There was a Cleveland ballgame from spring training in Arizona on the MLB satellite station in late March. Meaningless as the game was, it is not in my powers to miss a chance to listen to Tom Hamilton's play-by-play.
This turned out to be the most impressive performance in the abbreviated run-up to this baseball season, for Hamilton was at the mic for a couple of innings and not once did he substitute his previously favored "Tribe" for "Guardians," the new Cleveland nickname for 2022.
"You must have heard me on a good day," Hamilton said Friday. "The start of spring training was a mess. We were going to get a cookie jar and put a buck in every time we said 'Indians' or 'Tribe,' but we couldn't find a big enough cookie jar."
This is season No. 33 for Hamilton with Cleveland. For all those years, it was the Indians or the Tribe when describing the home team.
An aside: The North Stars moved in 1993, the Wild was named in 1998, and I'll still call the local NHL team "Stars" one-third of the time in conversation.
Thus, cookie jars and humility aside, how did Hamilton make what to a listener came off as a smooth transition to this new label?
"I tried to keep saying 'Guardians' every time I mentioned our club,'' Hamilton said. "Not Cleveland, not any other reference … just 'Guardians, Guardians,' to pound it in my head.
"I've been trying out 'Guards' recently, to see how it works. The one syllable thing. That's why I used Tribe often."
Paul Dolan, second generation of the team's ownership family and CEO, took the first action in 2018, when it was announced the Chief Wahoo logo would be gone from all official merchandise for 2019.
The tribes with which the team was dealing were not mollified. They wanted the nickname gone.
"Paul made the right decision," Hamilton said. "There were always going to be people unhappy with the loss of what 'Indians' meant to them as a baseball team, but it was time to move forward."
It's not a routine thing, a prominent sports team claiming a nickname that could be copyrighted somewhere.
I was a long-distance proponent of "Spiders," Cleveland's nickname for 13 seasons at the end of the 1800s. The Spiders folded with a bang, finishing 20-134 and 84 games behind first-place Brooklyn in a 12-team National League in 1899.
That probably wasn't a legacy a team wanted to embrace, even if it was 123 years later.
There's a bridge over the Cuyahoga River near the Progressive Field ballpark. There are four towering sculptures with eight figures called the Guardians of Traffic.
The bridge opened in 1932 as an Art Deco tribute to "modern" transportation. And there was a nickname to be had with a connection to something tangible — as opposed to the "Commanders" nickname chosen by the Washington football team.
"Guards is workable if people want to shorten it," Hamilton said. "What are you going to do with Commanders? You can't use Commies."
Indians-to-Guardians is the first full name change among major league teams since the Houston Colt .45s, an NL expansion team in 1962, become the Astros in 1965.
Even if Roy Hofheinz had not gotten the Astrodome built, and even in Texas, it's probable that smoking gun logo for the Colt .45s would not have survived over the past six decades.
What should matter more to true Cleveland baseball fans is they still have Terry "Tito" Francona managing a competitive team, and Hamilton to describe the Guards' ballgames.
"It was unconscionable what the Red Sox did to Tito, letting him go after he won two World Series for a team that hadn't won one since 1918," Hamilton said.
"It was fortunate for us, though. There's a tremendous respect between Tito and the front office. They keep finding a way, even with limits on payroll."
Francona was not in the visitors dugout this weekend at Target Field, joining most of his staff in being out with COVID-19.
Hamilton was in the visitors radio booth with partner Jim Rosenhaus, down the hallway from the Twins' tandem of Cory Provus and Dan Gladden.
"Nobody does this better than Tom Hamilton," Provus said. "He's the absolute best."
Has to be. He already has Guardians down after three decades of Tribe rolling from that voice made for baseball.