The following is the sixth part of a 10-part series chronicling the Cleveland Indians’ championship history.
After a disappointing 1996 postseason, the Indians made several offseason moves in an attempt to bring a championship back to Cleveland. The Tribe signed third baseman Matt Williams, adding power to the Indians lineup. Previous third baseman Jim Thome moved to first base, and outfielder Kenny Lofton was traded to the Atlanta Braves along with pitcher Alan Embree in exchange for David Justice and Marquis Grissom.
The 1997 Cleveland Indians survived a slow start to the regular season to capture their third straight American League Central Division Championship, finishing six games ahead of division rival Chicago.
The impact of newly acquired David Justice was undeniable, batting .329 in 139 games with 33 homers, 31 doubles, and 101 RBIs. The other acquisition in the Kenny Lofton trade, Marquis Grissom, contributed 22 steals and 66 RBIs. New third baseman Matt Williams demonstrated his power with 32 home runs and 105 RBIs. Two other Tribe starters, Sandy Alomar, Jr. and Manny Ramirez, boasted batting averages over .300, hitting .324 and .328 respectively. Jim Thome contributed 40 home runs, 102 RBIs, 120 walks, and 104 runs.
Charles Nagy and Orel Hershiser returned to anchor the Indians rotation, each earning double-digit victories. Nagy posted a .577 winning percentage, a 4.28 ERA, and threw a complete game shutout in his 34 starts for the Tribe. Hershiser recorded a 14-6 record with a 4.47 ERA and a .700 winning percentage. Starter Jaret Wright posted a team-best .727 winning percentage, going 8-3 in 16 starts for Cleveland.
1997 American League Division Series
The Indians faced the defending World Champion New York Yankees, the American League Wild Card team, in the first round of the playoffs. Being the higher-seeded team, the Tribe played the first two games of the ALDS in New York, with the final three games being played in Cleveland, if necessary.
The Indians looked to win Game One early, scoring five runs in the top of the first inning off of Yankee starter David Cone. Cone surrendered an RBI single to Manny Ramirez, who scored later in the inning on a wild pitch, and a three-run homer to Sandy Alomar.
Orel Hershiser took the mound in the bottom of the inning with a 5-0 lead and retired the first three Yankees. Hershiser loaded the bases with nobody out in the second inning, but was able to escape allowing only one run.
Cleveland again went up by five runs in the fourth inning when Bip Roberts followed Marquis Grissom’s triple with a single to make it 6-1. A Tino Martinez solo shot in the bottom of the fourth reduced the Indians’ lead to 6-2. Yankee catcher Joe Girardi scored on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning, continuing to cut into Cleveland’s lead.
Manager Mike Hargrove removed Hershiser after retiring only one of the first four batters in the fifth inning. Tribe relievers Alvin Morman and Eric Plunk were able to hold Cleveland’s 6-3 lead through the end of the fifth.
After Yankees’ pitcher Ramiro Mendoza retired all three Indians hitters in the sixth, the New York bats came alive in the bottom half of the inning. With two outs, Plunk gave up an RBI single to Rey Sanchez, followed by a two-run homer to Tim Raines, and a solo shot to Derek Jeter. Plunk was replaced by Paul Assenmacher, who immediately allowed a home run to Paul O’Neill and hit Bernie Williams with a pitch before getting out of the inning.
Cleveland’s pitching meltdown in the sixth gave the Yankees an 8-6 lead. New York’s bullpen delivered a dominant performance the rest of the game, earning the Yankees a win, taking a 1-0 series lead in the 1997 ALDS.
After blowing a five run lead in Game One, the Indians turned to starter Jaret Wright to get the Tribe back on track in Game Two against the Yankees’ Andy Pettitte. Unfortunately for Cleveland, Game Two picked up right where Game One left off. New York took an early 3-0 lead in the first inning thanks to a two-run double by Tino Martinez and a sacrifice fly by Charlie Hayes.
Wright settled down after the first, pitching five scoreless innings. Meanwhile, the Indians teed off on Pettitte in the top of the fourth, allowing RBI singles to David Justice, Sandy Alomar, Jim Thome, and a two-run double to Tony Fernandez. Cleveland added to their lead with a two-run shot by Matt Williams in the fifth, giving the Tribe a 7-3 lead.
The Yankees scored one run in the eighth and one in the ninth, but were unable to overcome Cleveland’s lead, allowing the Indians to tie the ALDS at one game apiece.
The 1997 ALDS moved to Cleveland for Game Three and featured New York’s David Wells against the Indians’ Charlie Nagy. Wells allowed the only run of his complete game victory when Matt Williams scored on a groundout in the second inning. The Yankees scored one run in the first and third innings before breaking through in the fourth.
Nagy was forced out of the game after loading the bases with two outs. Chad Ogea replaced Nagy and surrendered a grand slam to Paul O’Neill, giving the Yankees a 6-1 lead, which would also be the final score.
Facing elimination on their home field, the Indians sent Orel Hershiser to the mound in Game Four to face Doc Gooden. Hershiser allowed back-to-back doubles in the first inning to Derek Jeter and Paul O’Neill along with an RBI single to Cecil Fielder to give New York a 2-0 lead. That would be the end of the Yankees’ scoring for the evening as Hershiser would throw six dominant innings along with solid performances from Paul Assenmacher and Mike Jackson.
David Justice hit a home run in the second inning to cut New York’s lead in half. Cleveland was held scoreless by Yankees’ pitchers until the eighth, when Sandy Alomar hit a solo homer off of Mariano Rivera, who would not blow another save in the postseason until four years later. Omar Vizquel completed the Tribe’s comeback in the bottom of the ninth, scoring Marquis Grissom on a walk-off single to give Cleveland a 3-2 victory.
The final game of the 1997 ALDS took place on October 6 at Jacobs Field. Game Five featured a rematch of Game Two, with Jaret Wright facing Andy Pettitte. The Tribe jumped on Pettitte in the third, scoring three runs on a two-run ground rule double by Manny Ramirez and an RBI single by Matt Williams. Cleveland took a 4-0 lead in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Tony Fernandez, scoring Sandy Alomar.
The Yankees countered with a two-run single by Bernie Williams in the fifth and an RBI single by Wade Boggs in the sixth, reducing Cleveland’s lead to 4-3. The Indians’ bullpen made sure the Yankees did not score again. Mike Jackson, Paul Assenmacher, and Jose Mesa combined for three and two-thirds scoreless innings of work, securing the ALDS victory for the Indians.
1997 American League Championship Series
After defeating the New York Yankees in the ALDS, the Cleveland Indians advanced to the American League Championship Series for the second time in three seasons. The Indians faced the East Division Champion Baltimore Orioles, who defeated the Seattle Mariners 3-1 in their ALDS series. 1997 was the second-straight postseason in which the Indians and Orioles faced one another. The Orioles defeated the Indians 3-1 in the 1996 ALDS.
Baltimore had home field advantage for the series and therefore Game One took place at Camden Yards. Chad Ogea started for Cleveland and Scott Erickson took the hill for Baltimore. The Orioles attacked Ogea early, scoring in the bottom of the first on a Brady Anderson home run and on a two-run homer by Roberto Alomar in the third. Erickson allowed only four hits in eight innings of work and combined with closer Randy Myers to shutout the Indians, easily giving Baltimore a 1-0 series lead.
After not scoring for 13 innings, the Indians’ bats woke up early in Game Two of the 1997 ALCS. In the top of the first, Baltimore starter Jimmy Key hit Omar Vizquel with a pitch, followed by a home run to Manny Ramirez, giving the Tribe an early 2-0 lead.
Baltimore responded with two runs of their own in the second inning when Cal Ripken, Jr. hit a home run off of Charlie Nagy to score Rafael Palmeiro, tying the game at 2-2. The game remained tied until the bottom of the sixth when Nagy gave up a two-run single to Mike Bordick. Nagy left the game with the Tribe trailing 4-2.
After a scoreless seventh, it appeared the Indians were about to fall behind 2-0 in the series, until Orioles reliever Armando Benitez walked Sandy Alomar and Jim Thome before giving up the go-ahead home run to Marquis Grissom to give Cleveland a 5-4 lead. The combination of Assenmacher, Jackson, and Mesa held Baltimore scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings to even the 1997 ALCS at one game apiece.
The series moved to Jacobs Field in Cleveland for Game Three, which featured Baltimore’s Mike Mussina and Cleveland’s Orel Hershiser. Hershiser was dominant, allowing only four hits and striking out seven Orioles in seven scoreless innings of work. Mussina was also at the top of his game, allowing only three hits and one run while striking out 15 Indians in seven innings to set a new ALCS record.
Cleveland took a 1-0 lead into the ninth inning, when closer Jose Mesa blew the save by allowing an RBI double by Brady Anderson, which led to the first extra innings game of the ALCS. Both Baltimore and Cleveland were held scoreless in the tenth and eleventh.
In the bottom of the twelfth, with Randy Myers pitching for the Orioles, Marquis Grissom walked then advanced to third on a Tony Fernandez single. With one out, Omar Vizquel came to the plate and showed bunt. The ball was called a strike and Orioles’ catcher Lenny Webster lost the ball, allowing Grissom to score from third. Webster, Myers, and Orioles’ manager Davey Johnson argued that Vizquel made contact with the ball, which was later shown to be true in replays. However, home plate umpire John Hirschbeck missed the call and declared Grissom safe, allowing the Indians to take a 2-1 series lead.
Coming off of a controversial finish to Game Three, the Orioles sent Scott Erickson, Game One’s winner, to the mound against Cleveland’s Jaret Wright. Baltimore took a 1-0 lead in the second with an RBI double by B. J. Surhoff. The Indians countered in the bottom of the inning with a two-run shot by Sandy Alomar, giving Cleveland a brief lead.
However, in the top of the third, the Orioles exploded with a solo home run by Brady Anderson, a two-run shot by Harold Baines, and another solo homer by Rafael Palmeiro to give Baltimore a 5-2 lead. Wright left the game after only three innings of work.
The Indians began their comeback in the fourth, scoring on an RBI single by Marquis Grissom. The comeback continued in the fifth, with a Manny Ramirez home run, an RBI single by Sandy Alomar, and a wild pitch by Erickson, which scored both David Justice and Alomar to give Cleveland a 7-5 lead.
The Orioles scored one run in the seventh and plated the tying run in the top of the ninth when Roberto Alomar scored on a Palmeiro single off of closer Jose Mesa. It appeared the series was headed to the second extra innings game in a row until Cleveland strung together two walks and a walk-off single by Sandy Alomar in the bottom of the ninth, giving the Indians a 3-1 series lead.
Game Five of the 1997 ALCS was crucial for both teams. Cleveland needed to win not only to clinch the American League pennant but also to avoid having to return to Baltimore. The Orioles needed a victory to stay alive in the series and claim home field advantage for the final two games of the ALCS.
Scott Kamieniecki started for Baltimore while Chad Ogea took the hill for Cleveland. Ogea threw eight innings, allowing only two runs on six hits. However, Cleveland’s bats remained silent through the first eight innings, allowing Baltimore to take a 2-0 lead into the ninth.
In the top of the ninth, the Orioles added two more runs thanks to an Eric Davis pinch-hit home run and an RBI single by Cal Ripken, Jr. Cleveland’s attempt at a comeback fell short, only scoring two runs in the bottom of the ninth, losing 4-2. Baltimore’s victory cut Cleveland’s series lead to 3-2 and guaranteed the Orioles home field advantage for the rest of the ALCS.
Pitching dominated the return of the ALCS to Camden Yards, with Game Three victor Mike Mussina facing Cleveland starter Charlie Nagy. Mussina struck out 10 Indians and allowed only one hit in eight innings. Nagy pitched seven and one-third scoreless innings of his own, striking out four.
Solid bullpen performances kept the game scoreless until the top of the eleventh inning, when Indians’ second baseman Tony Fernandez launched a solo home run off of Armando Benitez with two outs.
Tribe closer Jose Mesa entered the game in the bottom of the eleventh. After retiring the first two batters, Mesa gave up a single to Brady Anderson, bringing Robby Alomar to the plate for Baltimore. With two strikes, Alomar turned away from Mesa’s pitch because he thought it was going to hit him. Home plate umpire Mike Reilly called it a strike, securing the American League pennant for the Indians. Reilly’s call marked the second controversial ending to a game in the series, and marked Baltimore’s second-straight ALCS loss.
1997 World Series
Having clinched their second American League pennant in three years, the Cleveland Indians returned to the World Series for the fifth time in franchise history. This time they faced Jim Leyland’s Florida Marlins, which only became a franchise in 1993. Florida had home field advantage in the series, meaning the 1997 World Series would open at Pro Player Stadium in Miami Gardens.
Game One featured Florida starting pitcher Livan Hernandez against Cleveland starter Orel Hershiser. The Indians took an early lead when Bip Roberts scored on a single by David Justice in the top of the first inning. The Marlins evened the score in the bottom of the third when second baseman Craig Counsell scored on a groundout by Edgar Renteria.
Hershiser fell apart in the fourth, allowing a three-run homer to Moises Alou followed by a solo shot to the next batter, Charles Johnson. Manny Ramirez responded with a solo home run in the top of the fifth, but Hershiser continued to be overpowered, allowing two more runs in the bottom half of the inning. Hershiser was forced out of the game in the fifth, trailing 7-2.
The Indians added runs by Jim Thome and Marquis Grissom, but were unable to retake the lead, losing to the Marlins by a final score of 7-4. Hernandez earned the victory for the Marlins in the first World Series game played in the state of Florida.
Needing a victory to avoid falling behind by two games, the Indians sent Chad Ogea to the hill against Marlins’ starter Kevin Brown. After both teams scored in the first, the game remained tied until the fifth inning, when Cleveland strung together singles by Matt Williams, Sandy Alomar, Marquis Grissom, and Bip Roberts to score three runs.
The Indians continued their assault of Brown in the sixth, with a two-run homer by Sandy Alomar to take a 6-1 lead. Solid outings from Ogea, Mike Jackson, and Jose Mesa gave the Indians the win, evening the 1997 World Series at 1-1.
The series moved to Cleveland for Game Three, with a game time temperature of 38 degrees, a dramatic difference from the weather in Miami. Pitching was scarce in Game Three as the teams used a combined 11 pitchers who allowed 19 earned runs.
Florida starter Al Leiter was forced out of the game after four and two-thirds innings, surrendering seven runs and six walks. Cleveland’s Charlie Nagy left after six innings, allowing five earned runs, four walks, and three home runs.
The game was tied 7-7 entering the ninth inning. Florida roughed up the Cleveland bullpen and the Indians defense fell apart, committing three errors as the Marlins put up a 7 on the scoreboard, taking a 14-7 lead. Cleveland attempted to rally in the bottom of the ninth, scoring four runs before losing 14-11.
With the Marlins leading the 1997 World Series 2-1, the Indians needed to defend their home turf to keep their dreams of a World Championship alive. Game Four featured Florida’s Tony Saunders on the mound against Cleveland’s Jaret Wright.
The Indians took a 3-0 lead in the first inning on a two-run homer by Manny Ramirez and an RBI double by Sandy Alomar. Cleveland extended their lead to six runs in the third thanks to RBI singles by David Justice, Alomar, and Tony Fernandez. Saunders was forced out of the game after failing to record an out in the third inning.
The Marlins scored one run in the fourth and two more in the sixth, but were unable to muster any more offense. The Indians added four more runs late in the game to easily earn a 10-3 victory, evening the series 2-2.
Game Five of the 1997 World Series was the final game of the series to take place in Cleveland. Game One starters Livan Hernandez and Orel Hershiser again faced off in Game Five.
Florida took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second thanks to RBIs by Charles Johnson and Devon White. The Indians closed the gap to 2-1 when Jim Thome scored on a Sandy Alomar single in the bottom of the inning. Alomar belted a three-run homer in the third to give the Indians a 4-2 lead.
Cleveland’s lead held until the sixth inning, when Hershiser allowed a three-run home run to Moises Alou before being taken out of the game. Florida added another run on a bases loaded walk later in the inning to take a 6-4 lead. The Marlins added one run in the eighth and ninth innings, giving Florida an 8-4 advantage entering the bottom of the ninth.
The Indians attempted to rally and received help from two Marlins’ errors. Cleveland scored on a two-run single by David Justice and an RBI hit by Jim Thome before Sandy Alomar was retired to end the game. The Tribe’s rally was cut short, losing by a final score of 8-7 and giving the Marlins a 3-2 series lead.
Facing elimination, the Indians returned to Miami for Game Six. Game Two starters Chad Ogea and Kevin Brown returned to the mound for Game Six. Ogea continued his dominant World Series performance, allowing only one run in five innings. Mike Jackson, Paul Assenmacher, and Jose Mesa combined to pitch four scoreless innings for Cleveland.
On offense, the Indians attacked Brown early, recording a two-run single by Ogea in the second and sacrifice flies by Manny Ramirez in the third and fifth innings. Ogea earned his second victory of the 1997 World Series, forcing a Game Seven.
Playing in only the second World Series Game Seven in Indians’ franchise history, Cleveland took an early lead on the Marlins. Tony Fernandez delivered a two-run single off of Al Leiter in the third inning. Unfortunately, the Indians’ offense would fail to score the rest of the game.
Florida did not score until Bobby Bonilla hit a lead-off home run off of Jaret Wright in the eighth to cut the Indians’ lead in half. Cleveland took a 2-1 lead to the bottom of the ninth, handing the ball to closer Jose Mesa.
Mesa allowed a leadoff single to Alou, who advanced to third on single by Charles Johnson. With one out, Craig Counsell hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Mesa’s blown save stung the hearts of Indians fans across the country who knew they were only one out away from their first World Championship since 1948. The game moved into extra innings and the Marlins won their first title in the bottom of the eleventh when Edgar Renteria hit a walk-off single to score Counsell.
Heartbreak permeated throughout the city of Cleveland following the Tribe’s ninth inning disaster. The Indians would return to the postseason the following year, but would be unable to 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
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1997_American_League_Championship_Series “1997 American League Championship Series” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1997_American_League_Division_Series “1997 American League Division Series” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1997_Cleveland_Indians_season “1997 Cleveland Indians Season” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1997_World_Series “1997 World Series” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL199710080.shtml “October 8, 1997 American League Championship Series (ALCS) Game 1, Indians at Orioles” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL199710090.shtml “October 9, 1997 American League Championship Series (ALCS) Game 2, Indians at Orioles” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BAL/BAL199710150.shtml “October 15, 1997 American League Championship Series (ALCS) Game 6, Indians at Orioles” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE199710040.shtml “October 4, 1997 American League Division Series (ALDS) Game 3, Yankees at Indians” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE199710050.shtml “October 5, 1997 American League Division Series (ALDS) Game 4, Yankees at Indians” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE199710060.shtml “October 6, 1997 American League Division Series (ALDS) Game 5, Yankees at Indians” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE199710110.shtml “October 11, 1997 American League Championship Series (ALCS) Game 3, Orioles at Indians” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE199710120.shtml “October 12, 1997 American League Championship Series (ALCS) Game 4, Orioles at Indians” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE199710130.shtml “October 13, 1997 American League Championship Series (ALCS) Game 5, Orioles at Indians” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE199710210.shtml “October 21, 1997 World Series Game 3, Marlins at Indians” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE199710220.shtml “October 22, 1997 World Series Game 4, Marlins at Indians” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE199710230.shtml “October 23, 1997 World Series Game 5, Marlins at Indians” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/FLO/FLO199710180.shtml “October 18, 1997 World Series Game 1, Indians at Marlins” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/FLO/FLO199710190.shtml “October 19, 1997 World Series Game 2, Indians at Marlins” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/FLO/FLO199710250.shtml “October 25, 1997 World Series Game 6, Indians at Marlins” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/FLO/FLO199710260.shtml “October 26, 1997 World Series Game 7, Indians at Marlins” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA199709300.shtml “September 30, 1997 American League Division Series (ALDS) Game 1, Indians at Yankees” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/NYA/NYA199710020.shtml “October 2, 1997 American League Division Series (ALDS) Game 2, Indians at Yankees” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CLE/1997.shtml “1997 Cleveland Indians Batting, Pitching, & Fielding Statistics” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/CLE/1997-schedule-scores.shtml “1997 Cleveland Indians Schedule, Box Scores and Splits” Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010.