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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 144

October 1, 1995

October 1, 1995 – Indians Wrap-Up the Strike-Shortened Season with a .694 Winning Percentage

On the final day of the strike-shortened 1995 campaign the Indians’ historic offense was on full display. Their opponent was the second-place Royals, but this was hardly a pennant race as the Tribe had clinched the division crown back in Game 123. Mathematically, KC was 30 games back coming into this final game. 

After Chuck Nagy got out of a runners-at-the-corners jam in the top of the first, the lineup went to work against Tom Gordon of the Royals. Kenny Lofton led off the game with a single to first. He stole second with Omar Vizquel at bat. Omar drew a walk, and then he and Lofton executed a double-steal with Carlos Baerga at the plate. Carlos lined a single into center to score Lofton. 

Alvero Espinoza came on to run for Baerga, and Albert Belle drew a walk. With the bases loaded, Eddie Murray, Jim Thome, and Manny Ramirez hit consecutive singles and the score was quickly 5-0.

Paul Sorrento drew a walk to load the bases once again. Gordon finally got the Royals first out when he retired Sandy Alomar on a fly out to center. Kenny Lofton struck out before Omar punched a two-out single through the left side of the infield to score one more. 

The bottom of the second was just as rough for Gordon. Belle, Murray, and Thome hit three quick singles to chase Gordon from the game. Mike Magnante came on to pitch for KC and struck out Paul Sorrento. Next up, Sandy Alomar slapped a single into short right field. Pinch-running Brian Giles scored and Thome dug for home. An error by Royals catcher Brent Mayne allowed Ramirez to score and put Alomar on third. Kenny Lofton drove in Sandy with a grounder to first base, making the score 11-0 after two innings. 

At this point, many of the All-Stars and veterans got the afternoon off. The rest of the Tribe’s cruise to an eventual 17-7 victory was marked by highlights such as a leadoff homerun by Billy Ripken in the bottom of the fifth, and an RBI single by Brian Giles. 

The 1995 season is often described as “magical.” The nucleus of players that had been building since the final years of Municipal Stadium all hit their peak. With the Browns moved to Baltimore, the team had the City’s full attention–even on a Sunday afternoon in early October. 

The team delivered a dozen walkoff wins, including the 9-run comeback over the Jays in Game 34, Manny’s “WOW” homer in Game 71, and Albert Belle’s game-winning grand slam in Game 73. It was truly a magical time and a lineup that may never be surpassed. 

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Game 143

September 30, 1995 – Albert Belle Has First and Only 50/50 Season

The strike-shortened 1995 season was quickly coming to a close. The Royals were in town for the final weekend of the regular season. Mark Clark took the hill against Dave Fleming on a beautiful fall Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd. 

Clark and Fleming carried their teams through the first three inning scoreless until Tony Pena hit a comebacker to the mound with one out in the top of the third. Fleming left the game and Melvin Bunch took the mound for KC. 

In the top of the sixth, the Royals finally broke through when Brent Mayne smacked a line drive double into center field on Clark’s first pitch. Two batters later, Tom Goodwin deposited a home run into the bullpen giving the Royals a 2-0 lead. 

Kenny Lofton led off the bottom of the sixth with a perfectly placed bunt single and then stole second base. Omar VIzquel flied out to deep right field, allowing Lofton to tag and advance to third. Carlos Baerga grounded to short and was put out at first while Lofton came home. 

Next up was Albert Belle. Albert was one of the most fearsome power hitters of the mid-90s and had risen to legend status in Cleveland both for his prodigious power hitting, but also his fiery temper and off-field struggles. Belle smashed Bunch’s 2-2 pitch over the left-field home run porch and through the stadium gates onto Eagle Avenue. 

Belle’s homer was his 50th of the season, and marked the first and only time a player recorded 50 homers and 50 doubles in the same year. It tied the game at 2-2. 

Mike Hargrove turned the game over to the bullpen to start the seventh inning. Chad Ogea pitched a 1-2-3 seventh. Erik Plunk retired the Royals in order in the eighth. Jose Mesa walked Tom Goodwin in the ninth, but escaped with the tie intact. Alan Embree allowed a single by Juan Samuel to lead off the tenth, but promptly squashed the threat. 

Backup catcher Jesse Levins led off the bottom of the tenth with a double. Jeromy Burnitz came in to pinch run for Levins. The Royals intentionally walked Kenny Lofton. Omar Vizquel laid down a sacrifice bunt that advanced Burnitz to third. Carlos Baerga dropped the game-winning single into center for the Tribe’s twelfth and final walkoff win of the regular season. 

I remember this game playing on our small black and white TV that we kept in the walk-out basement. I was helping my father with fall yard work and we ran inside each time Albert came to bat to wait for history to be made on Channel 43. After Albert hit the home run, dad and I toasted with a 50/50 soda. 

Todd Helton had a 54 double 49 home run season in 2001. This is the closest that any player has come to completing the feat…and Helton played in 159 games that year. 

Belle was known to feud with the media. Mo Vaughn won the 1995 MVP award–a clear rebuke from the baseball writers. Vaughn had a strong season, but was nowhere near the historic stat line that Belle generated in the strike-shortened campaign of 1995. Belle later said, “Actually I’m surprised I got as many votes as I did [from the writers].” He received 11 first-place votes to Vaughn’s 12.

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Honorable Mention – September 13, 1936 –  Bob Feller Strikes Out 17 at Age 17

Bob Feller arrived from Van Meter, Iowa in 1936 and instantly took over as baseball’s hardest-throwing strikeout pitcher. On this Sunday afternoon, the 17-year old rookie sat down 17 of Connie Mack’s Athletics on his way to a complete game 2-hit shutout.

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Game 141

September 28, 1995 – Dennis Martinez Breaks Kirby Puckett’s Jaw with Curveball

Dennis Martinez signed with the Indians prior to the 1994 season with 18 years of major league experience under his belt. He was the first Nicaraguan native in the MLB, had found lasting success with both the Orioles and Expos, pitched a perfect game, and overcome alcoholism.

El Presidente was already only the seventh pitcher to record 100 wins in both the American and National Leagues.He had taken the mound for the Tribe on Opening Day both in 1994 against Randy Johnson in Game 1 at Jacobs Field  and in 1995. 

The Indians had clinched their first playoff berth in a generation in Game 123 of 1995 and were tuning for the ALDS as the strike-shortened season was coming to a close. 

Martinez took the mound for a getaway Thursday game in Minneapolis against Frankie Rodriguez. The start of the game was rocky for El Presidente. He hit Chuck Knoblauch with the game’s second pitch. 

Two batters later, a second wild pitch broke future Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett’s jaw. Puckett had played 12 seasons for the Twins without ever spending time on the DL. In the offseason he was diagnosed with glaucoma. The rapid degradation of his eyesight ended his major league career. Although the hit-by-pitch injury was unrelated, this episode was a somewhat unfitting end for one of the beloved figures of 90s baseball. 

Knoblauch later said, “He did his leg kick and then he just froze. It’s almost like he didn’t see it or something. He didn’t really turn his head.”

After Puckett was taken off the field, Marty Cordova drove in Knoblauch to give the Twins a 1-0 lead. 

Rodriguez plunked Albert Belle with the first pitch of the second inning. Eddie Murray then singled to left to put runners at the corners for Jim Thome. Thome doubled in Belle and Murray advanced to third. Manny Ramirez followed with a line drive single up the gap that scored two. 

A two-run home run by Matt Lawton tied things up at 3-3 for a time, but the Indians would pull ahead in the top of the fifth and not look back. They rode homers by Alvaro Espinoza and Eddie Murray to a 12-4 win. 

After the game, Martinez remarked that he had considered asking Manager Mike Hargrove to take him out of the game.  “It’s the worst I’ve ever felt in my life. Because when I knocked him down, it did not hit him in the helmet, it hit him right in the face. I felt like the lowest man in baseball when I was on the mound.”

Despite the unfortunate outcome in the first inning, Martinez had pitched quite a year. In his age 40 season, he recorded a 3.08 ERA. That figure has not been matched by an Indians starting pitcher save for Cliff Lee’s Cy Young season in 2008. His 245 career wins held the mark for most by a Latin-born pitcher until he was surpassed by Bartolo Colon in 2018. 

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Game 139

September 4, 1996 – Chad Ogea 4-Hit Complete Game Shutout

The dominant Indians were visiting County Stadium in Milwaukee for a mid-week series. The first-place Indians were 15 games ahead of the Brewers in the AL Central standings at this point, but the Tribe were looking for redemption.

Cleveland lost the opening game of the series in walkoff fashion when Jose Mesa gave up the tying run on a wild pitch and then gave up a game-winning single to Jose Valentin. The night before, Orel Hersheiser had a rare klunker of an outing and the Indians lost 8-2. Chad Ogea was matched up with Jeff D’Amico for the final contest of the series. 

Albert Belle staked Ogea to an early lead with a two-run double in the bottom of the first that scored Kevin Seitzer and Jim Thome. 

Sandy Alomar led off the bottom of the second with a single into right field. After two quick outs, Kenny Lofton made it a 4-0 game when he took D’Amico deep to right field for his 13th home run of the year. 

Ogea did not allow a baserunner until the bottom of the fourth when Dave Nilsson poked a single into right field. The Brewers had a bit of a threat going with runners on first and third with one out in the bottom of the fifth. Ogea got Matt Mieske to strike out swinging and Mike Matheny to fly out to center to put the threat aside. 

Brewers reliever Ramon Garcia gave up a single to Kenny Lofton to lead off the top of the seventh. Then, he hit Kevin Seitzer with the 0-1 pitch. Ron Villone replaced Garcia on the mound. Jim Thome stepped in and launched Villone’s very first pitch into deep left center to put the Indians up 7-0. 

Ogea had worked very efficiently. Coming into the bottom of the ninth he had given up only 4 hits and one walk on 97 pitches. 

He got Dave Nelson to fly out on the 0-1 pitch. John Jaha grounded out on Ogeo’s 100th pitch of the night. It took him four pitches to retire Jose Valentin on a fly ball to right and complete the shutout. Although he missed the Maddux by a few pitches, it was probably Ogea’s finest pitching performance of his six year career. 

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Game 135

September 5, 1992 – Walkoff Win Against the Mariners Prefigures Biggest Matchups of the 90s

The 1992 Indians were 62-73 and in dead last in the American League East. The only team with a worse record were the Mariners at 56-80. Both teams were in the midst of decades-long rebuilding programs. The Indians had not made the playoffs since 1954, and the Mariners had their first winning season in franchise history in 1991–with a record of 83-79.

However, both teams had some rising stars that would later become some of the biggest figures in baseball. This late-season series between two basement dwellers prefigured some of the highest-profile matchups of the mid to late 1990s. 

Charlie Nagy was matched up with Randy Johnson for the Saturday afternoon matchup on the lakefront. Randy Johnson was tall, and he could throw a fastball but he was not yet “The Big Unit.” In fact, he led the league in walks in 1990, 1991, and 1992. 

Ken Griffey Junior blasted Nagy’s 2-1 pitch deep to right-center to lead off the top of the second with a home run. 

Nagy had his sinker working. He got out of both the second and fourth innings on ground ball double-plays. 

In the top of the fifth, Mariner’s catcher David Valle sent a line drive onto the home run porch in left to make it 2-0 Mariners. 

The Indians jumped ahead in the bottom of the fifth with a two-out bases-loaded single by Carlos Baerga tied the game. Then Albert Belle dropped one in over the third baseman’s head. Albert raced into second base as Felix Fermin and Baerga scored to give the Tribe a 4-2 lead. 

After consecutive walks in the sixth, Nagy was replaced by reliever Kevin Wickander. Wickander walked Griffer to load the bases, and then walked Tino Martinez on four pitches to cut the Indians lead to one run. Jay Buhner’s sacrifice fly tied the game 4-4. 

Randy Johnson pitched 7 ⅔, struck out eight Indians and walked seven. Jeff Nelson came in to match up with Paul Sorrento and recorded the final out of the eighth. The Indians then faced Russ Swan in the bottom of the ninth. After a Kenny Lofton groundout, Swan walked Felix Fermin. Carlos Baerga slapped a single through the left side of the infield that put the speedy Fermin on third. 

Wayne Kirby came on to pinch run for Fermin and Albert Belle came to the plate. Belle punched one past the shortstop and into the outfield. Kirby came home to score the winning run. 

Albert was 3 for 5 on the day with 3 RBI and a stolen base. He was coming into his own as one of the AL’s premier hitters. He would go on to lead the league in RBIs in 1993, as well as in 1995 (when he was robbed of the MVP) and 1996. 

Late in the 1992 season, Randy Johnson met Nolan Ryan during a series against the Rangers. Ryan suggested a slight change to Randy’s delivery that he credits with giving him greater control. For the next four years, Johnson led the league in strikeouts. He became a fixture in big matchups with the Indians. He was the Mariners on Opening Day starter in 1994 when the Tribe opened up Jacobs Field. He also the visiting starter in Game 3 of the 1995 ALCS. 

Both teams matured and came together during the strike-shortened 1994 season, and both achieved long-awaited playoff berths in 1995. Both clubs are still in search of a World Series trophy in this century.

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Game 131

August 31, 1999 – Indians Complete 8-Run Comeback, David Justice Beans Troy Percival with His Helmet

At 80-51 on the year the Indians were 20 games up on the White Sox and absolutely running away with the Central Division. The visiting Angels were playing less than .400 baseball. 

Despite the disparity in their season records, the Angels got out ahead of the Tribe early. Orlando Palmiero doubled off Indians starter Dwight Gooden to lead off the game. After a sac bunt moved him to third, Garret Anderson knocked a single through the right side of the infield to put the Angels up 1-0. 

Jim Thome tied things up in the bottom of the second with a solo home run off Angels starter (and future Tribe ace) Chuck Finley. An inning later Manny Ramirez scored two on a single into center. The Indians led 3-1, but soon would face a big deficit. 

Troy Glaus tied things up with a 2-run homer off reliever Steve Reid. The Angels added some more runs in the top of the seventh via a Jim Edmunds two-run blast. The top of the eighth saw another five runs from the Halos. Going into the bottom of the eighth the score was 12-4 Anaheim. 

Mark Petskovsec replaced Finley on the mound in the bottom of the eighth. Alex Ramirez knocked a single through the left side of the infield to lead off the inning. Jim Thome followed with a double that put Ramirez on third. Richie Sexson cleared the bases with another single. David Justice and Enrique Wilson also singled to load the bases for catcher Einar Diaz. 

Petkovsec was pulled from the game in favor of Shigetoshi Hasegawa. Petkovsec allowed two runs on five hits and did not record an out. Hasegawa recorded two quick outs on pop flies by Diaz and Dave Roberts. Omar Vizquel stepped in with the bases loaded and two out. He singled to left to score Sexson and cut the Angels lead to 12-6. Troy Perceval came in to replace Hasegawa. 

Robbie Alomar followed with a two-run single and then stole second with Harold Baines at the plate. Baines plated two more runs with a single into right field. Jim Thome drew a walk and moved Baines over into scoring position. With the tying run now at second, Manager Mike Hargrove called on Carlos Baerga to pinch run for Baines. 

Percival’s third pitch to Richie Sexson skipped away from Angels catcher Benjie Molina. Baerga and Thome moved up 90 feet on the wild pitch. Sexson took Percival’s 1-2 pitch deep into left-center. The 3-run homer put the Tribe up 14-12. 

Frustration at the blown save boiled over as Percival plunked David Justice in the side. Justice threw his helmet as he charged the mound and hit Percival, triggering a bench-clearing altercation. Troy Glaus tackled Justice to the infield, while Molina held back Percival. 

After the fight and the resulting ejections the Indians lineup was a bit unorthodox. Pitcher Charles Nagy came in to pinch run for Justice. He was forced out at second on an Enrique Wilson grounder to end the inning. 

In the top of the ninth, Paul Shuey came on to pitch and Omar Vizquel moved to right field. He never had the opportunity to record a right field put-out as Shuey retired Troy Glaus and Jeff Huson. Jim Edmonds and Orlando Palmero hit back-to-back singles to put the tying run aboard, but Shuey got Todd Green to ground out to the end the game. 

This was the third time in 1999 that the Indians rallied from an 8-run or greater deficit to win. This season of comebacks is unmatched in MLB history. 

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