The following is the fourth part of a 10-part series chronicling the Cleveland Indians’ championship history.
After being swept by the New York Giants in the 1954 World Series, the Cleveland Indians were forced to endure four decades of failing to make the postseason before returning to the playoffs in 1995. The 1995 season was the second in the Indians’ new home, Jacobs Field, and owner Dick Jacobs provided the financial backing to bring a plethora of talent to Cleveland.
The 1995 season was shortened to 144 games due to the continuation of the 1994 players’ strike, which resulted in the loss of over 900 games including the entire 1994 postseason. When players returned to the field at the end of April, the 1995 Cleveland Indians opened with a victory in Texas against the Rangers, and the Tribe never looked back.
On May 9, the Indians claimed a share of the Central Division lead and remained in first place for the rest of the season, becoming the first team to win the American League Central Division Championship. Not only did Cleveland claim the first Central Division title, they won the division by an astounding 30 games. The Tribe finished the regular season with a five game winning streak, all against division opponents.
The 1995 Cleveland Indians roster boasted a lineup of star players, something Cleveland had not seen in 40 years. Paul Sorrento, Carlos Baerga, Omar Vizquel, Jim Thome, Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, Eddie Murray, Tony Pena, and Sandy Alomar punished opposing pitchers on a nightly basis. Baerga, Thome, Belle, Lofton, Ramirez, Murray, and Alomar all hit .300 or greater for the season. Sorrento and Thome each contributed 25 home runs, Ramirez hit 31 home runs, and Albert Belle set a Cleveland Indians record blasting 50 home runs and driving in 126 runs. In addition to power, the Tribe demonstrated their speed on the bases, with Kenny Lofton stealing 54 bases and Omar Vizquel stealing 29.
The 1995 Indians did not suffer from a lack of pitching either. Four of Cleveland’s starters, Dennis Martinez, Charles Nagy, Orel Hershiser, and Chad Ogea, posting winning percentages above .700, and Martinez, Nagy, and Hershiser all recorded at least 12 victories. Perhaps even more remarkable was closer Jose Mesa, who posted an ERA of 1.13 while recording 46 saves for Cleveland.
1995 American League Division Series
Riding a five game winning streak into the 1995 MLB Postseason, the Cleveland Indians were ready to face the AL East Division Champion Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series. Due to predetermined home field advantage, Games One and Two were played in Cleveland, with the remaining games of the best-of-five series to be played in Boston.
Game One of the 1995 ALDS put Cleveland’s ace Dennis Martinez against Boston’s ace Roger Clemens. After a rain delay, the game was scoreless through two innings until Red Sox shortstop John Valentin hit a two-run homer off of Martinez to give Boston a 2-0 lead. Boston’s lead would hold until the bottom of the sixth, when the Indians responded with a two-run double by Albert Belle and an RBI single by Eddie Murray to give Cleveland a 3-2 lead.
Martinez was relieved by Julian Tavarez, who allowed a solo home run by Red Sox second baseman Luis Alicea which sent the game into extra innings. Boston appeared to have Game One wrapped up when third baseman Tim Naehring hit a solo home run in the top of the eleventh inning, but Albert Belle responded in the bottom of the eleventh, again tying the game at 4-4.
Game One continued until the bottom of the thirteenth inning, when Indians catcher Tony Pena hit a home run with two outs to win Game One for Cleveland by a score of 5-4.
Game Two of the 1995 ALDS was less-dramatic, with Cleveland securing a 4-0 victory behind a strong outing by starting pitcher Orel Hershiser. Hershiser allowed only three hits in seven and one-third innings of work. Tavarez and Paul Assenmacher continued the shutout, which was completed by closer Jose Mesa in the ninth. Eddie Murray went 2-for-4 with a home run and a triple, Omar Vizquel drove in two runs, and Albert Belle went 1-for-2 with two walks and a run scored for Cleveland.
Despite having to play Game Three on the road, the Indians were able to win their first postseason series since the 1948 World Series, sweeping the Red Sox with an 8-2 victory. Cleveland starter Charlie Nagy allowed only one run in seven innings of work, striking out six Red Sox hitters. Boston starter Tim Wakefield allowed seven earned runs in just five and one-third innings. Cleveland’s offensive attack was led by Eddie Murray, who went 2-for-3 with two walks, Jim Thome, who went 1-for-3 with a two-run home run and three RBIs, and Carlos Baerga, who went 2-for-5 and drove in a run.
1995 American League Championship Series
The sweep of the Red Sox in the ALDS sent Cleveland to the American League Championship Series where they faced the AL West Champion Seattle Mariners.
The series opened in Seattle, with Mariners starter Bob Wolcott facing Cleveland’s Dennis Martinez. Seattle jumped ahead early with a two-run home run from third baseman Mike Blowers. Cleveland responded in the top of the third inning with an RBI single from Jim Thome.
The Indians scored again in the top of the seventh inning when Albert Belle hit a solo home run, tying the game 2-2. However, the tie was broken up later that inning when Mariners shortstop Luis Sojo hit an RBI double to give Seattle a 3-2 lead. Norm Charlton earned the save for the Mariners, giving Seattle a 1-0 series lead.
Game Two of the 1995 ALCS also took place in Seattle, but had a different outcome. Cleveland sent Orel Hershiser to the hill to take on Seattle’s Tim Belcher. Hershiser continued his dominant playoff performance, allowing only one run in eight innings and earning his second win of the 1995 postseason.
Belcher surrendered four earned runs in five and two-thirds innings before being bounced from the game. The Indians offense was highlighted by Manny Ramirez’s 4-for-4 performance which included two home runs. Cleveland won Game Two by a score of 5-2, evening the ALCS at one game apiece.
The ALCS moved to Cleveland for Game Three, which featured Seattle’s Randy Johnson and Cleveland’s Charlie Nagy. Both pitchers allowed two runs in eight innings pitched, leaving with the game tied 2-2. The game remained scoreless through nine innings, leading to the Indians’ second extra innings game of the 1995 postseason.
After a scoreless tenth inning, Cleveland reliever Eric Plunk gave up a three-run shot to Mariners right fielder Jay Buhner. The Indians were held scoreless in the bottom of the eleventh, and Seattle pitcher Norm Charlton earned his second win of the playoffs.
With Seattle holding a 2-1 edge in the 1995 ALCS, the Indians needed to come from behind to continue their storybook season, and they responded in dramatic fashion. Cleveland starter Ken Hill threw seven shutout innings, allowing only five hits. The Indians offense roughed up Seattle starter Andy Benes, who was forced out of Game Four after giving up six runs in two and one-third innings.
The Tribe scored another run off of reliever Bob Wells to seal a 7-0 shutout and tie the series 2-2. Eight of Cleveland’s starters recorded hits, including home runs by Eddie Murray and Jim Thome.
Win or lose, Game Five would be the last game of the series in Cleveland, and the Indians needed a victory to avoid having to win the final two games in Seattle. The Tribe again called on Orel Hershiser, who faced off against Seattle’s Chris Bosio.
Cleveland jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Omar Vizquel scored on an Eddie Murray single. However, the Mariners responded thanks to a Ken Griffey, Jr. RBI double in the third and a fielding error by Albert Belle in the fifth, giving Seattle a 2-1 lead.
But Jim Thome would not allow the Tribe to lose, blasting a two-run shot in the bottom of the sixth to take a 3-2 series lead, giving Hershiser his third victory of the postseason.
The 1995 ALCS returned to Seattle for Game Six, but Cleveland’s ace Dennis Martinez made sure there was not a Game Seven. Martinez rebounded from his last start by throwing seven scoreless innings and allowing only four hits.
After being shutout through four innings, the Indians finally got to Seattle starter Randy Johnson in the fifth inning, taking a 1-0 lead. Johnson left the game in the top of the eighth as Cleveland added three runs, securing a 4-0 victory in Game Six and their fourth American League pennant.
1995 World Series
Mike Hargrove’s Cleveland Indians advanced to face Bobby Cox’s National League Champion Atlanta Braves in the 1995 World Series. Despite Cleveland having a better record, Game One of the series opened in Atlanta due to the use of alternating home field advantage between the NL and AL from one year to the next. Atlanta won the National League pennant by sweeping the Cincinnati Reds, preventing the 1995 World Series from featuring two Ohio teams.
In Game One, Cleveland sent ALCS MVP Orel Hershiser to the mound against Atlanta’s ace Greg Maddux. The Indians took an early lead in the top of the first inning when Kenny Lofton reached on an error, stole second and third, and scored on a groundball by Carlos Baerga. The Braves countered in the bottom of the second, when Fred McGriff launched a solo home run, evening the score at 1-1.
The game remained deadlocked until the bottom of the seventh, when Hershiser and Paul Assenmacher walked the first three Braves, eventually leading to two runs on a fielder’s choice and sacrifice bunt. Kenny Lofton scored again in the top of the ninth thanks to a throwing error, but it was not enough as Atlanta claimed a 3-2 victory.
Game Two of the 1995 World Series was another nail biter, a theme that would repeat throughout the series. Cleveland again took an early lead, plating two runs in the top of the second on an Eddie Murray home run off of Braves starter Tom Glavine.
The Indians lead disappeared in the bottom of the third when Chipper Jones hit a sacrifice fly and David Justice added an RBI single off of Cleveland starter Dennis Martinez. Atlanta added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth when Braves catcher Javy Lopez hit a two-run homer.
Kenny Lofton scored on an error in the seventh inning, but the Indians again came up short, losing 4-3.
The 1995 World Series moved to Cleveland for Game Three, the first World Series game ever played at Jacobs Field. The Braves took an early 1-0 lead off of Charlie Nagy in the first inning when Chipper Jones doubled then scored on a Fred McGriff RBI single. The Indians bounced right back in the bottom of the first, plating Kenny Lofton and Omar Vizquel to take a 2-1 lead off of Atlanta starter John Smoltz.
The Tribe continued to build their lead in the third inning when Lofton and Vizquel scored again thanks to RBI singles by Carlos Baerga and Albert Belle, forcing Smoltz out of the game after only two and one-third innings.
Atlanta cut into Cleveland’s lead with solo home runs in both the sixth and seventh innings. The Indians responded with another RBI by Baerga, which scored Lofton for the third time to give the Tribe a 5-3 lead at the end of seven innings.
After pitching effectively through seven innings, Nagy began to fall apart in the eighth, allowing hits to the first two Braves and surrendering another run. Nagy left the game with a 5-4 lead, replaced by Paul Assenmacher. Assenmacher retired only one of the three batters he faced, allowing Atlanta to tie the game at 5-5. Julian Tavarez relieved Assenmacher but gave up an RBI single to the first batter he faced, giving Atlanta a 6-5 lead halfway through the eighth inning.
Trailing the bottom of the eighth, Cleveland strung together a Manny Ramirez walk, a Paul Sorrento single, and a Sandy Alomar double to tie the game 6-6. Cleveland closer Jose Mesa escaped the top of the ninth without allowing a run despite a shaky performance. Atlanta’s Mark Wohlers held serve, forcing the first and only extra innings game of the 1995 World Series.
Mesa returned to pitch a scoreless tenth, as did Wohlers, moving the game to the eleventh inning. Mesa finished his third inning of work allowing only one hit in the eleventh, keeping the game tied at 6-6.
Wohlers was replaced by Alejandro Pena in the bottom of the eleventh. Pena allowed a double to Baerga, who was leading off for Cleveland. Cleveland’s Alvaro Espinoza entered the game as a pinch runner for Baerga, and Pena intentionally walked Albert Belle. The next batter, Eddie Murray, hit a line drive single to centerfield, scoring Espinoza and securing the Indians’ first win of the 1995 World Series.
With Game Four remaining in Cleveland, the Indians looked to even the series at 2-2. The Tribe sent Ken Hill to the mound to face off against Atlanta’s Steve Avery. Both pitchers threw five scoreless innings before Hill gave up a solo home run to Ryan Klesko in the top of the sixth.
Albert Belle responded with a solo home run of his own in the bottom of the sixth, evening the game at 1-1. Hill returned in the top of the seventh but was forced out of the game after walking Marquis Grissom and allowing an RBI double by Luis Polonia.
Indians’ reliever Paul Assenmacher entered the game and intentionally walked Chipper Jones and retired Fred McGriff before allowing a David Justice single which scored both Polonia and Jones to give Atlanta a 4-1 lead. The Braves tacked on another run in the top of the ninth and held off a rally by the Indians to win Game Four 5-2, taking a 3-1 series lead.
Facing elimination in Game Five, Mike Hargrove sent “Bulldog” Orel Hershisher to the hill against Atlanta’s Greg Maddux. Hershisher delivered, throwing eight innings while allowing only two runs, one of which was unearned.
Tribe bats came alive early with a two-run home run by Albert Belle in the bottom of the first inning. The Indians plated two more in the bottom of the sixth thanks to a Carlos Baerga double, an intentional walk to Belle, and RBI singles by Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez. Thome added another run with a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth to make it 5-2.
Jose Mesa earned the save despite giving up a two-run homer to Ryan Klesko in the ninth. The Indians avoided elimination and would return to Atlanta down 3-2 in the series.
Cleveland needed to win two games in Atlanta to become World Champions, while the Braves only needed one victory. Unfortunately for the Indians, they left their offense in Cleveland, failing to score a run in the must-win Game Six.
Cleveland starter Dennis Martinez pitched four and two-thirds innings of shutout baseball before being relieved by Jim Poole, who allowed the only run of the game, a David Justice home run, in the bottom of the sixth. Atlanta starter Tom Glavine threw the fifth one-hitter in World Series history to clinch the 1995 World Championship, the third title in Braves’ franchise history.
Despite the disappointment following the 1995 World Series, the Cleveland Indians regrouped to become one of the most dominant teams of the 1990s, clinching division titles five out of the next six seasons and making a return to the Fall Classic.
For more of the 10-part series chronicling the Cleveland Indians’ championship history and other work from this author click here
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http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CLE/1995-schedule-scores.shtml “1995 Cleveland Indians Schedule, Box Scores, and Splits” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 8, 2010.