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Issue Date: August 2008


Life According to Walter Goldbach

In 1946, new Indians owner Bill Veeck wanted to make his team’s image flashier with a cartoon logo. Seventeen-year-old Wally Goldbach was asked to design it. Chief Wahoo has been tweaked twice since then, evolving into the red and blue logo now worn on Tribe uniforms, beloved by some, reviled by others.

Interview by Andy Netzel
I’ve gotten to throw out first pitches in Akron, in Winter Haven and at Cleveland Stadium, um, I mean Jacobs Fie —oops, I mean Progressive Field. Whatever it was called, it was an honor.

There’s no formula for a good marriage. We must be doing something right because we’re going on 54 years. She does most of the talking while I do all the listening.

OK, fine, I don’t doall the listening.

There are so many different types of art. I love them all. I love Monet. And the wild guy with the mustache — Salvador Dali. I love Norman Rockwell. And I love cartoons.

My kids tell me I look like Chief Wahoo. I have a big nose.

Kids have taught me a lot over the years. I was talking at a school, and this one little girl raised her hand and said, “Mr. Goldbach, you shouldn’t call him Chief Wahoo.” I said, “Why?” She said, “He’s not a chief, he’s a brave. He only has one feather. Chiefs have full headdresses.” She’s right.

A lot of people ask me how he got the name Chief Wahoo. I don’t know how that started. In the early 1950s, I went into the service and I was gone during the Korean War, and that’s when they started calling him Chief Wahoo. It was probably a nickname that the newspaper started. That’s usually where those nicknames got started.

I’m a pack rat. I save everything. This is the first house I’ve lived in without a basement. So now I store some stuff in my daughter’s basement.

The draft was a good thing for the country. I don’t believe a draft would be good today.

I was drafted. I didn’t go to Korea because I caught strep throat while training in Kentucky. My departure was delayed. I went to Germany, but I had four high school buddies in my company who were sent to Korea when I was supposed to go. They were all killed. I hate war.

We met in 1954 and got married in 1956. We’re both Clevelanders. She’s from the East Side. I’m from Old Brooklyn. I had a box that I brought into our home with a lot of Chief Wahoo stuff. She didn’t open it until we moved. She said, “Where did you get all this stuff?” That’s when I said, “I did this.” We were married five or six years then. We had kids. It just never crossed my mind to tell her I drew him.

As a 17-year-old kid, it was the last thing on my mind that I would offend someone.

For all the controversy, only one Native American has ever approached me to talk to me. We were at the Western Reserve Historical Society when a man walked by with his wife. He was a Native American. He looked at our display as he walked by our table. He came back about an hour later, and he said, “I feel sorry that some of my brothers feel like they do, because I take no offense.” Then he bought $500 worth of memorabilia.

I had a hard time figuring out how to make an Indian look like a cartoon. I wanted him to be happy, which I think he is because of his smile. Some people say he grins too much.

My son is a stonemason. He was one of the people who built Jacobs Field.

Being a parent can be scary. My boy played Little League. I was across the street when the neighbor ran over and said, “You better get to the baseball field: Michael got hurt.” The first baseman, a big kid, and he collided. He kneed my boy in the head. He had a compound fracture and was in a coma for a week. We didn’t know if he was going to live.

The coach of the team at that time was 17 or 18. He went on to marry one of my daughters.

I feel as good as I did when I was 60.

My biggest athletic feat was in Blooper Ball. Don’t ask me how it happened, but as a pitcher, I threw a no-hitter.

It turned my stomach to see Art Modell win a Super Bowl.

Steve’s Lunch is a real dumpy little hamburger place. I originally painted the lettering on the window, and I made the sign that still hangs there. That may be my next most recognizable piece of work. I need to get down there again soon. Boy, they have great hamburgers.

I lost 22 pounds in the last year and a half. Now I can bend down and pick things up again.

The best thing about being a grandparent is the kids hang around for a few hours. We enjoy them, and they have a good time. Then they leave and we don’t have to worry about them.

People nowadays are a little too thin-skinned. This goes for just about everything in society. They get offended too easily.

It bothers me to hear people are offended. It’s in the back of my mind sometimes. It makes me feel sad.

Now, that “I” on the baseball cap bothers me. It doesn’t even look like an “I.” It looks like a “J.” How are people going to know who you’re rooting for?
Comments:
Monday, August 11, 2008 4:48:27 PM by dgcurrie
"I had a hard time figuring out how to make an Indian look like a cartoon."

And he has no idea why someone might possibly be offended? Even after 62 years, he still has no idea?
Sunday, November 07, 2010 10:22:57 PM by Anonymous
Found you on the internet and was very happy you are well and still kicking. To this day I can still remember watching you drawing in your bedroom when we were kids in school. Reading about you in the Medina paper brought back many pleasant memories. Do you remember the time when we worked at the embroidery shop on 25th Street ? Stay well.Bob Williams (the Beaver)
Friday, April 13, 2012 11:30:07 PM by Cathy DePaulo
Dear Mr. Goldbach
My father passed away and he left me a card from upper deck from 1996 with the original Inidan that you had drawn and you signed it. Just for fun I thought I would see how much it was worth at a road show but people have no clue about this card... Can you tell me anything about it.... Thank you )
Wednesday, November 13, 2013 10:21:54 PM by Anonymous
The Cards were created in 1996 in a limited quantity, and only distributed by Walter Goldbach. One card dealer online was selling them for 15.00. Other people have them listed for 5.00 I know that they are very rare.

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