By GAYLE FOSTER
The Post contributor
MEDINA - When it comes to the Cleveland Indians, Walter Goldbach uses names like Feller and Vizquel like they're his personal friends. Well, guess what? They are. Or at least they were (Bob Feller died in 2011). Goldbach related favorite stories of his experiences with the "tribe" through the years when he spoke recently to a group of Indians fans at Emeritus at Medina, an assisted living community.
With the 2012 home opener behind us and the baseball season under way, images of Cleveland baseball invariably include the team logo, Chief Wahoo.
The first "Indian" image appeared on the team's uniforms in the1928 season. It was adopted in honor of Chief Louis Sockalexis, who played on the very early 1897 Cleveland baseball team, the Spiders. Redesign of the logo in the 1930's gave the Chief a full brightly-colored headdress.
Goldbach, now 82, told his audience that when he was 17 years old, he was asked by his employer, the J. F. Novak Company in Cleveland, to design a new emblem for the team. Indians owner Bill Veeck wanted a "cartoon." The Novak Company already designed emblem patches for the police and fire department, so it was a natural fit. Goldbach's creation was worn by the Tribe from 1947 to 1951. His image is the "grandfather" of today's familiar Chief Wahoo. The Tribe won the World Series while wearing this logo in 1948.
Goldbach's design can still be found on vintage reproductions and in team shops in lithographs and other memorabilia. He and his wife, Barbara, spent some time selling memorabilia at area sports shows at the Christmas Connection at the IX Center where Goldbach said, "Sports fanatics buy everything!" Medical disabilities prohibit him from drawing today, though he spent his career as an artist.
In the 1970's, a new image included Chief Wahoo's whole body, evidently in the batter's box while taking a mighty swing. That image stood on a rotating sign above Gate D at the former Cleveland Stadium. Team members wore this patch during most of the 1970's. The sign can be found in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Today's Chief Wahoo evolved from a red and black image in the 1950's and 1960's to today's red and blue.
Goldbach has the original patch. The likeness was featured on an Upper Deck trading card, the only team logo ever awarded that honor. His original sketches are on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Walter and Barbara spent 15 winters in Winter Haven, Florida, home of the Indians spring training camp for many years. They got to know the players quite well, working with the team when they conducted tours for visitors. Goldbach related stories of the late Bob Feller, whom he got to know personally. The Goldbachs developed a particular fondness for Cleveland favorite Omar Vizquel, calling him the nicest player. They noted how Vizquel would go out of his way to talk to people and sign autographs.
Surprisingly, Goldbach has to pay for his tickets to the games just like the rest of us. He said John Adams, a close personal friend and the drum player in the bleachers at every home game, likewise has to pay for his tickets, including a seat for his drum!
Goldbach's favorite baseball movie? He said it's a tie between Robert Redford's "The Natural" and Kevin Costner's "Field Of Dreams." Hard to argue with that.
The Goldbachs currently reside in Medina, after spending many years in Hinckley. They would like to visit the Indians in their new spring training facility in Arizona in the near future.