10/25/05 12:00 PM ET
Tribe fans share their '95 memories
A season that truly brought the kid out of all in Cleveland
By Justice B. Hill / MLB.com
Andrew H., Bowling Green, Ohio: I was only 10, but the '95 Tribe is pretty difficult to erase from memory. My first game at The Jake came on a warm, sunny day in late September that year. It was spectacular, and the Indians were cruising toward the playoffs.
In third grade, my entire class dressed up for Halloween and then we walked around town in our costumes. Instead of something typical, I got my hands on a large cardboard box and along with some help from my mom, got to work. After a fair amount of hours, the two of us had created a giant, oversized Chief Wahoo head that fit snug around my own.
It looked completely ridiculous. I wore it in third grade for Halloween and, of course, I wore it for my first visit to the new ballpark several years later. As you can probably imagine, the looks that I received from people as we walked from the car to the park were interesting to say the least. My own dad thought it was so funny that he lagged behind me to see the smirking grins as people passed. But after making our way through the turnstile, the expressions changed. By the time we got up into the upper deck, behind the right field pole, a large number of people had positively commented or gestured on the awkward head garment.
After that, the game itself took a bit of a backseat. The enthusiasm, energy and camaraderie of the 41,000-plus fans was remarkable, especially to a 10-year-old kid.
In the end, I got to witness Albert Belle eclipse the 50-50 mark, as well as a 3-2 Tribe victory over the Royals. Yet overall, just being there, in that unbelievable atmosphere with my dad -- that is the thing I remember most about 1995. But winning the pennant was pretty good, too.
Rachael L., Cincinnati: Driving by the future site of Jacobs Field in 1991, I had one thought. "They're putting a ballpark here?" The area seemingly defined urban neglect. But by 1995, Gund Arena and Jacobs Field anchored a vibrant neighborhood full of new restaurants and condos, and the Indians were on their way to winning 100 games in a strike-shortened season -- selling out every night, too.
One game, played on a hot July night in '95, stands out. The Indians, who won 27 games in their final at-bat that season, trailed the Angels, 5-3, in the ninth inning when Albert Belle came to the plate with the bases loaded: a child's backyard fantasy come to life. Boom! His towering shot over the left-field wall won the game, 7-5. Blaring car horns and raucous cheering created a lively cacophony that screamed out to the world, "We're back."
Jeff S., Pepper Pike, Ohio: My first game at The Jake (as I was living in New Jersey at the time) was Friday, Aug. 25 vs. Detroit. It was Albert Belle's birthday and he hit two homers. Jose Mesa had this insane consecutive games saved streak going, and actually blew the save in the ninth. Then Sandy Alomar Jr. won it with a homer in either the bottom of the ninth or 10th (I'm not sure).
Jim D., Cleveland: The fondest memory I have from '95 was ... well, there are a couple. Albert Belle having the magical season he had. Every time someone was in scoring position, it felt like Belle got him in. How he didn't win the MVP that year I'll never know. With over 50 doubles and home runs and over 120 RBIs, he was the best candidate. He didn't have a great friendship with the media, but he was so much better than Mo Vaughn that year.
But the one play that stood out to me in that season was when the Indians played the Milwaukee Brewers and Belle had gotten hit earlier in the game. He retaliated by trying to break up a double play and hit Fernando Vina with his forearm, which showed Belle's anger problems as well as the team's fight for every game. Also, something that stood out very much was Eddie Murray's 3,000th hit in the Metrodome, which was awesome.
Jon A., Columbus, Ohio: The best memory I have from that season is of Albert Belle hitting a walk-off homer off Lee Smith, one of the greatest relievers ever.
Our firm had (and has) one of the luxury suites, and I had it that night to entertain my best clients. On the bus on the way up, we watched, of course, "Major League," followed by an extraordinarily exciting game against the Angels. When we left The Jake, and this is the best memory, the fans were crowded around the park and shouting. They stayed that way for half an hour, just reveling (our bus could not get out of the parking lot behind the service station), and I thought, "This is the way the game should be played -- drama of the highest order, and people watching who really cared."
Jeff K., Cleveland: My memory was not about a play or even a player, but the people and the city. I was living in Dallas at the time, but I got in for about four or five games that season. Visiting local establishments, walking around The Jake, sitting and watching a game ... the city was electric. You couldn't have a conversation without discussing the Tribe.
Having grown up there and then coming back to visit, the difference in the city was great and fun to witness. It was very special for those of us who were nine months old during the previous World Series.
Alan W., Nashville, Tenn.: One memory? Yes, I have one. Game 4 of the World Series. We lost 5-2 to the Braves, but it didn't really matter. What I remember most is sitting in the upper deck with my brother on that very cold October night thinking to myself, "I can't believe that I'm watching a World Series game in Cleveland."
I must have said that to my brother about seven times through the course of the game. I just kept looking around that beautiful stadium, remembering the days of 100-loss teams in a nearly empty Municipal Stadium, and not really caring if we won or lost. I was just happy to be there, doing something I dreamed would never happen in my lifetime -- watching the Tribe play a World Series game in a spanking new stadium. I kept that ticket and to this day it is one of my most prized possessions.
Dave, Cleveland: Man where do I even begin? The Indians had, what, 27 games that they won in their last at-bat that year, right? Well, if I had to boil it all down to one single favorite moment, I think it would have to be the "Wow" home run that Manny Ramirez hit off Dennis Eckersley.
It was a 1-2 count, and Manny basically hit it off his shoe-tops with just one arm to win the game in the bottom of the ninth off one of the best closers in baseball history and who is now in the Hall of Fame. It doesn't get any better than that.
Of course, there were several of those same type of memorable moments in that magical 1995 season: Albert Belle's grand slam off Lee Smith in the bottom of the ninth to beat the California Angels, 4-3; Paul Sorrento hitting a game-winning homer against Toronto in which the Indians came back to win, 9-8, after being down 8-0 to David Cone after just two innings; Kenny Lofton's highlight-film catch where he scaled the bullpen gate and took a home run away; Carlos Baerga hitting those two homers in the same inning from each side of the plate; Dennis Martinez pitching that 1-0, 10-inning shutout; Jose Mesa securing the closer's role in that sweep of Boston; and, finally, who could ever forget the night the Indians clinched the Central Division title and hoisted their division championship flag up while Garth Brooks' haunting song "The Dance" played in tribute to the 1993 boating tragedy when the Indians lost relievers Steve Olin and Tim Crews and nearly lost starter Bob Ojeda?
If you can't still feel all the emotions of a crying Orel Hershiser as he watched that banner being raised, then you really have no clue what it means to be a true Indians fan.
Joe E., Pelham, Ala.: My greatest memory of the '95 season had more to do with how the Indians came out of nowhere to set records with 100 wins in a 144-game season. I also remember listening or watching a lot of the games knowing that if Orel Hershiser, Dennis Martinez, Charlies Nagy and others had a lead for us after six or seven innings, that Julian Tavarez, Eric Plunk and Paul Assenmacher would hold the lead till Jose Mesa took over and the game was won. For Mesa to post a 1.13 ERA in a DH league was amazing, and he saved all those games (46).
I also remember the Tribe having six starters who hit over .300 (Carlos Baerga, Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Kenny Lofton and Eddie Murray, plus catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. and reserve Herb Perry). There were several games they were behind by five runs or more and they came back to win. They were never out of it. Winning at home was a foregone conclusion, because they fed off the packed Jacobs Field stadium.
Since I had been a Tribe fan since 1952 (I was 9 then) and the Indians had made it to the series in '54, I had suffered like many other Tribe fans for 41 years, hoping and praying that we could be champions again. How many games did I see or listen to or box scores read during that time? Well over 6,000 games waiting for any season to end successfully. There were more losses than wins during those 41 years. You couldn't say Cleveland Indians fan without someone adding "long-suffering" to your title.
I remember taking great pleasure reading the box scores every day in '95, particularly late in the season when we had it won. I think we won the division by 30 games, so the last couple of months were unlike previous years when we had little chance to make the playoffs. I think the '95 team lifted my spirits that whole summer (after the strike was settled), and I believe the team made the entire city of Cleveland feel alive again.
Daryl R., Cleveland: I was a senior in high school during the summer of 1995, and it feels like yesterday that the Tribe steamrolled through the American League to grab their first pennant in 41 years. Statistics aside, the '95 Tribe was the greatest show on earth, providing enough memories to last a lifetime. There was electricity with that team like no other. Not only did they annihilate the opposition, they had a unique flare for the dramatic nightly with many a late-inning rally to stun the competition and send fans into a frenzy. Although they weren't able the top the Braves in the World Series, the 1995 Indians were one of the greatest stories I'll be able to share with generations to come.
Kevin Y., Lyndhurst, Ohio: One of my greatest memories of the 1995 season was when Albert Belle slugged a game-winning, ninth-inning grand slam off Angels closer Lee Smith, baseball's all-time saves leader. I remember I was about to enter the sixth grade and it was already past my bedtime when the ninth rolled around. But the Indians were winning games from behind left and right that season, so I didn't want to miss any of the drama against Smith and the Angels that night. Fortunately, Belle made staying up late worth my while, although I was probably a groggy 11-year-old the next day.
Jeff S., Cleveland: 1995, Cleveland was the place to be. It seemed like the rest of the world was looking on with envy.
The city had been reborn. The Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame was opened. The Flats were happening. And, the Tribe was scorching hot. But what made that season truly special was the way the Indians of 1995 brought the people of Cleveland together. Despite so much depressing history -- a burning river, loss of industry, a city in default -- the Indians that year energized this city. Everyone -- not just my uncles rehashing the good ol' days, but my mom and dad, co-workers, friends -- was talking about the Tribe.
Walk into a morning meeting, and the first 15 minutes was a discussion of the previous night's game. And, shame on you if you hadn't listened to Herb Score's play-by-play or, worse still, didn't know the final score. Every player was a star, it seemed. And, to think, Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome were only burgeoning stars.
The Indians that year made people feel good about their town and proud to wear Chief Wahoo on their hats.
Tony B., Cleveland: For me, as a life-long Indians fan, 1995 was truly special. The come-from-behind wins and the way the Tribe dominated teams was something I'll never forget. But the night I'll remember most was the night they clinched the division.
Although it was a foregone conclusion, it was still a terrific moment to experience. As someone who covered that team (for Fox Sports Net), even with the many difficult personalities, the kid from Cleveland came out in me. I remembered all those long nights dad and I had spent at Municipal Stadium, leaving disappointed most of the time, but leaving satisfied because I got to spend the day with my father.
I knew how happy dad was on clinch night; his beloved Indians were finally assured of going to the playoffs, He was the first call I made after the final out. It was great to share a moment where the good guys were on the winning end. Dad and I have made that a tradition ever since, whenever a special moment happens with our teams, the first person we celebrate with is each other.
The Indians that year made people feel good about their town and proud to wear Chief Wahoo on their hats.
Justice B. Hill is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.