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Game 156

September 22, 1967 – Tony Horton Ends a Marathon with a Walkoff Homer

The Indians were playing out the string in 1967, having long been eliminated from the playoffs. Luis Tiant was matched up with Gary Peters of the White Sox this Friday evening in front of only about 5,000 of the Cleveland faithful. The White Sox were locked in a four-way battle for the American League pennant. Boston and Minnesota were tied at the top of the standings with Chicago one game behind. The Tigers were just one and a half games off the pace. 

However, a mid-season arrival was giving Cleveland fans hope for a better team in the future. In June, the Indians dealt Gary Bell to the Red Sox for Don Demeter and 22-year old first baseman Tony Horton. With the opportunity to play every day, Horton had blossomed. 

Second baseman Vern Fuller drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the second. Larry Brown knocked an RBI double into left to score Fuller and put the Tribe up 1-0. 

Tiant pitched brilliantly, giving up only three hits through the first eight innings. Peters also pitched well, but the Indians offense squandered some opportunities. 

Tiant let the 1-0 lead slip away in the top of the ninth when Don Buford doubled to right and then Smoky Burgess hit a pinch-hit RBI single into right to tie the game at 1-1. 

The Indians stranded runners at first and second in the bottom of the ninth to send the game to extra frames. 

Stan Williams was nearly perfect in relief for the Indians. The only baserunners he allowed were when Don Buford reached on an error in the top of the eleventh and a walk by Wayne Causey in the top of the thirteenth. 

Horton stepped in against Chicago reliever Roger Nelson to start the Indians half of the thirteenth. He launched the game-winning home run into the Cleveland night. 

Horton was one of the Indians most promising young players through the late 1960s. Terry Pluto would later call him “the most tragic Indian.”

Throughout the 1969 and 1970 seasons, Horton struggled through slumps and was particularly affected by heckling from the small Cleveland crowds related to his salary negotiations with the team. After being benched in the fifth inning of a game against the Yankees in August 1970, Horton returned to his apartment and attempted suicide. 

He survived, and recovered, but never played professional baseball again. He returned to his native California, went into business, and never looked back. In 1997, the New York Daily News reported the story for the first time with quotes from teammates and others involved in the story. The Daily News approached Horton for an interview, but he declined.  

Sam McDowell said of Horton, “From what I understand, the doctors told him he had to completely divorce himself from baseball. Baseball was what drove him to his state. He was so high-strung, with such a drive to succeed, and when he wasn’t succeeding it set him off.”

While we as fans make heroes and villains out of the players on the field based on their stores and statistics it sometimes takes a story like Tony Horton’s to remember that athletes are humans with their own lives outside the lines. 

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Game 155

September 23, 1997 – Comeback Win Against the Yankees Clinches the Central

The Indians began the day 7.5 games up on the White Sox with seven games left to play. They had left Kansas City with a bad taste in their mouths after a walkoff single by Rod Myers, but had regrouped over the Monday off-day. The Yankees were 4 games back, but still alive in the East as Kenny Rogers took the mound against Charles Nagy. 

Nagy threw a 1-2-3 first inning, but things went downhill from there. He walked Bernie Williams to lead off the second. Cecil Fielder touched him up for an RBI double, and then Homer Bush dropped a two-run single into left field to put the pinstripes up 3-0. 

Sandy Alomar closed the gap momentarily with a two-run homer in the bottom of the second, but New York answered with a two-run shot by Tino Martinez in the next frame. 

Nagy gave up two runs on four singles in the top of the fifth and left the game with the Yankees up 7-2. Reliever David Weathers did not fare much better. He gave up RBI singles to Rey Sanchez and Bernie Williams that put New York up 9-2. 

Manny Ramirez kicked off the comeback with a leadoff single to right. Matt Williams doubled into center, scoring Manny from first. David Justice grounded out, but moved Williams over to third. Sandy Alomar likewise grounded out, but Williams scored on the play. Kevin Seitzer got aboard with a single before Tony Fernandez put a laser-shot home run into the left field bleachers. 9-6 Indians after six. 

Hideki Irabu put the Tribe out in order in the bottom of the seventh, but David Justice took Irabu’s first pitch over the left field wall. After Sandy Alomar doubled to left, Mike Stanton took over for Irabu on the mound. Tony Fernandez singled in Alomar to make the score 9-8 New York. 

Jeff Nelson came out to pitch for the Yankees in the ninth. He walked Bip Roberts on six pitches to lead off the inning. Omar Vizquel laid down a sacrifice bunt that put Roberts in scoring position. After Manny Ramirez struck out, Matt Williams drew a five pitch walk. David Justice singled in Bip Roberts to tie the game. Sandy Alomar smacked a line drive single into center that pushed Williams across the plate for the biggest comeback win of the season. 

The night then turned to scoreboard watching. Ten minutes after Alomar’s single, the White Sox fell to the Twins and gave the Indians the Central Division crown for the third straight year. 

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Game 154

September 23, 2005 – Bob Wickman Converts His 45th Save of the Season

Most closers live and die by the fastball. Bob Wickman relied on his sinker. Wickman lost part of his right index finger in a farm accident as a child. He credited the motion of his sinker to the unusual grip he adapted. A wily and strategic closer, Wickman walked batters he did not want to face rather than overpower them. His sinker was his out-pitch and so the difference between a converted save and a game-ending double-play could be a bad hop in the infield. 

The Indians were a game and a half back of the White Sox and visiting the abysmal Royals for the second-to-last weekend of the season. C.C. Sabathia was matched up with Jose Lima for the Friday night contest. 

Jose Lima retired the Tribe in order in the first inning (Limatime, BELIEVE IT!) and Chip Ambres led off the Royals half of the first by sending C.C.’s 2-2 pitch into the fountains at Kaufmann Park. 

First baseman Jose Hernandez tied things up for the Tribe with an RBI single in the bottom of the second that drove in Travis Hafner. 

The Indians broke things open in the top of the third. Grady Sizemore was hit by Lima’s second pitch. Grady stole second and then scored on a ground ball that Jhonny Perralta scorched past the shortstop. Travis Hafner teed off on Lima, sending a two-run homer over the wall to put the Indians ahead 5-1. 

The Royals would chip away at the Indians lead. Chip Ambres came into score for the Royals on a wild pitch in the third. 

Victor Martinez extended the lead to four runs with an RBI double in the top of the fifth. 

Sabathia continued to have control issues in the bottom of the fifth. He gave up a single to Andres Blanco, threw another wild pitch to Ambres, and hit Matt Diaz with a pitch to put runners at the corners. The Royals manufactured three runs in the inning to bring the score to 6-5 and chase C.C. from the game. 

Indians reliever Bob Howry blew his save opportunity when he gave up a solo homerun to Mark Teahen to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth. 

The Royals kicked it around a bit in the ninth. Grady Sizemore reached on an error and then advanced to third on a throwing error as Coco Crisp tried to beat out a grounder. Sizemore scored on a ground ball single into left off the bat of Jhonny Perralta. 

Bob Wickman entered the game looking for his 45th save. He struck out Denny Hocking swinging. Pinch hitter Aaron Guiel fell victim to Wickman’s sinker and grounded out to first. Terrance Long flied out to left on the first pitch to give the Indians the win. 

This was one of the few instances where Wickman did not put at least one runner on base. It was a rare respite for fans from the high-tension situations Wickman would build up and eventually overcome. 

In 1995, Jose Mesa converted 46 saves in 48 opportunities. Tied for second on the leaderboard for saves in a season are Wickman’s 45 in 2005 and Joe Borowski’s 45 in It 2007. Wickman chalked up 139 saves, which made him the all-time franchise leader, until he was surpassed by Cody Allen in Game 59 of 2018

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Game 153

September 19, 2008 – Fausto Carmona Beats on Gary Sheffield in Bench-Clearing Brawl, Choo Homers Twice

Both the Indians and Tigers were well out of the playoff picture behind the Division-leading White Sox. It was only 70 degrees and the breeze was blowing in off the lake, but balls were jumping out of Progressive Field as though it were mid-August. 

The pitcher then-known as Fausto Carmona retired the first nine Tigers he faced. Meanwhile, Shin-Soo Choo put the Tribe up 1-0 with a solo home run of Armando Galaraga in the bottom of the first. 

Curtis Granderson doubled down the left field line to lead off the bottom of the fourth. After two outs, Miguel Cabrera took Fausto deep with a two-run homer to left center. 

Carmona returned to form and pitched 1-2-3 innings in both the fifth and sixth. Then Grady Sizemore tied things up with a solo home run in the bottom of the sixth. 

Maglio Ordonez led off the Detroit half of the seventh with a single. Miguel Cabrera stepped in and launched his second homer of the night off Carmona. Matthew Joyce grounded out, and Gary Sheffield stepped in with the 4-2 lead.

Carmona’s second pitch hit Sheffield square in the elbow. Sheffield walked all the way to first carrying his bat and maintaining a staredown on Fausto. Brandon Inge steps in, but the tension in the building remained between the mound and first base. Fausto made a pickoff move to first, which Sheffield took further exception to. He motioned toward Inge and told Fausto, “Throw to the Plate.” 

Helmets and gloves came off as Sheffield charged the mound. 6-foot-4, 270 pound Carmona caught him in a headlock and landed three or four solid punches before the benches arrived to push and shove the two apart. Victor Martinez in his catching gear goes down after a block in the back and gets up looking to knock a Tiger out. Brandon Inge is able to pull Victor away from the Fray while fellow Venezuelan Miguel Cabrera gets between Victor and the rest of the Tigers. 

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Once things settled down and ejections were sorted out, Edward Mujica struck out Brandon Inge. Victor Martinez gunned down Jeff Larish (who had replaced Sheffield on first) at second for a strike-out throw-out double play to end the frame. 

Ramon Santiago tripled to lead off the eighth for the Tigers, and he was driven in on a Dusty Ryan sacrifice to give Detroit a 5-2 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth. 

Jamey Carrol pinch hit for Andy Marte to lead off the bottom of the eighth and grounded out to second. Asdrubal Cabrera popped out to short. Grady Sizemore blooped a two-out double into short left field which chased Galaraga from the game. 

Casey Fossum emerged from Detroit’s bullpen to throw five straight balls. He issued a walk to Ben Francisco, and then Shin-Soo Choo hit a prodigious three-run blast to right center on Fossum’s first strike. Choo’s homer tied the game at 5-5. 

Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez combined to retire the side in the ninth inning. 

Freddy Dolsi hit Kelly Shoppach with his second pitch to put Shoppach on first. He was replaced by Bobby Seay while Josh Barfield came on to pinch run for Shoppach. Travis Hafner struck out swinging, and then Ryan Garko singled down the left field line to put the winning run at third. Utility infielder Jamey Carroll lofted a fly ball to deep right field. It dropped for a walkoff single. 

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Game 152

October 2, 1908 – Addie Joss Throws a Perfect Game in a Pennant Race

The Naps, White Sox, and Tigers were in a three-way pennant race going into the last week of the season. Cleveland was one game behind Detroit, and Chicago was half a game behind Cleveland. 

On Friday October 2nd, the White Sox traveled to Cleveland to kick off a weekend series at League Park. “Big Ed” Walsh took the mound for Chicago with an incredible 39 and 14 record for the season so far. However, Walsh had yet to win at League Park that season. Two of his three loses in Cleveland had come against Addie Joss, the “Human Hairpin” with the corkscrew delivery. 

Joss took the mound with a 23-11 record so far in 1908 and an incredible strikeout to walk ratio of 4.20. During the team warmups, Joss spotted Walsh on the White Sox bench. A local reporter snapped a photo of the two ace pitchers having a quiet conversation before one of the biggest matchups of the season. 

Both pitchers came out dealing. Joss sat down the first nine White Sox he faced. In the bottom of the third, Naps centerfielder Joe Birmingham led off with a single into right. Birmingham took a wide lead off first and Walsh made his pickoff move. Birmingham broke for second. The throw to second struck Birmingham in the back and bounced into center field and he reached third without a slide. 

After Freddy Parent grounded out to short and Joss struck out attempting to bunt, leadoff hitter Wilbur Good came to the plate. Walsh got Good to strike out swinging, but the third strike sailed out of catcher Osee Screcongost’s reach. Birmingham came home on the wild pitch and gave the Naps a 1-0 lead. 

Through the middle innings, both pitcher mowed through the opposing lineup. Ed Walsh was striking out two or more Naps an inning, but Joss was getting the White Sox out with ruthless efficiency. 

Around the bottom of the seventh, the crowd began to sense that history was on the line. The horns, cowbells, and other noisemakers that were customary at League Park feel silent as the tension was building. 

Joss faced three pinch hitters in the bottom of the ninth. Doc White grounded out to second. Lee Tannehill whiffed for Joss’ third strikeout of the day. John Anderson pinch hit for Ed Walsh with two outs. He smacked a line drive down the left field line that fell just foul–the nearest that Chicago came to a hit all day. Following the foul, Anderson grounded third for the 27th out. 

Joss had pitched just the second Perfect Game in baseball history, and he had done it using only 74 pitches. Two years later, Joss would become the first player to no-hit a team twice when he blanked the Sox in Game 5 of 1910. It would be another 73 years before the next Perfect Game in Cleveland, when Len Barker tossed his in Game 24 of 1971.

Among pitchers with over 1,000 innings in the books, Joss and Walsh have the lowest ERAs in baseball history. Walsh’s 1.82 over fourteen seasons edges out Joss’ 1.89 over nine years with Cleveland. Joss remains the all time leader in WHIP with a mark of 0.968.

Joss is the only player every to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame with less than 10 years of play in MLB. Joss died of tuberculosis just before the 1911 season began. In 1978 the rule was waived to include Cleveland’s original pitching ace in Cooperstown. 

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Honorable Mention – October 2, 2014 – Carlos Carrasco Tosses a 12K Maddux

While not quite a 74-pitch Perfect Game, Carlos Carrasco’s 12-stikeout, two-hitter against the Astros in late 2014 deserves an honorable mention. It earned Cookie his eighth win and was shortly followed by a hefty contract extension. 

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Game 151

September 27, 1914 (Game 1) – Nap Lajoie Notches His 3000th Hit

Honus Wagner became the first player in modern baseball history to record 3,000 hits on June 9, 1914 for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Some historians also recognize Cap Anson of the Chicago Colts as a member of the 3,000 hit club, but all of his hits came in the nineteenth century under significantly different rules. 

Napoleon “Nap” Lajoie’s star power helped to make the early American League a success. When he signed with the Cleveland club in 1902, his former team disputed the validity of the contract. As a result, Lajoie did not travel to Pennsylvania for two years (missing all away games against the Athletics). In 1902, his .378 average led the American League. To start the 1903 season, local media held a poll to rename the team that had been the Blues and the Bronchos in its first two campaigns. “Naps” was the runaway favorite. 

1902 was the first of 10 years LaJoie would hit above .300 for Cleveland. He led the league in hits in 1904 (208 hits), 1906 (214), and 1910 (227 hits). All of those hits piled up into quite a career.

The Yankees were visiting League Park on the second-to-last weekend of the baseball year. In Game 1, Guy Morton and his abysmal 1 and 13 win-loss record was on the mound for Cleveland. He was facing off with Marty McHale.

The play-by-play account of this game has been lost to history, but we know that one of Cleveland’s seven hits on the day was Lajoie’s 3000th. The Cleveland Press reported that, “Lajoie, of Cleveland, made his three-thousandth big league hit in the first game. It being a two-base hit, the ball being taken out of play and presented to Lajoie as soon as he reached second.”

The Cleveland club went on to win 5-3. However, they would finish the season with only 51 wins–dead last in the American League. 

Twenty-nine players have joined the 3,000 hit club since Wagner and Lajoie reached the milestone in 1914. However, none have been so dominant or so beloved that the team was re-named in their honor. Lajoie finished his career with 3,243 hits, 2,052 of those came with the Naps. He remains the all-time franchise hits leader, 87 ahead of Tris Speaker. Modern, long-tenured stars like Omar Vizquel and Kenny Lofton are more than 400 hits behind Lajoie. The Indians active hits leader is Carlos Santana 1,143.

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Game 150

September 24, 1950 – Bob Lemon Helps Out His Own Cause, Scoring Winning Run in 10-Inning Complete Game

Bob Lemon led a very solid Indians rotation along with Bob Feller, Early Wynn, and Mike Garcia. Despite outstanding pitching, the Indians were in the middle of the pack. They were sitting in 4th in the American League standings when Detroit came to town in the waning days of the 1950 season. Lemon was matched up with Ted Grey on this Sunday afternoon on the Lakefront. 

Lemon got out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the first when he got Jerry Priddy to ground out and end the threat. 

Likewise, Grey escaped a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the third when Tribe shortstop Ray Boone popped out to left field. 

In the bottom of the fourth, Lemon helped out his own cause by smacking a two-out home run to put the Indians up 1-0. 

Tigers shortstop Johnny Lipton tied things up in the top of the seventh when he led off the inning with a solo home run off Lemon. Lemon then retired the next eight Tigers he faced. After issuing a walk to Lipton in the bottom of the ninth, George Kell grounded out back to the mound. 

Gray struck out Joe Gordon and Jim Hegan in the bottom of the ninth to send the game to extras. 

The Tigers got runners to first and third in the top of the tenth, but Lemon cut down Don Kolloway for his fifth strikeout in 10 innings. 

Lemon led off the bottom of the tenth by slapping one into the massive outfield at Municipal Stadium. Lemon stretched the hit into a triple. Gray intentionally walked both Dale Mitchell and Bobby Kennedy to load the bases. Larry Doby was put out on a pop foul. Next up, Luke Easter grounded one sharply to first. Kolloway got to the bag for the out, but had no play on Lemon coming home to score the winning run. 

Lemon threw a 10-inning complete game giving up only one run on five hits. He scored the Indians only two runs in the game on two of the Tribe’s six hits on the day. Lemon notched his 22nd win (of an eventual 23). This was his league-leading 22nd complete game. He also appeared seven times out of the bullpen in 1950 and went 6 for 26 as a pinch hitter. 

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