Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team has, among others, two significant distinctions.

One for most hitting streak without a World Series title. The World Series trophy has not been hoisted here since 1948. The second is for having the longest running sports club in the United States.

The Wahoo Club is the flag bearer of American fan clubs in the country, founded in 1962. Even in Cleveland Stadium’s lackluster attendance years — think back to 1963, when attendance averaged 6,945 per game — the nation’s oldest sports fan club is celebrating its 60th year.

The club was initiated by advertising executive Leonard Axelband, who brought together community leaders and former players to create a clubhouse.

Club Wahoo now has 4,300 members worldwide.

“We have people from all over the country joining,” Bob Rosen, 62, the current president of the Wahoo Club, who was first elected to the board in 1981, told the Cleveland Jewish News.

He was president for 25 years.

“Most of our members are within a 120-mile radius like Columbus and Toledo, but we have members in Texas, California, all over the place,” Rosen said. “I got an envelope the other day from a group in Milwaukee saying they had six people who wanted to come to our Dennis Martinez event.”

Rosen is not related to former Indians All-Star Al Rosen, who was the first president of the Wahoo Club and one of nine Jewish presidents in the organization over the years.

Former Wahoo Club President Marty Baker displays his memorabilia.

One such president is 78-year-old Cleveland attorney Marty Baker, whom Rosen calls “his mentor.”

“You wonder about our die-hard members,” Baker told the CJN. “You have to think about it. In some of the early years, and even some of the early seventies and nineties, we were a joke. Most of the time we were either last or next to last, but that didn’t stop our friends from coming to our events.”

An avid membership benefits from an aggressive calendar of personal events and a strong commitment from players, past and present.

“What’s happened over the years is we’ve had players from different eras in our events,” said Rosen, a Solon resident who works in sales at KEYper Systems. “It goes back to players like Max Alvis (Rosen’s favorite player as a kid) and Sam McDowell. We’ve had a good track record of getting players involved all the time.”

In addition to the great teams that often appear at club events, the Wahoo Club has a habit of attracting visits from non-Cleveland teams. One of them was an enemy, former Detroit Tigers pitcher Danny McClain.

“His wife’s father was (former Indians legend) Lou Boudreau, so there was that connection,” Rosen said. “It was pretty cool.”

Baker was responsible for one dinner in the late 1970s that was a real coup.

“We got Joe DiMaggio to come in,” Baker said. “We used the ballroom at the Statler Hotel, which normally holds 750 people. We sold so many tickets that we had to take the next room and there were 1,150 people. That’s still our all-time record.”

Baker was even more impressed that DiMaggio headlined the event without paying for the performance – the Yankee Clipper association with Cleveland’s Mr. Coffee, whose press secretary was DiMaggio, was a sufficient arrangement.

“Zero,” Baker said, still amazed at the accomplishment.

Pete Rose, who played for the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies and Montreal Expos, was second in attendance at the club with 750.

The Wahoo Club also hosts a trip each year, often planning four-day tours to allow time to see memorable tourist attractions in each city. The Wahoo Club once visited the White House.

“We’re trying to incorporate something other than baseball,” said Baker, who lives in Pepper Pike and attends about 20 games a season.

The club also took the group to witness the induction of Jim Thome into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.


Cleveland Trustees manager Terry Francona (left) and Bob Rosen

Other MLB teams have noticed the success and durability of the Wahoo Club.

“Before the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox opened their clubhouses, they were coming to us for advice,” Rosen said. “We helped both.

“It’s actually pretty cool that the president of the Boston Red Sox booster club recognizes that we played an important role in helping them get started.”

What do you think of the Cleveland Guardians team name?

By now, you’re no doubt wondering how Club Wahoo has remained Club Wahoo — at least in name — after the franchise’s name changed from the Indians to the Guardians in December 2020.

“Of course it’s a touchy subject,” said Rosen, who attends about 20 home games a season. “It is very important for us to keep the name. We’re always trying to get new members and hope not to lose that legacy.”

Steve Mark is a freelance journalist.