Vizquel, Tigers bask in end of Cleveland Curse

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — You can look awfully hard today and not find too many folks in Detroit smiling about the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But the Tigers' clubhouse, well, that's one place where there was some enthusiasm.

Two Tigers in particular — first-base coach Omar Vizquel and DH Victor Martinez — spent many years playing in Cleveland, only to come up short in their bid to end the city's championship drought, which finally had the book closed on it Sunday when when the Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.

It was Cleveland's first championship since 1964, when the Browns won the NFL Championship, before there was such a thing as the Super Bowl.

"Well, I'm really excited that finally one team, one sports team made the dream come true for Cleveland," Vizquel said Monday, in the Tigers' dugout, talking to WXYT's Jeff Riger. "I know they were hungry for a championship, or a World Series, or something.

"Recently they were running the '30 for 30' of the Cleveland, and I think everybody watched how frustrating it was for the fans. Every time a Cleveland team had a chance to win, it was something, a moment in time that happened that didn't allow them to get there."

For the Indians, it was 1995 and 1997, when they lost to the Atlanta Braves and then the Florida Marlins, respectively, in the World Series.

Vizquel played on both of those teams, and 11 years with the Indians as a Gold Glove shortstop. Martinez came along later, playing eight years as Cleveland's catcher.

Mike Aviles played the previous three seasons with the Indians.

Vizquel sure felt the pressure of the city when he played there.

"We have this opportunity, this chance to put Cleveland out there, finally, and it never happened," he told Riger. "It didn't happen, as much as we think about it and as much pain as we've got inside.

"You want to do it so bad for them. Too bad we couldn't do it. I'm so happy that finally in basketball they bring the championship to Cleveland."

Dan Gilbert, the Detroit real-estate giant, owns the Cavaliers, so of course, there's another Detroiter who's pretty darn high on life now.

He got LeBron James back, and finally put an end to the Cleveland Curse.

Not that Vizquel ever looked at it as a curse.

"The curse is something that fans or people just like to talk about," Vizquel said. "There are just ways that you find ways to win it and for some reason we couldn't find those ways, at least in baseball.

"Thank God that basketball got that team and bring it home."

Omar Vizquel waits on deck during the game between the Indians and Twins in 2002.