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Game 123

September 8, 1995 – Indians Clinch a Playoff Berth for First Time in a Generation

The Indians came into this Friday night contest with a hair shy of a .700 winning percentage. They were a whopping 23 ½ games ahead in the Central Division. The Orioles threw Kevin Brown against veteran Orel Hershiser .  

In the bottom of the third, Sandy Alomar took first base on a hit-by-pitch. A Kenny Lofton single into right field advanced him over to third. Alomar scored on a sacrifice fly by Omar Vizquel for the first run of the game. Later in the inning, Eddie Murray drove in Carlos Baerga and Albert Belle with a two-out single over second base that put the Tribe up 3-0. 

Hershiser gave up his first hits of the night in the top of the fourth–consecutive singles by Curtis Goodwin and Rafael Palmero. With runners at the corners, Bobby Bonilla hit a grounder to first which Sorrento scooped up, fired to Vizquel for the force at second and back to Sorrento for the double-play while Goodwin scampered home to cut the lead to 3-1. 

Brown and Hershiser battled through the middle innings, until Harold Baines dropped a double into left field for the Orioles in the top of the seventh. Jeff Huson drove him in with another double and Mike Hargrove made the call to the Bullpen for Paul Assenmacher. 

Assenmacher got the last out of the seventh and the first two of the eighth. Julian Tavarez came in to match up with Bobby Bonilla and recorded the final out of the eighth. 

Jose Mesa came to the mound for the top of the ninth with the one-run lead intact. He retired Cal Ripken on a groundout to short and Harold Baines on a fly ball to right. He put the tying run aboard by issuing a walk to Chris Hoiles. Jeff Huson popped his 0-1 pitch into foul territory beyond third base. Jim Thome caught the fly, and the Indians were headed to the post-season for the first time since 1954. 

Prior to the game, knowing that the clinch was possible, Manager Mike Hargrove made a request of the scoreboard crew. He asked that Garth Brooks “The Dance” be played during the post-game celebration. The Dance was a favorite of former Indians closer Steve Olin who died in a boating accident during Spring Training of 1993. 

Hargrove later said, “I thought it would mean a lot to anyone who was there (at the time of the accident) For those who weren’t there it had no significance, but it was still a good song. It was a tribute to those guys, to their families. It was part of our promise to never forget them. We didn’t tell anyone that we were going to do it. For those who knew, there wasn’t a dry eye to be seen. I saw Charlie Nagy; tears were rolling down his face.”

Of course, the 1995 Indians would later run into the woodchipper that was John Smoltz, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine. Jose Mesa would go from second in the Cy Young voting to an all-time Cleveland villain, and the window of contention would eventually close without a World Series Ring. But for this day, Cleveland was on top of the baseball world. 

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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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Game 111

August 4th, 1996 – Lofton Vaults Outfield Wall to Rob BJ Surhoff Homer

The 1990s Indians were primarily known for their offense. However, of all the great Indians moments of the late 1990s, only one clip is so iconic and instantly recognizable that it was included in the SportsCentury montage that ESPN ran in the final moments of New Year’s Eve 1999. 

On a Sunday afternoon in August, the Indians entered this game against the Orioles with the best record in the American League. The Orioles threw Rocky Coppinger against Brian Anderson. 

In the bottom of the third, Kenny Lofton led of the inning by drawing a six-pitch walk. With Omar Vizquel at the plate, Lofton stole second and then third. After Vizquel drew his own walk, Jim Thome plated Lofton with a sacrifice fly. 

Baltimore tied it up in the top of the fourth with a solo home run by Bobby Bonilla. 

The Tribe broke the 1-1 tie in the bottom of the fifth when Lofton homered to right field. Jim Thome gave the Indians an insurance run when he poked a single through the right side of the infield which scored Vizquel from second base. 

After replacing Anderson, Paul Shuey gave up a solo home run to Jeffery Hammonds to make it a 3-2 ballgame. 

In the top of the eighth, with Raphael Palmero on first, BJ Surhoff came to bat. Shuey fell behind and into a 3-0 count. Surhoff took the 3-0 pitch to deep right-center. Omar Vizquel later shared, “I thought that ball was going to be a homer. Period. I dropped my head and I said, ‘Damn, man.’”

Kenny Lofton had not given up on the play. He raced toward the path of the ball. Lofton originally recruited to the University of Arizona on a basketball scholarship. He is the only person to have played in both an NCAA Final Four and a World Series. Arizona Wildcats head coach Lute Olson once said of Lofton, “He’s quick and a great leaper.”

This was never more evident as this moment when Loften barreled toward the bullpen wall, leapt off the warning track, found a foothold on some padding that protected the bullpen door and vaulted three feet above the right field wall to bring back what would have been a go-ahead homer for Surhoff. 

Jim Thome remarked, “Literally, I thought he was going to jump over the wall.”

After Eric Plunk struck out Eddie Murray for the final out of the inning, the energized Indians came to bat. They sent fifteen men to the plate and scored eleven runs on eight hits, including a three-run double by Jose Vizcaino, and three-run home run by Jim Thome, and another three-run homer by Brian Giles. 

Jose Mesa pitched a 1-2-3 ninth, but was clearly not eligible for a save in the 14-2 victory. 

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Honorable Mention: August 16th, 1920 – Ray Chapman is Killed by a Pitch

While not a positive story, Chapman’s is a unique one. He was struck in the temple by a pitch that he likely never saw. The Yankee’s Carl Mays was a submarine-style pitcher known to skuff and soil the ball (as was legal at the time). The game was nearing twilight when Chapman–a talented hitter who is still sixth on the all time list of sacrifice hits–failed to track the pitch and was struck squarely in the head. He collapsed to his knees and was helped off the field. He died hours later in a New York hospital. Chapman remains the only MLBer ever to pass away as a result of an on-field injury. 

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Game 85

July 7, 2006 – Travis Hafner Hits Fifth Grand Slam Before the All-Star Break

The Orioles were visiting Jacobs Field on a beautiful summer Friday night. Both teams were slightly below .500 and looking for an identity. 

Ronnie Belliard got the Indians on the board with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first which scored Grady Sizemore. 

The bottom of the second ended on a strike-out throw-out double play when CC got Kevin Millar swinging and Victor Martinez gunned down Jeff Conine at second.

In the bottom of the second, Travis Hafner stepped in against Orioles started Kris Benson two outs and Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Michaels, and Belliard on base. Pronk sent Benson’s first pitch over the wall with great gusto. The line-drive grand slam was Hafner’s fifth of the year. He is the only player ever to hit five grand slams before the All-Star break. 

Raised in a tiny North Dakota town of approximately 180 people and hailing from a high school with a total enrollment of 23, Hafner had never attended a school that offered baseball until college and often spent the long winters working on his swing by himself. Even during his MLB days, he preferred to play DH and would hit off a tee in the batting cage while not playing in the field. “Just one drawback to DH’ing,” he once quipped. “It’s hard to work on your tan.”

CC Sebathia faced the minimum number of Orioles through three innings. Even with a 7-0 cushion he did not lose focus. Overall, he struck out seven and gave up only three hits in this complete game shutout. 

The Indians would go on to win 9-0 on seventeen hits. Hafner hit his sixth home run of the season in Game 117. The only other player to hit six grand slams in a season was Don Mattingly in 1987. 

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Honorable Mention: July 7, 2017 – Carlos Carrasco Pitches an Immaculate Inning

In the fifth inning of an 11-2 win over the Tigers, Carlos Carrasco struck out Nick Castellanos, Mikie Mahtook, and Jose Iglesias on nine pitches. All three Tiger batters struck out swinging. This was the second immaculate inning in Indians history, after Justin Masterson’s in Game 58 of 2014.

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Game 51

June 10, 1959Rocky Colavito 4 Home Run Game

Rocky Colavito came in to Game 51 of the 1959 campaign in a 3 for 28 slump. The beloved slugger was looking to get right and keep the Indians alive in the standings, as they were currently in a three-way pennant chase with the Yankees and White Sox.

Associated Press Photo

The Indians offense jumped on the Orioles’ Jerry Walker early. After retiring the first two batters, Walker gave up a single to Tito Francona and then walked Colavito. Indians left fielder Minnie Minoso drove a three-run home run to deep left field.

Baltimore manufactured one run in the bottom of the first off a Gus Triandos sacrifice fly, but the Indians countered with a solo home run by Billy Martin in the top of the second. In the bottom of the second, the Orioles pulled within one run after Al Pilarcik recorded a two-RBI single with two outs.

In the top of the third, Colavito saw his second plate appearance and chased Walker from the game with a two-run home run.

Two innings later he took Arnie Portocarrero deep for a solo home run to extend the Indians lead to 7-3.

In the top of the 6th, Francona doubled in Woodie Held and then was driven in by Colavito’s third home run of the game.

The Orioles continued to hang around, bouncing Bell from the game with a four-run 7th inning, including a bases-clearing double by Billy Klaus.

In the top of the 9th, Colavito crushed an inside fastball from Ernie Johnson and sent his fourth home run of the night over the right field wall, becoming only the 8th MLBer to date to hit four home runs in a game. The Baltimore crowd honored him with a standing ovation.

Colavito later recounted an exchange with Herb Score before heading to the on-deck circle prior to that at bat: “My roomie Herb Score is sitting on a ledge. I’m getting my bat, and he says ‘C’mon, roomie, don’t fool around and hit number four.’ I said ‘Roomie, I’m 3 for 28. If I get a single I’ll be tickled to death. He said ‘(BS) go up there and do it.’ I said ‘Yeah, right,’ and went on deck.”

It would be forty-three years before another American League hitter repeated the feat–Mike Cameron did it for the Mariners in 2002. Eighteen hitters have had four-home run games to date, the most recent was J. D. Martinez for the Diamondbacks in 2017.

After the 1959 season, GM Frank “Trader” Lane dealt Colavito to the Tigers. The Indians then went 33 seasons without finishing the season within 11 games of first place.

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Honorable Mention: June 27, 2003 Omar Steals Home

Honorable Mention: May 27, 2018 – 5-run comeback in 9th, Alonso tying HR in 13th, Allen winning HR in 14th

I took my 2-year old son to this Sunday afternoon game. He tapped out after about 7 innings and fell asleep on the bus ride home. I fell asleep on the couch in the 11th, and woke up to Tom Hamilton calling Greg Allen’s walkoff home run.

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Game 48

May 28, 1989 – Joe Carter Walkoff Bunt

The Indians came into this Sunday afternoon game on a five game losing streak, and trying to avoid a sweep by the Orioles. Pitcher Greg Swindell later remarked to the media, “Everybody was feeling the pressure of the losing streak. The players were ducking their heads. They were walking on the field instead of running. I wanted to pump this team up.”

On Swindell’s suggestion the Indians even switched bat boys in an attempt to break the losing streak. Matt Rowland, who usually the Indians’ bats, was told to put on the visiting uniform. Mark Haas, who normally serves in the visiting dugout was directed to wear an Indians uniform.

Despite the superstitions, Orioles’ Bob Milacki was nearly unhittable through the first eight innings. In 8 ⅓ innings, Milacki struck out six and gave up only two walks and two hits.

Likewise Swindell, who was used to putting the struggling Indians on his back (as discussed in Game 45) walked four, and held the Orioles hitless through six innings.. He worked efficiently, retiring the Orioles in order in the first, second, fourth, and fifth innings. After 27 batters, he had used only 117 pitches, but the Tribe had provided zero support.

Felix Fermin drew a walk off Milacki to lead off the bottom of the ninth. When Milacki got behind 2-0 to Indians left fielder Oddibe McDowell, Baltimore made a move to the bullpen. Mark Williamson came into the game in relief and McDowell moved Fermin over to second with a sacrifice bunt. Fermin reached third on a infield ground-out by Jerry Brown.

The powerful Joe Carter stepped to the plate with two outs. Manager Doc Edwards relayed a signal to the third base coach. Indians’ manager Doc Edwards signaled to third base coach Jim Davenport to relay the message to Carter.

In a post-game interview he said, “It was not an order to bunt. It was a signal to look at the third baseman and use his own judgment. Joe was definitely bunting on his own, but we all knew he was going to do it.”

Carter laid down a perfect bunt down the third base line. Fermin scored the winning run, and the Indians ended the losing streak on a 40-foot bunt off the bat of their most prolific power hitter.

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Game 42

June 12, 1995 – The Sellout Streak Begins

While the excitement around the team had built through 1994 with the nucleus of the team coming together in a new ballpark, the 1995 team was an absolute juggernaut.

John Harts home-grown talent was finally bearing real fruit. The team featured All-Stars at nearly every position. Solid hitters who would have populated the heart of the order on lesser teams Paul Sorrento and a young Manny Ramirez were often listed 7th or 8th behind mashers like Albert Belle and Jim Thome.

On a Monday night in June 1995, Jacobs Field sold out. In most cities, baseball attendance picks up when school is out for the summer and when folks begin to take vacations. So this was not altogether surprising. What followed was exceptional.

The Indians would go on to win six straight division titles and treat the fans to 44 walkoff wins over the next six years. And the sellouts would continue–455 consecutive regular season home games. Until Game 2 of the 2001 season, a ticket was not available at first pitch.

Throughout the streak, seats were consistently added to Jacobs Field, bringing it to a peak capacity of 45,569. Some readers may remember the “Auxiliary Bleachers” that sprouted beyond the former picnic patio in center field for a few years. Subsequent renovations have dialed back capacity significantly, with current seating listed at 34,788.

From 1996 to 2001 Tribe attendance was over 3 Million each season. Currently, there are eight major league teams that have never drawn 3 million fans in the course of a season.

So, what happened on June 12, 1995 to kick it all off? Chuck Nagy pitched a solid seven innings, giving up three runs, only one of which was earned. Omar Vizquel drove home Wayne Kirby with a sacrifice hit in the bottom of the third, and the Trbe pulled away in the bottom of the fourth with an RBI double by Eddie Murray, an RBI single by Wayne Kirby, and a walk by Omar Vizquel with the bases loaded to force in a run. Paul Assenmacher and Jose Mesa both pitched 1-2-3 innings in the eighth and ninth to close out the contest. In short, it was the type of game that happened nearly every night for the 1995 squad.

In 2001, Jim Thome commented on the end of the streak, “We appreciate what our fans did to achieve that streak. There were lots of nights when they could have stayed home and watched the game on television, but they came out to the ballpark.”

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Honorable Mention: May 16, 2019 – Orioles FARTSLAM Might Be Worst Defensive Play in History

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