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History

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INDIANS HISTORY OVERVIEW
Renewed Glory

In 1984, Cleveland voters defeated a ballot issue created to fund a new, domed stadium. Six years later, Cleveland voters narrowly approved a tax on alcohol and cigarettes to fund a sports complex including a new ballpark for the Indians. Gateway became the target at which the Indians and their fans focused on to mark the complete revival of Cleveland's baseball fortunes.

When the Indians "Blueprint for Success" was first put into action, the Indians farm system was one of the weakest in baseball. Starting with Peters, a flow of on and off field talent began from Baltimore.

Butler and Carter
Brett Butler and Joe Carter (Cleveland Indians)
John Hart was brought over and groomed to succeed Peters. Dan O'Dowd was brought in to run the farm system. In 1992, the Indians were honored as baseball's "Organization of the Year" by Baseball America and there was no doubt that the Tribe was a team on the rise.

Cleveland's new management team smartly gained a measure of cost control by extending long-term contracts to young players. A corner stone of the effort was the acquisition of Sandy Alomar Jr. and Carlos Baerga from San Diego for Joe Carter. Alomar became Cleveland's fourth Rookie of the Year. Struggles continued, including a club record 105 losses in 1991, but progress was made as the improved farm system began to produce winning talent.

Carlos Baerga
Carlos Baerga (Cleveland Indians)

On the road to Cleveland's new baseball fortunes would be a nostalgic curtain call at Cleveland Stadium in 1993. But, tragedy found Tribe baseball again on March 22 in a boating accident on Little Lake Nellie in Clermont, Florida. Steve Olin and Tim Crews were fatally injured and Bob Ojeda was seriously injured. Led by manager Mike Hargrove, the Indians battled through an emotional season. Attendance at the Stadium topped two million fans for the first time since 1949, climbing over two million during "The Final Series" when Cleveland hosted Chicago in the final baseball games at Cleveland Stadium.

Cleveland's new, state-of-the-art ballpark, Jacobs Field signaled that the Indians intended to be a baseball force again. The new look organization attracted two key free agents, both ex-Orioles, in Pitcher Dennis Martinez and First Baseman Eddie Murray. Martinez and Murray were accustomed to winning. These veterans joined an emerging young powerhouse featuring Alomar, Baerga, Kenny Lofton (swiped by Hart from Houston in a 1991 trade) and Cleveland farm products Albert Belle, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, and pitcher Charles Nagy. The Tribe slugged its way into a first place battle with the White Sox in the new A.L. Central, only to have the excitement halted by a players' strike starting August 12. The player-owner dispute wiped out the rest of the season and all post-season play.

Sandy Alomar
Sandy Alomar Jr. (Cleveland Indians)

When play began in 1995 (after 18 games of the 1995 schedule were lost before players and owners finally came together on a new agreement), the Indians fashioned one of the great seasons in baseball history, winning the club's first championship since 1954 and running away with the A.L. Central by a MLB record 30 games. In Tribe history, only the 1954 Indians won more games or had a higher winning per-centage than the 1995 club. Cleveland's offensive juggernaut was matched with outstanding pitching, bolstered by the acquisition of free agent Orel Hershiser. For the first time since 1968, Cleveland's pitching led the A.L. in ERA. Belle became the first player ever to combine 50 2B and 50 HR in the same season and the first to collect 100 EB hits in a season since Stan Musial in 1948. Jose Mesa, another former Oriole acquired by Hart in '92 in exchange for a minor leaguer, was force-fed into the closer roll and responded with a near perfect 46 saves (a club record) in 48 chances. Cleveland swept past Boston in the A.L. Division Series and dispatched Seattle in the A.L. Championship Series. Only the overpowering pitching of the Atlanta Braves kept Cleveland from an absolute dream season as Atlanta, making its third World Series appearance in five years, shutdown the Tribe in six games.

Cleveland fans showed unprecedented support for a MLB club by selling out the entire 1996 season prior to opening day. The Tribe proved its 1995 season was no fluke by winning another 99 games (best in the majors for the second straight year), again leading the A.L. in batting average and ERA, and capturing another A.L. Central Championship with relative ease, despite a disappointing season from free agent acquisition and expected pitching ace Jack McDowell. Belle and Lofton became the club's all-time leaders in HR and SB, respectively. The post season was a different story as the Orioles shocked Cleveland by winning the A.L. Division series in four games.

Hart and company proved able to retool on the fly in 1997. After losing Belle to the White Sox via free agency, Hart acquired slugger Matt Williams via trade. Another daring deal, just prior to opening day, sent free agent to be Lofton to the Braves and brought outfielders Marquis Grissom and David Justice to Cleveland. Cleveland struggled to a third straight division title with a record of 86-75 (second worst of any 1997 playoff team).

1997 Clinch Celebration
1997 "Clinch" Celebration (Cleveland Indians)
The post season was another story. Led by Alomar, who had a storybook season, Cleveland embarked on one of the most exciting months in franchise history. Thrilling victories over the Yankees (in five games) and the Orioles (in six games) put Cleveland back in the World Series for the second time in three years. The Indians and Florida Marlins went past the wire, taking the seventh game of the Series into extra innings before the Marlins prevailed in, perhaps, the most heartbreaking loss in Tribe history. Cleveland had twelve new players on its 1997 post-season roster that were not on the roster for the '96 Division series. Unlikely October heroes for the '97 Indians included rookie pitcher Jaret Wright, pitcher Chad Ogea, and infielder Tony Fernandez.

By 1998, Cleveland was clearly dominant in the A.L. Central and the Tribe's fourth straight division crown was almost a foregone conclusion. Lofton was back, reacquired as a free agent, and Travis Fryman replaced Williams as Cleveland and Arizona swapped third basemen. After winning the Central with a record of 89-73, Cleveland won another Division series from the Red Sox to earn a third ALCS berth in four years. Cleveland was the only team to win any post-season games from the record-setting 1998 Yankees, but lost the ALCS in six games.

For 1999, the Indians promised a greater regular season effort and delivered with a 97-65 record and a fifth straight AL Central Division title. Only two other MLB teams have won as many as five straight Division titles. Led by Manny Ramirez and Roberto Alomar (another ex-Oriole signed as a free agent), Cleveland set a club record with 1,009 runs scored, only the 7th team overall to score 1000 or more runs in a single MLB season. Ramirez drove in 165 runs to break Hal Trosky's club record (162) set in 1936. Robbie Alomar set club records for home runs (24) and RBI (120) by a switch hitter. R. Alomar and Vizquel both earned Gold Gloves for defense, the sixth straight for Omar. Young Bartolo Colon's 18 wins matched the most by a Tribe pitcher since Blyleven's 19 in 1984. Once more though, Cleveland's ultimate goal was denied when the Red Sox defeated the Tribe in five games in the Division Series. After the season Hargrove, the second winningest manager in club history (721 wins), was dismissed and Hitting Coach Charlie Manuel was hired as his successor. Manuel led Cleveland's Triple-A affiliates to league titles in 1992 and 1993.

The Jacobs Era of Indians baseball ended in February 2000 when Lawrence J. Dolan and family trusts acquired all outstanding stock in the Cleveland Indians Baseball Company, Inc. The first year of the Dolan era of Indians baseball was one of the most exciting in club history, despite the end of Cleveland's run of division titles. Cleveland's first true race for a post-season berth since 1959 ended on the final day of the regular season when Seattle edged the Indians for the AL Wild Card. Cleveland reached the 90-win mark (90-72) for the fourth time in six seasons. Free agent acquisition Chuck Finley tied Dave Burba for the club high in wins (16). Cleveland's sell out streak reached 454 consecutive games (ended at 455 in 2001) and Cleveland led MLB in attendance for the first time since 1948.

In 2001 the Indians returned to the top of the Central Division standings, sporting a record of 91-71 to garner their 6th AL Central Division flag in the last 7 seasons, since 1995. Jim Thome hit the most homers in club history by a left-handed hitter (49) with a career high 124 RBI. Juan Gonzalez, in his only year with the Indians, added 140 RBIs; and Robbie Alomar's last season in Cleveland was perhaps his finest (100RBI, 113RS, 30SB). Twentyone year old sensation CC Sabathia won a teamhigh 17 games and came in 2nd in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting. The John Hart Era ended with the innovative Mark Shapiro taking over the reigns of one of the most successful franchises in professional sports of the last 8 years.

During the 1990s, the Cleveland Indians were transformed into one of the most respected franchises in baseball. Having the most supportive following in Major League Baseball today, a state-of-the-art ballpark, a quality farm system, and adherence to a proven plan for success has enabled the Indians to field a competitive team on an annual basis and add numerous, lasting memories to an already rich tradition.

Read on:   Early Years | First World Series | Glory Years | Trying Time | Renewed Glory