for the team in the go-go '90s.

Not that it had anything to do with the walkup crowds, but a single group bought 1,800 tickets for Saturday's game and another purchased 1,500 for Sunday's finale with the Tigers.

Baseball purists like to minimize the effect on attendance of giving away magnetic schedules and kids baseball caps. If the teram wins, fans will buy tickets.

That's true, sort of. Try filling up Progressive Field in April and May, no matter how the team is playing. And what if losing is the norm?

"I think promotions are what's driving summer attendance,'' Lehman said.

Nobody doubts the impact of fireworks on the size of the crowd, and many fans are willing to buy a ticket to receive a bobblehead.

"Bobbleheads are our most expensive giveaway item,'' Lehman said. ""And they have the most perceived value.''

It won't be long before Lehman and his staff decide which players to immortalize in next year's bobbleheads, which have to be ordered from the manufacturer six months in advanced.

But, like Martinez, what if a player is traded?

"When you're trying to build a campaign, you don't do it in a vacuum,'' Lehman said. ""We try to be cautious, but we're trying to build a plan that gets people to come here.

"We're talking to (GM) Mark (Shapiro) now about guys who he thinks are going to be here for awhile. But we know they haven't evaluated the team yet. That won't happen until October.''

NEW MAN? -- It has only been four days since Trevor Crowe was recalled from Columbus (for the third time this year), but he seems to be more confident and aggressive at the plate.

On Sunday, he doubled home a run in the Indians' five-run fifth and hit the ball hard in lining to the left fielder in the first.

In three games since returning to the majors, Crowe is 7-for-15 with a double, triple and four runs scored.

"It's just a testament to a guy who goes down there and wants to get better,'' manager Eric Wedge said.

When Crowe was recalled, he was batting .297 with 14 steals (in 21 attempts) for the Clippers. He got the call instead of Matt LaPorta largely because when Ben Francisco was traded to the Phillies, the Tribe had nobody to back up Grady Sizemore in center.

FLASH CROWDS -- More than 91,000 fans paid to watch the weekend series, partly because at least a few thousand Tigers partisans made the trip from Detroit.

With 30 home dates remaining, attendance is 1,158,889, an average of 22,723. That figure projects to total attendance of 1,840,000, or 400,000 fewer than the team's goal.

SETTLING DOWN -- Tribe pitchers have compiled an aggregate ERA of 3.89 in the second half with the starters posting a 3.77 ERA and 7-5 record. Of course, they will have go the rest of the way without Lee.

In the first half, the staff ERA was a dismal 5.40.

FARM FACTS -- Tim Fedroff doubled, singled twice and drove in three runs, as Kinston blanked Myrtle Beach 7-0. ... Jeremie Tice had four hits and two RBI in Lake County's 5-3 win over Kannapolis. Donnie Webb had three hits, and Chris Jonews (5-2, 3.97 ERA) gave up one run in five innnigs. ... Clayton Cook (2-2, 2.33 ERA) pitched six scoreless innings, allowing three hits, as Mahoning Valley defeated Batavia 2-0.

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