When it comes to championship droughts, almost no team in any sport can match the suffering of the Cleveland Guardians, once known as the Cleveland Indians.

World War II had been in the books only three years the last time this franchise won a title, and to find a longer streak you have to look to the NFL, where the Arizona Cardinals were known as the Chicago Cardinals back in 1948 when they last won a championship nearly three decades before there was ever a Super Bowl.

No team embodies the nickname “Mistake by the Lake” quite like the Guardians, and we say that with all the sympathy in the world for a city that is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, terrific views of Lake Erie and a populace that got its share of hoops championships when LeBron James spent two stints with the Cavs.

But baseball? Progressive Field, formerly known as The Jake (Jacobs Field) has not hosted a World Series game since 2016 when Cleveland suffered an excruciating 10th inning loss to the Chicago Cubs in Game 7 of the championship round after a 17-minute rain delay between the 9th and 10th innings. Chicago scored twice and Cleveland once in the 10th, making it a sad ride home for Ohioans.

Blame the manager? Tough to do that to Terry Francona since the team made it to Game 7. And Francona remains in charge to this day.

Who is the manager of the Cleveland Guardians?

Francona has been at the helm since 2013 after a playing career that included a single season in Cleveland in 1988. Going into the weekend series against the New York Mets from May 19-21, Francona had a career managerial record of 1,893-1,609. Yes, he still has a long way to go to reach Connie Mack’s major league record of managing 7,775 games.

Cleveland Guardians Manager History

The Guardians have had 46 managers in their history. Jimmy McAleer was the first manager of the then Cleveland Blues in 1901, serving for one season. Sandy Alomar Jr. was another one-season wonder (we use that word loosely) in 2012 before Francona took over. Since then, Francona has become the longest-serving manager in team history. A total of 19 skippers have spent just one season as manager of the Indians/Guardians.

Famous Cleveland Guardians Managers

There have been 19 managers who have posted winning records, and almost every single one of the franchise’s leaders has been a former player. Francona, for instance, has 23 years as a manager after spending 10 as a player. Tris Speaker was a Hall of Famer as a player, as was Walter Johnson and Lou Boudreau, who spent 10 seasons as a player-manager.

Ranking the Top 10 Greatest Cleveland Guardians Managers of all time

  1. Bill Armour

Years as Manager: 1902 to 1904
Record
with Team: 232-195

A one-time outfielder from Homestead, Pa, Armour managed to have a winning record all three seasons he led the Bronchos/Naps franchise before he moved on to manage the Detroit Tigers after a falling out with the team’s star player, Nap Lajoie.

  1. Ossie Vitt

Years as Manager: 1938 to 1940
Record with Team:
262-198

The pre-war Indians finished at least 20 games above. 500 in all three of Vitt’s seasons leading the team but were shut out of the postseason because there were no league playoffs, only a World Series. A harsh taskmaster, Vitt (from San Francisco) was part of the “Cleveland Crybabies” scandal after saying "I don't want any lazy players on my club. If the boys won't hustle, out they go." 

  1. Frank Robinson Years as Manager: 1975 to 1977
    Record with Team:
    186-189
    Honors and Awards: Hall of Fame (1982)

Robinson, a 14-time All-Star had his No. 20 retired by the Indians. One of MLB’s last player/managers, Robinson (from Beaumont, Texas) hit a home run off Doc Medich of the Yankees in his first at-bat as a player/manager for Cleveland in 1975. His Indians teams wore some of the most garish uniforms in major league history with bright red pants and jerseys.

  1. Eric Wedge Years as Manager: 2003 to 2009
    Record with Team:
    561-573

Although he led the team to only one postseason appearance (the 2007 ALCS), the 93-69 record he produced in 2003 would have been enough for the postseason had baseball expanded the playoffs by then. The Fort Wayne, Ind., native was a baseball lifer who appeared in only 39 major league games.

  1. Mike Hargrove Years as Manager: 1991 to 1999
    Record with Team:
    721-591

Still an advisor with the Guardians, Hargrove’s eight-year tenure was one of the longest in franchise history, and the Perryton, Texas, native took The Tribe to the World Series in 1995 and 1999. He led the team to five straight division titles -- the only Cleveland manager ever to do so. In 1995, the Indians went 100-44 to end a 41-year postseason drought.

  1. Nap Lajoie Years as Manager: 1905 to 1909
    Record with Team:
    337-309
    Honors and Awards: Hall of Fame (1937)

The Hall of Famer (as a player) from Woonsocket, R.I., was a turn-of-the century phenom who jumped from the more established National League to the upstart American League and became a player/manager in every state except Pennsylvania, where there was a subpoena for him because of his defection from the Philadelphia Athletics. The rule requiring players to wear socks was instituted after Lajoie contracted sepsis from an untreated spike injury.

  1. Terry Francona Years as Manager: 2013 to present
    Record with Team: 845-671
    Honors and Awards: AL Manager of the Year (2013, 2016, 2022)

The native of Aberdeen, N.D., was once named the Outstanding Player of the College World Series and went on to have a productive career with five major league teams. He worked his way up through the minors and the Dominican League. He managed the Phillies and Red Sox before becoming the manager of the Indians/Guardians, a club he has taken to the postseason six times.

  1. Al Lopez Years as Manager: 1951 to 1956
    Record with Team:
    570-354
    Honors and Awards: Hall of Fame (1977)

A native of Tampa, Fla., and the son of Cuban parents, he turned pro at age 16 with Brooklyn and spent 22 seasons in the major leagues before managing the Indians for six seasons and then moving on to the Chicago White Sox. After having declined an opportunity to take the job in 1947, Lopez accepted an offer to become the Indians manager four years later. In 1954, his team won an AL-record 11 games. He lost in the World Series to the Yankees in 1951, 1952 and 1953, and fell to the New York Giants in 1954.

  1. Tris Speaker

Years as Manager: 1919 to 1926
Record with Team:
617-540
Honors and Awards: Hall of Fame (1937)

A player/manager for the Indians for seven seasons, the Hall of Famer (mostly for what he did as a player) became the first major leaguer to hit 50 doubles and steal 50 bases in the same season. In the championship season of 1920, Speaker famously caught a hard line drive hit to deep right-center field by Shoeless Joe Jackson and was knocked unconscious after crashing into a concrete wall. The Hubbard, Texas, native hung on to the baseball.

  1. Lou Boudreau Years as Manager: 1942 to 1950
    Record with Team:
    728-649
    Honors and Awards: Hall of Fame (1970)

Nicknamed "Old Shufflefoot", "Handsome Lou", and "The Good Kid", the Harvey, Ill., native was a shortstop for 15 seasons before becoming a manager for 18 … but that has a caveat because he was a player/manager. In 1948, two years after Bill Veeck bought the Indians, Boudreau hit .355 and Cleveland won the AL pennant and World Series for the franchise’s first World Series championship in 28 years. In college at the University of Illinois, he was a baseball and basketball player, and he played pro hoops for the Hammond Ciesars of the National Basketball League.

Parameters of Ranking Because of the dearth of championships for this team (two) and playoff appearances (16), we focused on career winning records and lifetime achievements before giving the Nos. 1 and 2 rankings to managers who led the franchise to its two titles. The third remains elusive.

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