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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. 

Baseball Reference Box Score

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Game 113

August 12, 2016 – Indians Steal Eight Bases on way to 13-3 Win

The 2007 Indians were my favorite team to watch pitch. The 1995 team was my favorite to watch at bat. The magic of the 2016 squad came on the basepaths. Rajai Davis, Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor and plenty others were always pushing to take an extra base. 

Carlos Carrasco was pitching against the Angels’ Tyler Skaggs on this hot August Friday night. Carrasco got off to a rocky start, giving up a solo home run to Kole Calhoun and an RBI single to Albert Pujols that scored Mike Trout. The score was 2-0 before the Indians came to bat. 

Rajai Davis drew an 11-pitch walk to lead off the game, then stole second on Skaggs second pitch to Jason Kipnis. On the very next delivery, Rajai broke for third and arrived safely. Kipnis poked a line drive single into left to send Davis home. WIth two outs, Kipnis stole second but Jose Ramirez struck out to end the inning. 

Carrasco got into a groove and threw a 1-2-3 second inning. Brandon Guyer lead off the bottom half of the second with a solo home run that tied the game at 2-2. 

Pujols put the halos ahead once again in the top of the third with a grounder to third that scored Kole Calhoun. 

Jose Ramirez singled to right to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Ramirez swiped second with Brandon Guyer at the plate. After Guyer fouled out, Ramirez stole third with Abe Almonte at bat. Almonte knocked a line drive into center field to score Jose and tie things up at 3-3. 

The Tribe pulled away in the bottom of the fourth with four runs on five hits. Rajai got his third steal of the night and Ramirez his third as well.

The Indians added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth, and Lindor got the club’s eighth steal of the night. 

Brian Shaw and Zach McAllister both pitched 1-2-3 innings in relief as the Indians would continue to pile on toward a 13-3 victory. 

When asked what made Skaggs so easy to run on, manager Terry Francona said simply, “You’ve got a lanky left-hander on the mound whose young,”

The Indians had not had eight stolen bases in a game since Game 128 of 1917. Right fielder Braggo Roth stole four bags in that contest against the Washington Senators. Joe Harris added two steals along with one each from Tris Speaker and Bill Wambsganss.

Baseball Reference Box Score

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Game 108

July 31, 1963 – Back-to-Back-to-Back-to-Back Home Runs

The Angels and Indians were both in the basement of the American League in 1963. So, it is no wonder that only 7,822 turned the turnstiles on the Lakefront to see the second half of a Wednesday double-header. However, those few faithful fans witnessed something that has not occurred in Indians history before or since. 

The Angels jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when first baseman Lee Thomas took Pedro Ramos deep for a two-out solo home run in the top of the first.

In the bottom of the third, Ramos helped out his own cause with a solo home run of his own which evened the score. 

Back at the top of the order, Tito Francona singled, followed by another single from Larry Brown. With runners at the corners, Willie Kirkland walked to load the bases. The Angels had seen enough from starter Eli Grba and brought Don Lee in from the bullpen. Lee struck out Max Alvis and appeared to be out to a strong start, until Fred Whitfield rocked a home run into the upper deck in right field to put the Tribe ahead 5-1. 

Ramos tallied ten strikeouts through the first six innings, keeping the Angels to just the one early run. 

Reliever Paul Foytack had pitched the bottom of the fifth and returned for the sixth. He struck out catcher Joe Azcue and Al Luplow flied to right. The two-out magic returned for the Tribe as Woodie Held homered to deep left. Pedro Ramos stepped in and homered to left for the second time in the game. Tito Francona followed with a third straight homer to right. Finally, rookie second baseman Larry Brown got his first homer in the majors for back-to-back-to-back-to-back long balls. 

Foytack later remarked, “I was trying to brush [Brown] back. It shows you I didn’t know where my pitches were going.”

Ramos gave up four runs on four hits in the top of the seventh, but otherwise the Indians were content to cruise to a 9-5 victory and a place in trivia history. 

Only one team had ever hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers before. In 1961 Eddie Mathews, Hank Aaron, Joe Adcock, and Frank Thomas did it for the Boston Braves. The Indians were the first to complete the streak off a single pitcher. The feat has been repeated seven times since, most recently by the Nationals in 2019

Baseball Reference Box Score

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Game 98

July 25, 2017 – Two Grand Slams, Including Encarnacion Walkoff in the 11th Inning

Mike Clevinger was pitching against his old team as the Angels came to town for a mid-week series. The Angels were throwing Jesse Chavez. 

Both Clevinger and Chavez threw 1-2-3 innings to start the game, but the Indians offense woke up in the bottom of the second. Edwin Encarnacion laced a double to center field to lead off the inning. Jose Ramirez followed with a line drive double of his own, which drove Encarnacion home. After striking out Carlos Santana on three pitches, Chavez suffered a sudden loss of control. He walked Austin Jackson and Yan Gomes to load the bases. Then he issued a third consecutive walk to Gio Urshella to give the indians their second run. 

With the bases still loaded, and facing a 3-1 count, Bradley Zimmer was not content to take to take pitches. He sent the Chavez pitch over the wall in right center and into the bullpens for his first career grand slam. 

After a pop-out by Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley followed with a home run of his own. Overall in the second, the Tribe sent 11 batters to the plate and scored seven runs on four hits. 

The Angels narrowed the lead to three runs in the top of the third, when Kole Calhoun took Clevinger deep with a three-run home run. Luis Valbuena took advantage of an Indians error to drive in Andrelton Simmons for an RBI single. 

The Indians chased Chaves from the game in the bottom of the third, while Clevinger held on until the top of the fifth. After giving up another home run to Luis Valbuena, Terry Francona made the call for Nick Goody and both bullpens were at work. 

In the top of the sixth, Goody gave up a leadoff single to Kaleb Cowart. Yuniel Escobar sent a line drive down the right field line. Cowart scored comfortably, but Escobar got caught in a rundown trying to stretch the hit into a triple and was tagged out at third. 

With the game now tied, the bullpens battled into the bottom of the 11th. The Angels called on reliever Bud Norris. After being held scoreless for eight innings, Bradley Zimmer drew a seven-pitch walk to lead off the inning and then stole second base. Norris could not find his command against Francisco Lindor. On a 3-2 count, Norris’ pitch got away from backup catcher Juan Graterol, allowing Zimmer to take third. 

With no outs and runners at the corners, the Angels elected to intentionally walk Michael Brantley to set up a potential double-play. The Angels shifted into a five-man infield. Edwin Encarnacion stepped in and sent Norris first pitch deep into the Cleveland night for a walkoff grand slam. 

Bradley Zimmer later said, “You could put the whole team on the infield and it’s not going to work. The guy was made for situations like that.” 

Baseball Reference Box Score

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Game 73

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.

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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.

Baseball Reference Box Score

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Game 50

May 31, 1992 – Charles Nagy Win, Steve Olin Save

Before John Rocker played Twisted Sister, Chris Perez was the Firestarter, Andrew Miller told hitters to “Beat it,” and before Cody Allen reminded batters that “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” there was the Yellow Submarine. The Municipal Stadium organist would pipe up with a few bars of the Beatles jaunty classic as Steve Olin made his way from the bullpen to the mound.

Much like hockey goalies, closers have always been a bit different. Pitchers with short memories, and more than a few eccentricities probably because they only make the news when they fail.

Steve Olin came to the Indians via the 16th round of the 1987 amatuer draft. Since high school, various coaches had tried to get him to change his delivery and focus on a more traditional pitching style. Olin always insisted that he would make it with the submarine delivery that he felt comfortable with–he said that he learned it skipping stones as a child–or he would not make it at all.

By 1992, Olin was effectively the Indians closer, although manager Mike Hargrove had reservations about using Olin against left-handed hitters.

Charles Nagy was matched up with Jim Abbott for this Sunday afternoon game in Anaheim. Nagy. With the bases full of Angels in the bottom of the first, Rene Gonzales grounded out to second and the only out was the force at second. Two runs scored to put the Tribe in an early hole.

The Indians tied it up on two unearned runs in the top of the second. Both pitchers settled in after this point. Ultimately Nagy would go seven innings, giving up five hits, four walks and only the two runs noted above.

Abbott pitched seven innings, giving up seven hits, while recording four strikeouts. Carlos Baerga would drive in the Indians final two runs on a single in the top of the 5th and a fielder’s choice in the top of the 7th.

Olin was brought in to face Angel’s catcher Lance Parrish. On his fourth pitch, Parrish grounded into a game-ending double play off one of Olin’s submarine sliders. Olin got his 10th save of the season as the Tribe secured the 4-3 victory.

By season’s end, Olin  saved 29 games out of 36 opportunities. He set a club record with 72 appearances by a right-handed pitcher while posting an ERA of 2.34. Indians GM John Hart once remarked, “He had the heart of a lion, the guts of a burglar. He courageously threw that fringe stuff up there and got people out.”

Prior to the 1993 season, the Indians had only one off day built into their Spring Training schedule on March 22. Olin, Bob Ojeda, and strength coach Fernando Montes visited newly-signed reliever Steve Crews property on Lake Nellie near Winter Haven. Tragically, all three pitchers were involved in a boat accident after the cookout. Olin and Crews passed away from injuries sustained when the boat struck a neighbor’s dock.

Charles Nagy was particularly affected by the loss of the two young pitchers who treated him as something of a mentor, so it seemed appropriate to note this game which was one of two where Nagy was credited with the victory and Olin with the save.

Baseball Reference Box Score

Honorable Mention Loss: June 4, 1974 – 10 Cent Beer Night

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Game 41

May 30, 1977 – Dennis Eckersley’s Memorial Day No Hitter

On Memorial Day 1977, the Angels were in town and Cleveland had a young, brash pitcher on the mound. Dennis Eckersley was matched up with Angels ace Frank Tanana.

Cleveland Plain Dealer Collection

Eckersley issued one walk, with two outs in the top of the first to first baseman Tony Solaita.

In the bottom of the first, Duane Kuiper hit a fly ball to center field. Gil Flores attempted a shoestring catch, but narrowly missed the ball. The hit rolled all the way to the outfield wall and Kuiper was aboard with a triple. Right fielder Jim Norris executed a suicide squeeze to bring Kuiper home. This first-inning run is the only support Eck would need.

Mowing through the Angels lineup, Eckersley struck out twelve. The only other Angels baserunner was Bobby Bonds. He struck out to lead off the eighth, but strike three eluded Tribe catcher Ray Fosse. Bonds made it safely to first base, and it was ruled a wild pitch. Bonds was then neutralized on a ground ball double play by Don Baylor.

Tommy Smith, a good friend of our family and an old teammate of my father shared a story with me about his experience of this game:

“We had started the day finishing up in third place in the 2U Cleveland Umpires Tournament. Our last game concluded about 1PM. Four of us, along with three of the wives decided to grab a bite to eat at the local tavern and make plans for the rest of the evening. Our intention was to go see the young phenom Dennis Eckersley pitch on a beautiful evening.

This is where our plans hit a snag. One–and only one–of the wives decided she had seen enough baseball and softball in the last three days and was not going to go see another game that evening. So, we asked what she wanted to do.

She wanted us all to go see a movie. We let her have her way and went to see “It’s Alive”, one of the worst movies I believe I have ever seen in my life. We walked out of the theater about 9:15 PM, got in our cars and turned on the game as we headed out to dinner.

It was the top of the 8th inning, and Eckersley had not given up a hit. A no-no, and we were missing it! We got to the restaurant in the top of the 9th and the ladies walked in while the four guys stayed near the car to hear the end of the game.

Leading of the top of the ninth for the Halos was Bobby Grich. He struck out for the second time of the evening and was Eck’s 11th strikeout victim. Next was pinch hitter Willie Aiken, so lifted a short fly ball to left for out number two.

Everyone in the crowd was up on their feet as Gil Flores came to the plate. We turned the car radio up as loud as it would go, and none of us said a word, hoping not to jinx the moment. Strike one was called and Flores was not happy. Ball one came and the crowd was anxious. The third pitch was fouled back and now the count was 1 – 2. You could hear a pin drop in the stadium–and in the parking lot–as the next pitch was delivered.

Swing and a miss! Strike three! And Dennis Eckersley was now a part of baseball history. The four of us looked at each other and couldn’t utter a word. Baseball history in our own back yard and we had missed it in favor of “It’s Alive.” A game that goes down in Indians history…sure would have been nice to have been there.”

Eckersley would go on to strike out over 191 batters in the 1977 season, leading the league with a 3.54 strikeout to walk ratio. He will appear again in this project, later in his career pitching for his hometown Oakland As in Game 71.  

Baseball Reference Box Score

Many thanks to Tommy Smith. I have lightly edited his comments to me for clarity.

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