In the long history of American sports, quite rare is the case of a venue, a team, and a fanbase meshing perfectly almost from Day One. It happened, however, in Cleveland, helping to breathe much-needed fresh air into a stagnant local sporting scene.
When Jacobs Field, now Progressive Field, arrived to much fanfare in 1994, the Cavaliers were running in place, with their savior still nine years away. The Browns were a year away from bolting town altogether. Now was the perfect time for the city to embrace the Indians in a way it hadn’t in four decades.
25 years after the Tribe’s maiden month in their new home, it’s time for a retrospective of a quarter-century to remember in The Land, as Cleveland takes its 71st crack at an elusive World Series title. Here are ten moments from the Ballpark Formerly Known as the Jake that Indians fans will never forget.
APRIL 3RD, 1994 – INDIANS OPEN NEW ERA WITH EXTRA INNINGS WIN OVER MARINERS
President Bill Clinton and Tribe legend Bob Feller were among 41,459 on hand to christen the Indians’ new jewel of a stadium, which immediately became a shining example of the right way to build a “retro-modern” ballpark. Foreshadowing the incredible clutch streak that would define the team’s early years in their new home, Wayne Kirby stroked a walk-off single into left field to bring home Eddie Murray in the eleventh inning, giving Cleveland the victory.
OCTOBER 3RD, 1995 – FIRST PLAYOFF GAME IN CLEVELAND SINCE 1954 IS ONE TO REMEMBER
Game 1 of the 1995 ALDS in Cleveland was terrific theater as the Tribe defeated the Red Sox 5-4 in 13 innings in a game somehow crazier than the final score lets on. Multiple rain delays prolonged the game to almost 2 a.m.; Boston nearly won it on Tim Naehring’s home run in the eleventh but saw Albert Belle equalize with his own dramatic dinger in the bottom of the frame, and no one could catch Tony Pena’s walk-off shot in the bottom of the thirteenth.
OCTOBER 24TH, 1995 – TRIBE WALK-OFF FOR FIRST WORLD SERIES WIN SINCE 1948
The Tribe’s 1995 dream season ground to a screeching halt in Games 1 and 2 of their World Series battle with Atlanta, dropping the first two contests to the Braves as their historically potent offense failed them. When the Series shifted to the Land, the Indians gave their fans a show they would remember forever in delivering their first World Series victory since the Truman Administration. A topsy-turvy game saw the Tribe blow a three-run lead and force extra innings with a Sandy Alomar RBI double, winning it 7-6 in the eleventh on Eddie Murray’s memorable walk-off single.
OCTOBER 22ND, 1997 – CLEVELAND BATS HEAT UP IN COLDEST WORLD SERIES GAME ON RECORD
Game 4 of the 1997 World Series was no ordinary Game 4, as the Indians’ 10-3 win did not do the historicity of the occasion justice. When Devon White stepped in against Jaret Wright for the first pitch, the temperature was just 35 degrees (with a 25 degree wind chill), the lowest the mercury has ever dropped for the start of a Fall Classic game. Occasional snow flurries marred the action, but it was no barrier to the home team, which got big two-run homers from Manny Ramirez and Matt Williams.
AUGUST 5TH, 2001 – INDIANS TRIP UP SEATTLE JUGGERNAUT WITH LARGEST COMEBACK IN BASEBALL HISTORY
The Mariners, on their way to winning 116 games, tore through Indians hurler Dave Burba to the tune of seven earned runs, sprinting out to leads of 12-0 (through three innings) and 14-2 (through five). One ferocious rally later, the Indians sent the game into extra innings tied at 14 by posting crooked numbers in each of the last three innings. No hit was more clutch than Omar Vizquel’s bases-clearing triple on a full-count with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and Cleveland down by three. Jolbert Cabrera singled in Kenny Lofton in the Tribe eleventh to clinch the most unlikely victory in franchise history.
SEPTEMBER 24TH, 2013 – GIAMBI BECOMES OLDEST EVER TO HIT WALK-OFF HOME RUN IN HEAT OF PENNANT CHASE
In late 2013, the Tribe were furiously gunning for one of the American League’s two Wild Card slots, trading places in the standings almost constantly with Tampa Bay and Texas. The White Sox came to town for a two-game series that saw one of the most theatrical home runs in team history. With Chicago leading 4-3 in the ninth, Yan Gomes struck out, Michael Brantley singled, and Mike Aviles also whiffed. Called upon to pinch-hit for Matt Carson was 42-year-old Jason Giambi, who belied his age by turning back the clock and homering to deep right.
MAY 13TH, 2015 – KLUBER STRIKES OUT 18 AS TRIBE SHUT OUT CARDS
The previous season, Corey Kluber had already established himself as a force in Cleveland by winning the Tribe’s third Cy Young Award of the century, joining CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee. On this day, he elevated himself to something greater. Kluber stymied St. Louis in a performance for the ages, giving up just one hit (a single from former Indiana Jhonny Peralta) in eight innings of work while punching out an entire flock of Cardinals – 18, to be exact, a nine-inning franchise record shared with Hall of Famer Bob Feller.
OCTOBER 25TH, 2016 – CLEVELAND’S DAY IN THE SUN
A banner day in the Land saw an epic civic celebration that spanned two venues. First, across the street from Progressive Field, the Cavaliers hung Cleveland’s first championship banner in 52 years, commemorating that franchise’s transcendent comeback victory over the Warriors four months prior. Across the street, the Indians waxed the Cubs in the first World Series game in Cleveland in 19 years, led by the mound tandem of Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller to go with a 3-for-4 evening from Jose Ramirez.
NOVEMBER 2ND, 2016 – INDIANS AND CUBS GO TO THE WIRE IN GAME 7, TRIBE SUCCUMB
After the Indians took a 3-1 lead in that same World Series, things began to unravel: Chicago stole Game 5 at home and then throttled the Tribe on Lake Erie’s shores to force a fateful seventh game. The Indians, however, put up an unforgettable fight, consummated by the biggest home run in the ballpark’s history: a two-out, two-run homer by Rajai Davis in the bottom of the eighth inning that tied a game the Tribe had at one point trailed 5-1. The Cubbies responded, however, catching fire after a rain delay and winning 8-7 in the tenth to end a 108-year dry spell. The Indians’ own 71-year slog continues.
SEPTEMBER 14TH, 2017 – TRIBE’S 22 STRAIGHT WINS IS LONGEST UNINTERRUPTED SKEIN IN HISTORY
In the late summer of 2017, the Indians began winning ball games, a pleasant trend that continued… and continued… and continued. Suddenly, Cleveland had won 21 games in a row, and an innocuous Thursday night tilt with Kansas City took on immense meaning as the Indians sought a record 22nd consecutive win without interruption, which would break the 1935 Cubs’ 81-year-old record. The Indians looked doomed late, trailing 2-1 with the Royals a strike away from triumph. Francisco Lindor, however, doubled in pinch-runner Erik Gonzalez, and Jay Bruce brought home Jose Ramirez with a walk-off double in the tenth, as the Tribe added another magical chapter to the ongoing story of Progressive Field.
Featured Photo: Did The Tribe Win Last Night