July 18, 1995 – Albert Belle Walkoff Grand Slam
The Indians were 14 ½ games ahead in the Central Division on July 18, 1995–to date, that was the biggest pennant lead in franchise history. The California Angels, who were leading the West were in town for a two-game series that would test both first-place clubs.
The Angels sent Mark Langston to the mound with a five-game winning streak. Spot starter Mark Clark–not far removed from AAA Buffalo–started for the Tribe.
California got out to a three-run lead, as Clark could not keep the ball inside the park. He gave up a solo home run to Tony Phillips in the top of the third, and a two-run shot to Jim Edmunds in the fifth.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Indians manufactured three runs on five singles by Alvaro Espinoza, Ruben Amaro Jr., Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, and Manny Ramirez and tied the ballgame.
In the top of the sixth, after a single by JT Snow, Garrett Anderson tagged Clark once again with a home run that just cleared the right field wall.
Eric Plunk replaced Clark in the seventh, and pitched 1-2-3 innings to hold the score at 5-3. However, the Indians were unable to get a runner past second base in either the seventh or eighth.
After another 1-2-3 inning by Paul Assenmacher, the Indians were down to their last three outs and were facing Angels closer Lee Smith. At that time, Smith was the all-time saves leader with 456 and was one save behind Jose Mesa for the league high for the season.
Left-handed utility man Wayne Kirby was brought in to bat for Alvero Espinoza. He hit a sharp ground ball down the first base line. It kicked off the base, off the chest of the Angels first baseman and into foul territory. Jim Thome struck out, but not before Kirby stole second. A line drive single through the left side of the infield got Omar Vizquel aboard and advanced Kirby to third. With runners at the corners, Smith walked Baerga on four pitches to load the bases and set up a double play.
Smith quickly threw two strikes. A close pitch just missed the outside corner. Albert later admitted that he thought that may have been strike three. Belle then smashed a hanging slider 425 feet to dead center.
In a post-game interview Smith said, “I was trying to throw something in the dirt, out of the strike zone, but that’s what happens when you hang sliders.”
Belle’s trip around the bases and subsequent curtain call were met with a deafening roar from the crowd of over 41,000. This was the fourteenth Indians victory in their final at-bat in 1995.
Baseball Reference Box Score
Honorable Mention: July 3, 1980 – Tribe Beats Yankees 7-0 in Front of a Walkup Crowd of 73,000
The weather was perfect, the next day was a holiday, and the Yankees were in town. Although attendance averaged just over 12,000 a game for the 1980 season, 73,000 fans packed Municipal Stadium to see Joe Charbeneau record 4 RBI and defeat the Yankees 7-0.