On June 16, 1940, a disgruntled group of Cleveland Indians players petitions owner Alva Bradley to fire Oscar Vitt as the team’s manager. Bradley turns down the players’ request, but eventually watches the team lose its hold on first place during the final weeks of the regular season. Vett will never manage again after the 1940 season.
As legend has it –
Vitt’s role in the 1940 Cleveland Indians team known as the “Cleveland Crybabies” has become a baseball legend. “I don’t want any lazy players on my club,” said Vitt when he was hired. “If the boys won’t hustle, out they go.” Vitt’s players felt they were being accused. In Vitt’s first two seasons in Cleveland, the Indians finished third. Yet, there were frequent clashes between Vitt and his players, and the discontent festered.
On June 11, 1940, matters came to a head when he went to the mound to remove Mel Harder. “When are you going to start earning your salary?” asked Vitt of Harder, who had won at least 15 games for eight consecutive seasons, including two 20-win seasons. The team revolted, and many players signed a petition to have Vitt removed. After the incident with Harder, a dozen Indians met with owner Alva Bradley to state their grievances against Vitt, whom they described as a “wild man.” They made it clear they hoped he would be fired. In the closed-door meeting between Indians players and owner, Harder told Bradley: “We think we have a good chance to win the pennant, but we’ll never win it with Vitt as manager. If we can get rid of him, we can win. We feel sure about that.” Bradley sought to keep the controversy quiet, but the story quickly got out, and newspaper headlines all over the nation referred gleefully to the Indians as the “Cleveland Crybabies.”
Despite the hullabaloo and ridicule, the Indians, with Vitt hanging on to his job, battled the Detroit Tigers for the pennant to the last day of the 1940 season. Through June, the Indians were 42–25. After June, with the “Crybabies” harangue clanging in the papers and from the stands, they went 47–40, not a collapse, but not good enough to stay ahead of the Tigers who won the pennant by a single game over the Tribe. Bob Feller, a 27-game winner that year, lost the decisive game 2–0.