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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 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 128

September 13, 1995 – Charlie Nagy Tops David Cone and the Yankees

Over 41,000 packed Jacobs Field to see the first-place Tribe take on the hated Yankees on this Wednesday night. Rain delayed the start of the game until nearly 9PM. Charlie Nagy was matched up with reigning Cy Young-winner David Cone in the rubber match of the series. 

Nagy got out to a slow start, walking both Bernie Williams and Mike Stanley in the first inning. However, he got Darryl Strawberry to strike out swinging and end the inning. 

The powerful Indians offense picked him up almost immediately. Kenny Lofton walked to lead off the Cleveland half of the inning. With Omar Vizquel at the plate he stole second, and then stole third two pitches later. Omar drove him home with a ground ball double into right field. Manny Ramirez eventually scored Vizquel with a two-out RBI single leaving the Tribe on top 2-0 after the first inning. 

Lofton had Cone and Stanley’s number on this evening. After knocking a single to short in the bottom of the second, Lofton stole second once again.

Photo: Al Bello

Nagy retired the next seven batters he faced. His sinker was working beautifully, as eight of the first nine outs were either ground ball outs or strikeouts. 

In the bottom of the fifth, Albert Belle took Cones 1-1 pitch deep into the Cleveland night. This was the first in an absolute flurry of home runs for Belle. He hit eight home runs over the next week, and totaled 17 dingers in September. This tied the mark for home runs in a calendar month set by Babe Ruth in 1927. 

Tony Pena started the two-out rally in the bottom of the sixth with a single over the second base bag. Kenny Lofton doubled to right field, putting Pena on third. Then, Omar Vizquel punched a grounder through the left side of the infield, plating the Indians final two runs of the night. 

Nagy continued to cruise through the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. He gave up only one hit, a double to Don Mattingly that was quickly erased in the top of the seventh. 

Although his pitch count was already at 101 after eight innings, Mike Hargrove sent Nagy back to the mound to pitch the ninth. Bernie Williams grounded out for the fourteenth ground ball out of the game. Paul O’Neill gave Nagy a bit of a scare with a long fly ball to center, but Albert Belle was able to track it down on the warning track for the putout. Mike Stanley worked Nagy into a 2-2 count, but eventually struck out swinging to end the game. 

Nagy’s final stat line was a complete game shutout giving up three hits, two walks and strking out five on 115 pitches. After one more win in the final days of the strike-shortened season Charlie finished the season 16-6. 

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Game 121

August 20, 1992 – Indians Spoil Tapani’s 3-Hitter with Sorrento Walkoff

The Indians started Rod Nichols against Twins workhorse Kevin Tapani on this Thursday night. The Twins were 6 games back in the AL West, but had a talented core. The Tribe were out of contention in the AL East, but young players like Albert Belle, Sandy Alomar, Paul Sorrento, and Jim Thome were beginning to make some noise. 

Tapani pitched masterfully, holding the Indians hitless through six innings. The only Cleveland baserunner was Paul Sorrento who drew a walk in the bottom of the second. 

Nichols scattered a hit or two in nearly every inning, but managed to escape too much damage. The Twins only run came in the top of the fifth when Chuck Knoblauch drove a double into right field. After Randy Bush advanced Knoblauch to third on a groundout, Kirby Puckett sent him home with a double down the right field line.

Tapani continued to guard the 1-0 lead. In the bottom of the seventh “Hard Hittin’” Mark Whiten took the first pitch of the inning deep over the Muni Stadium wall to tie the game 1-1. Tapani then retired the next nine Indians to send the game to extra innings. 

Eric Plunk took over on the mound for the Tribe with two out in the eighth and gave up only two hits in 2 ⅓ innings of work. He held on to the tie and gave the Indians a shot in the bottom of the tenth. 

Carlos Baerga flied out for the first out of the inning. Tapani issued a six-pitch walk to Albert Belle to give the Indians their first baserunner since the top of the fifth. Paul Sorrento stepped in and slapped a line drive down the left field line. Belle motored around from first to score the winning run. 

Tapani was the ultimate hard-luck loser. He went 10 innings, gave up only three hits and two walks. The Twins supported him with eleven hits, but could not push them across the plate. The Twins left eight men on base and were a miserable 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position. 

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Game 114

August 13, 1999 – Robbie Alomar’s Diving Catch Ends the Game

The Indians were 17 games ahead in the Central Division and cruising toward a fifth straight division title. Chuck Nagy was pitching against the Orioles’ Scott Erikson. 

Nagy did not allow a runner past second base until the top of the fifth. After Delino DeShields singled to center, he advanced to second on a Brady Anderson walk. DeShields and Anderson executed a two-out double-steal to get into scoring position. Mike Bordick took Nagy’s second pitch deep into left field. Richie Sexson leaped for the ball and made a backhanded catch. Sexson crashed into the outfield wall, but hung-on for the inning-ending putout. 

In the bottom of the fifth with two outs and Richie Sexson on second base, Dave Roberts hit a single through the right side of the infield. Sexson rounded third and came in to score, but Roberts was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double. 

Former Indian Albert Belle tied things up in the top of the sixth when he drove home BJ Surhoff with a single to right. 

Omar Vizquel led off the bottom of the sixth with a single to right field. Robbie Alomar attempted to bunt him over, but the bunt was fielded by first baseman Will Clark and flipped to shortstop Mike Bordick at second to force out Vizquel. Manny Ramirez put the Tribe ahead despite the failed bunt, crushing a home run to deep right center. 

Paul Shuey replaced Nagy in the top of the eighth and gave up a leadoff single to Brady Anderson. After a Mike Bordick fly-out, BJ Surhoff singled to center. With runners at the corners, Albert Belle drove in two more runs with a two-run line drive double. Shuey was credited with a blown save, and Ricardo Rincon came on in relief. 

After putting Jeff Conine on base with a hit-by-pitch, Rincon got Will Clark to ground into a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning with the score tied 3-3. 

Scott Erikson returned to pitch the bottom of the eighth, but did not last long. Dave Roberts reached on an error and was moved over to second on a sacrifice bunt by Omar Vizquel. Robbie Alomar drove him home with a sharp line drive into right field. Manny Ramirez stepped in and launched his second two-run homer of the day. 

With the O’s down 6-3, Jesse Orosco came to the mound in relief. This was Orosco’s 1,071st appearance in the majors. This tied him with Dennis Eckersley for the all-time lead. Orosco broke into the majors in 1979 and would pitch until 2003, eventually amassing 1,252 appearances. He is one of only 29 big leaguers to have played in four decades. 

Mostly a matchup pitcher later in his career, Orosco struck out Jim Thome and gave up a single to David Justice. He was replaced by Scott Kamienecki who got Richie Sexson out to end the inning. 

Michael Jackon came on to close the game for the Tribe. He struck out Charles Johnson, and got Delino DeShields to ground out. With the grounds crew kneeling next to the tarp as rain threatened, Jackson walked Rich Amaral. Amaral advanced to second as Jackson focused on Brady Anderson. 

Anderson hit a ground ball sharply between first and second base. Ranging far to his left, Robbie Alomar snagged the grounder. He spun on his knees and threw a no-look strike to Jim Thome at first base. 

Anderson later remarked, “I wasn’t surprised. Anybody else, yes. But Robbie is one of the greatest second basemen ever.”

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