My favorite team of all time is the 1995 Cleveland Indians. No, they didn’t win it all, but it doesn’t matter. They provided all of the excitement a boy coming of age on Cleveland’s west-side suburbs could need.
In the summer of ‘95, I was preparing to enter the seventh grade. I had a couple gigs mowing lawns, and I umpired softball for the city at night. I had taken a keen interest in the opposite sex. When I wasn’t flirting with girls, I was playing Wiffle Ball with friends. Life was good, and the Indians were about to make it better.
I had huge expectations for the Tribe in ’95. After all, they were in playoff contention before the strike halted the ’94 season.
Even though I was young, I knew the Indians had suffered through several years of futility. I could even remember some of the lean years—going down to old Municipal Stadium and cheering on Greg Swindell and Corey Snider.
But those times were gone. Cleveland had a new ballpark and a new attitude. Now, the Indians were contenders.
The Indians won 100 games in '95, an astonishing feet considering the strike-shortened season was only 144 games.
They clobbered opponents with a potent lineup that consisted of a Hall-of-Famer and a few other potential Cooperstown candidates.
It was a team that consisted of several players the Indians developed, such as Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Carlos Baerga, Kenny Lofton, and Sandy Alomar.
Additionally, there were a mix of established veterans, like Orel Hershiser, Dennis Martinez, and Eddie Murray.
Here’s some of highlights that made the ’95 Indians my favorite team.
He had one of the best offensive seasons ever recorded. Belle had more than 100 extra-base hits. He hit 50 home runs and 52 doubles. And oh yeah, he knocked in 126 runs.
The image of Belle I remember from ’95 is the pose he made in Game One of the ALDS against Boston. Bell homered in the 11th inning to tie the score at 4-4. Boston manager Kevin Kennedy requested that the umpires confiscate his bat. In response to the confiscation, Belle stood in the dugout, looked toward the Red Sox’s bench, and flexed his bicep for everyone to see.
Ramirez was only 22 years old when the ’95 season began. But that didn't stop him form establishing himself as a big-time talent. While hitting in the bottom of the order, Ramirez hit 31 home runs and drove in 107 runs. Ramirez’s place in the batting order showed how loaded the Indians were.
On July 16, 1995, Ramirez squared off against Athletics closer Dennis Eckersley. The Indians trailed the A’s 4-3 in the bottom of the 12th.
Ramirez’s two-run walk-off homer gave the Indians a 5-4 victory. The mammoth home run that sailed over the “little green monster" in left field prompted Eckersley to mouth "Wow!" as he walked off the diamond.
Sorrento came to the Tribe in ’92 when the team was still sorry. He must have been thrilled to have been a part of the success in ’95.
Sorrento was never an All-Star caliber player, but he was a viable Major Leaguer. In 1995, Sorrento hit 25 homers and knocked in 79 runs, but he was overshadowed by the likes of Belle, Ramirez, and Murray.
Sorrento was part of the moment when I realized that the ’95 Indians were going to be something special for Cleveland. On June 4, the Indians trailed the Toronto Blue Jays and ace David Cone, 8-0, after two-and-a-half innings. The Tribe rallied back and won the game on Sorrento’s two-out, two-run homer in the ninth. I remember running through my house and slapping high fives to anyone that would give me one.
Paul Assenmacher signed as a free agent with the Tribe before the season. The veteran lefty gave all 12-year-old, left-handed boys like me a reason to believe they could pitch in the majors too.
Assenmacher didn’t have a 100 mph fastball, but he did have one of the most devastating curveballs that I can remember.
He used that curveball to strike out some of the biggest names in the game, as was the case in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series.
Game Five of the ALCS between the Indians and Seattle Mariners was close—too close. The Tribe led the Mariners 3-2 in the seventh inning, and Seattle was threatening to take the lead. With men on the corners and only one out, the dangerous Ken Griffey Jr. was due up.
Tribe manager Mike Hargrove brought in the left-handed specialist, Assenmacher, for this occasion. Assenmacher struck out Griffey, as well as the next batter, Jay Buhner, bringing the capacity crowd at Jacobs Field to its feet.
I remember Assenmacher being unfazed by all of the excitement. He made his slow walk back to the dugout just as he would have done if he was pitching in July.
The Indians went on to win the game, and later on, the pennant.