CLEVELAND -- The three sections of upper-deck seats just above the "455 The Fans" sign that hangs in the left-field mezzanine at Progressive Field sat virtually empty Wednesday afternoon. Two fans, perhaps seeking solitude, ventured into those seats -- the furthest removed from the action at home plate -- to watch the Indians take on the White Sox. You wouldn't know it to look at those seats now, but time was, they were jam-packed 81 times a year.
Not counting October, of course. From June 12, 1995, to April 4, 2001, an empty seat at the ballpark then known as Jacobs Field was an endangered species. For 455 consecutive regular-season home games, Indians fans filled -- or at least paid for -- every seat in the house. "I think those will go down as truly the golden years of Indians baseball," said Bob DiBiasio, the Tribe's vice president of public relations. "It's still amazing to us that Cleveland, Ohio, and the Cleveland Indians were the first ever to sell out the entire season, let alone to do it five years in a row." The first, yes. But not the last. In Boston, Red Sox fans, invigorated by their club's two World Series titles in the past five seasons, are about to trump the Tribe's triumphant run in their own home, Fenway Park. On Wednesday, Red Sox fans tied the 455 mark at a game against the Orioles. The record will fall Monday, when the Red Sox play host to the Rays. "On behalf of Tribe fans everywhere, who established the concept of a sellout streak, we congratulate the Red Sox fans on setting a new mark," DiBiasio said. That the mark was set in Cleveland in the first place was something of an economic oddity. Five main factors helped lead to the streak: The city's enthusiasm over a ballpark that opened in 1994, the rejuvenation of an Indians team that had been a doormat for decades, the renovation of Cleveland's downtown, a booming Cleveland economy that has since eroded, and the Cleveland Browns' move to Baltimore after their 1995 season. Shortly after the streak ended, the Indians officially retired No. 455, hanging it on a pillar beside the jersey numbers of Bob Feller, Larry Doby, Bob Lemon, Mel Harder, Earl Averill, Lou Boudreau and Jackie Robinson. Many of the seats surrounding "455" sit empty now, and the record must be handed over. But DiBiasio hopes what happened here will forever be remembered in the game. "Again, we're talking about something that had never happened in the history of baseball," DiBiasio said. "And then Cleveland fans do it five years in a row."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.